Yes, that’s Yan as the King of All Cosmos. It suits her, I think.
Right, then. Who’s left? It’s utterly ludicrous that we’re now on Week 7, down to just six people: Steven, Yan, Kate, Stacey, Sophie and Liam (last week’s Star Baker and, I’ve decided, total legend – here’s hoping he doesn’t fall to what seems to be a bit of a curse causing Star Bakers to do significantly worse in the next week).
After last week blurred the lines between ‘baking’ and whatever else you do when you cook but don’t bake, this week promises to be even less bakey, being the first ever (silly Channel 4 with their unnecessary gimmickry) ‘Italian week’! I’d really like someone to tell me what actually counts as baking – I already had this ramble last week, but damn it, I need to know! We’re starting out with cannoli, which are apparently a Sicilian classic and which remind me a little bit of churros (because of being fried dough) but which probably aren’t anything like churros if you do happen to know anything about baking, which, as we’ve established, I don’t. Wonder if anyone has a Sicilian nan? There’s usually one person with a nan from the place that makes the thing. (It later transpires that, yup, Steven has Italian family. OF COURSE he does.)
Anyway, the cannoli are to be eighteen in number, with no fewer than three different flavours yet still somehow maintaining identical tubularness. Sounds tricky, and the trickiness is exacerbated by it being an exceedingly hot day, which we can tell despite not being able to feel temperature through the telly because nobody will shut up about it. I don’t know if I’ll even be able to sum up all the fillings everyone’s doing, since there are three flavours per baker, but let’s do our best: Liam’s got lemon cheesecake, marshmallow and baklava (Turkish-inspired); Steven’s are ‘Italian style’ – which just makes me groan because, come on, it’s Italian week; would you turn in ‘Bread-Themed Loaf’ in bread week? – and Stacey’s gone desserty with cheesecake and jam and all sorts. I guess cannoli is a… sweet thing, then? Nobody seems to be going savoury, at any rate: Kate’s got cocktail flavours including limoncello and an espresso martini, which just sounds like an incredibly intense night of alcohol and caffeine competing to make you drowsy and hyper. Yan’s also doing a night-out-themed thingy, with 1) Amaretto, mint, rose and lime, 2) honey and Amaretto and 3) passion fruit and vanilla, all with some cocoa powder in the dough for delicious chocolatiness. The trade-off to that is that she won’t be able to see when they’re done because of the darker colour, so she’ll just have to go on instinct. Prue looks… suitably unimpressed.
What all of these flavours have in common is ricotta, which is… something. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I bet someone will elect not to include it, going the ‘exciting’ or ‘non-traditional’ route; it’ll be like last week, when a few of the bakers were trying to mould their pies on the inside, rather than the traditional outside, of the dish. If I remember right, Liam was one of the ones planning to do that, and he did end up getting Star Baker, so eschewing tradition can either pay off through being impressive and ingenious or just backfire tremendously. Before I can even complete this thought, it turns out that yes: Sophie is rejecting the ricotta and making do with mascarpone instead. She prefers it, but it’s a risky move.
Now we’ve been around and seen what everyone’s making, it’s time for a quick time update – Noel’s brought in a clock made out of pasta, which I fully expect he just had lying around at home – and it is apparently time to start deep-frying the cannoli cylinders. Everyone puts on long clothes, despite the heat, to prevent hot oil splash – well, Sophie just puts on what seems to be a removable sleeve, reminding me of a baking Finn Balor. They do all look absolutely boiling at this point, to be fair.
The dough goes in, and we learn that a cannoli (wait, -i is plural – cannolo?) is made by deep-frying a flattened circle of dough wrapped around a cylindrical mould to form a nice little tube. That’s the theory, anyway, but some of them seem to just be breaking free and popping up to the surface to float around like wobbly poppadoms. It’s a disaster, proclaims Kate, who calls something a disaster at least once a week; Liam, meanwhile, is busting out a blowtorch to give his marshmallowy tips some decent caramelisation (a good word, and one of those words that comes up perhaps every few weeks in normal conversation but probably about eight times an hour in baking chat).
There’s one minute left, proclaims Noel, as the editing makes it appear that people are still putting stuff in the deep fryer, and Stacey clearly suffers from the time pressure: some of hers end up getting dipped in the wrong… dipping stuff, resulting in raspberries all over the shop. Raspberries where there ought to be nowt, nowt where there ought to be raspberries, it’s a bit of a kerfuffle. The judges don’t miss this error, either, but apparently her tiramisu and cheesecake have great flavour; the pastry, however, is a bit doughy and chewy, which cannoli apparently ought not to be.
Over to Liam: a great shell with beautiful bubbles, but the marshmallow’s all pouring out everywhere. Still, the lemony one’s very tasty, and Prue calls the pistachio, walnut and ricotta flavour nothing less than ‘sensational’. Liam’s response? ‘Cheers.’ To be fair, Prue does sound a bit ill this week, so he probably just wanted to not be breathing the same air if he could avoid it. Steven turns in a milk chocolate, honey and almond praline something-or-other – he has a habit of announcing his own flavours as he’s putting his efforts on the table, as if there’s actually been a terrible administrative mix-up and he’s really supposed to be judging the whole thing – as well as a lemon curd filling which is incredibly sharp. Any other contestant would have got slated for that, citing poor balance and overpowering flavour or something, but Paul likes it. Of course he does.
Yan’s made a bit of a bumble by activating the pastry too much, resulting in it being overly tender. I’m starting to think she might go this week; I did actually have her predicted to leave in week 7, though I also had Sophie out last week. Paul terms the flavours good, but the shells have let her down. Oh dear. Kate’s not done too well either, with an overly alcoholic espresso martini filling in non-identical casings, but her negroni ricotta and limoncello flavours are both passable. Then we’ve got Sophie, who elected to do hers with mascarpone instead of ricotta – Paul looks annoyed to have to admit that it’s actually really rather nice, and Prue agrees.
That’s the signature, so what’s the technical? It’s one of the only things I could think of when I was wondering what might be an Italian bake: pizza! They’ve got ‘just’ an hour and a half to make a perfect margarita – ‘it takes an hour and a half? I can defrost one in ten minutes!’ exclaims Hannah – which Prue claims is much harder than everyone imagines. They’ve also been a bit sneaky and removed everyone’s rolling pins, so the only option for flattening the base is to do that throwy-uppy-spinny thingumebob.
Barely a minute in, and Kate manages to have what she seems to think is a pretty major accident, claiming that she’s sliced the top of her finger off in a fan. The EMTs clearly agree that this is a very serious injury, because they give her one of those nice blue plasters and leave her to it. It wasn’t even a two-plaster job, as Hannah comments. If that wasn’t enough of a disaster, Kate’s disaster quotient goes through the roof – and she’s not kidding this time – when she accidentally shakes her pizza into a bizarre shape, wobbling the mozzarella chunks right off, instead of shaking the base off the paddle thingy and into the oven. Oh, dear. Liam thinks things through a little better by not putting the basil on top until after baking so that it won’t burn, which at least two of the other bakers don’t think about, resulting in a rather wilted bunch of foliage. He’s judged as having a good flavour and a tippy end – Prue likes it when the end of the slice tips down a bit – so basically good all around. Sophie’s is a bit thick, more like an English fast food pizza than what Prue pronounces as an Italian ‘pihzah’. As for Kate… yeah, it’s not good. Yan’s hasn’t gone well either, despite a bit of ingenuity in using a roll of clingfilm in place of a rolling pin; Stacey’s isn’t terrible, but the mozzarella’s just sort of disappeared. Steven’s is ‘not absolutely perfectly round’, but looks good anyway, and the basil is proclaimed ‘nice and green’. Of course it’s green. It’s basil. Steven didn’t do that.
The results are in: Kate’s last, Yan fifth, Stacey fourth, Sophie third. Hey, Liam’s been pretty consistently up the top of the technicals lately, and he had good flavour, good bread, good shape. My boy’s doing good! Alas, though, he comes second, with Steven looking both unsurprised and terribly validated at his own victory. Hannah literally explodes with rage. (Literally. I got terrible burns.)
For the showstopper, we’re doing sfogliatelle! (I have no idea whether I’m spelling that right). It’s some sort of lobster-tail-like lamination-ful thing filled with… stuff. Instead of the semi-traditional clip of someone travelling ludicrous distances to speak to an expert on this foodstuff, we just get a little VO of Paul explaining what these things are, which tells me… largely nothing. Ah, well, it’s not like I was planning to give them a go – certainly not in the requisite quantities for this challenge, which demands 24 sfogliatelle in two different flavours and apparently requires fourteen metres of pastry to create! It’s all about the layering, as were the rough puffs last week, and Yan and Kate (our two most likely eliminatees this week) both struggle with this element from the get-go. Meanwhile, Stacey tries to be fancy by puffing it up even further using choux pastry, although I’d have thought it was already pastry-y enough for anyone’s taste and frankly it does not seem to be going all that well for her. Sophie seems to be doing alright with it, while Steven’s pretending not to know what he’s doing but obviously does. Liam’s the only person to bring something cool along for presentation this week: a delivery-style bucket of fake ice to put his fake fish in, inspired by his fish-delivering grandfather. He’s got to the point now where he’s consistently creating some of the best and most thoughtful presentations, and his actual baking doesn’t seem to be suffering – he might actually be in with a shot of making it all the way! Indeed, his sfogliatelle, once presented, are declared very tasty, as are Steven’s (ugh). Most don’t fare as well, partly owing to the fact that it’s apparently 40 degrees in the tent! (That’s 104 Fahrenheit, people who don’t use degrees Celsius.) There’s a lot of butter and lard being lovingly (if grossly) rubbed in, which is all just melting way too fast; Prue does acknowledge that this is a tremendously difficult pastry showstopper at the best of times, apparently forgetting that pastry week was last week.
Among those who suffer is Yan, whose effort does not turn out well, and Kate’s and Stacey’s also basically just suck. If this were The Apprentice, Kate and Yan would probably both get fired this week; neither’s had a very good time of it. Seems that Steven and Sophie are up for Star Baker, with Liam mentioned in there sort of as an afterthought (a disservice, I think, given how well he did this week). The eventual result is… Steven’s Star Baker, for the third time, and Yan is our leaver. Stacey looks awfully surprised, even though she didn’t have half as bad luck as either Yan or Kate, and with that we’re down to our final five. I think Liam was about to surpass Yan as my favourite anyway, but I’m still sad to see her go. Bye, Yan! Happy sciencing!
Hannah’s quips this week
- Me: Is this the same as canneloni? Her: Thought that was squid. Me: That’s calamari.
- They act like long clothes were their decision, but I bet the producers told them to do that. Bet Paul wanted Steven to take some off though.
- You never see Sandi or Noel go talk to Steven, do ya? Wonder why.
- Kate looks like someone from EastEnders… maybe Whitney crossed with Stacey… is she from London? Liverpool? Lincoln?
- I want Prue to give out a handshake, but, like, Paul’s extending his hand to give one and Prue just sneaks in and steals it while staring at him intensely
- Oh, look, Steven won. Surprised he’s not applauding himself.
- Wouldn’t real bakers have air con? Don’t judge them for melty butter, it’s not their fault!