There is no breadman to see. But there is a bread baby.
You can twist it, knead it and you can definitely slap it – that’s right, it’s bread week on The Great British Pastry Fair. Who’s gonna do it to prove they have what it takes to up to the occasion? Who will fall flat? And Paul Hollywood is the King of Bread, will anyone get a Hollywood handshake?
Signature of the week: Foccacia
Signature this week is the classic Italian bread: focaccia. Judges are looking for a bread with a crispy crust, an irregular crumb structure and a soft interior. All eyes are on Giuseppe, the Italian baker in the tent. He looks humble, but all of you, Giuseppe is ready. He makes focaccia inspired by his hometown of Gaeta. The milk he adds to his recipe is not inspired by tradition. Now the focaccia is a wet paste, but the addition of milk puts a hint of skepticism in Paul’s eyes.
Most bakers opt for traditional Italian flavors of olives, basil and garlic. Jürgen, back from Star Baker, adds a German touch and prepares a “kipper-caccia”, a bread topped with herring and onions. Freya, who also prepares a focaccia topped with fajitas, also brings an extra touch to the focaccia game. When I think of fajita, I think of sizzling meats and peppers, not Italian bread, but we’ll see what it comes down to. Other not-so-skeptical twists are Crystelle’s Raisin Feta Bread and Lizzie’s Truffle Bread.
The bakers have on the whole successful signings, but in the end, it is Giuseppe who has the best of the lot. Her bread has been proven to perfection, creating a pleasant and soft interior with an irregular crumb structure (aka random air pockets) with a crisp exterior. And this is where we get our first Hollywood handshake, with Paul congratulating Giuseppe on his focaccia. Paul is so impressed with Giuseppe’s bread that he asks for the recipe. Clearly, adding milk to the dough worked, and focaccia purists will surely question their methods after this episode. While Giuseppe came out on top, those at the bottom are Rochica, with her irresistible garlic flavors, and Jürgen’s overcooked and oddly flavored bread.
Technique this week: ciabatta breadsticks
This week’s technique is defined by Paul Hollywood aka Mr. Bread, and it’s another Italian pastry: 15 ciabatta breadsticks with olives and cheese. At least Paul doesn’t sweeten it, giving bakers the advice that it’s “pretty complicated” baking. Most bakers are inexperienced in baking ciabatta, but in Maggie’s words, “I think I can work my way through this.” Blag they do, if by blagging you mean mixing, proving, and slapping their dough. Giuseppe may never have cooked a ciabatta, but he knows how schiaffeggiare (Italian for “slap”) his ciabatta dough, even throwing a twist and actually twist his dough to form the breadsticks.
While some bakers are confident others lose their energy, like Crystelle who thinks breadsticks are worthless and “a waste of time” (someone brings this girl to an Olive Garden stat!) And Lizzie who proclaims that ‘she is “therefore on the week of bread”. Still, they all persist, baking at random, wondering when to take their breadsticks out of the oven.
It’s time to judge and the results are that most breadsticks are undercooked. Paul sticks to proven methods of testing the taste of breadsticks; Prue decides to test by trying to kiss one at the end of the judgment. Prue is becoming the show’s distant older aunt, and I love it. That being said, can someone monitor her? Maybe make sure she has enough water?
The Techniques rankings are as follows: Rochica (10), Crystelle (9), Maggie (8), George (7), Chigs (6), Jürgen (5), Freya (4), Amanda (3), Lizzie ( 2), and Giuseppe (1). Well done for Giuseppe, even impressing Paul with the twist of his sticks. Poor Rochica seems in danger of leaving, and will probably have to do everything in her power if she wants to stay in the competition. And Jürgen can’t win them all, but unfortunately he also has to step up his game in the next challenge.
The highlight of the week: the milk bread
The Bread Week Showstopper Challenge is for bakers to create a themed display using bread pudding. What is milk bread? It’s Jürgen quick for the explanation: it’s bread where milk replaces water in the recipe. I’m not gonna lie, my mind immediately turned to the milk steak of The weather is always good. Glad to know it’s real bread! Maybe Giuseppe who used milk in his signing will have a head start in the challenge? Or the expert Jürgen?
Of course, the Showstopper requires technique, but the real joy is seeing the themes. Amanda, Maggie and Freya go for a beach theme. When Amanda asked Maggie if she should google how many legs an octopus has, I immediately had doubts about Amanda’s skills as a detective, because October is Latin for eight, thus deducing the number of legs in its name. George opts for a cuddly Koala bun. Chigs makes a picnic basket out of bread. Rochica makes a bird cage in honor of her nan, who loves birds. Giuseppe opts for a tray of fruit and vegetable bread. Lizzie and Crystelle opt for roast dinner-inspired themes, with Lizzie’s “roast pig” and Crystelle’s “chicken” buns.
But all of you, the bread theme to end all the bread themes is Jürgen’s Bread Baby. He said that when he received the briefing for the challenge, he and his wife immediately thought of a baby because “babies drink milk.” Prue and Paul seem a little shocked that they have to cut a loaf of bread in the shape of a baby. Jurgen assures them that he will make baby toys, so that at least they don’t have to become completely cannibals on the Bread Baby.
Overall, bakers seem to have few problems preparing their bread creations. The bottom ones are Rochica, because her birdcage was too primed, and Maggie, whose bread was underdressed and didn’t have a distinct flavor. Giuseppe stayed near the top, with his impressive fruit and veg platter. Those who were also near the top were Amanda, with her clever octopus, and Freya’s seascape was fun and well done. Alas, Jürgen’s baby looked good, but it lacked proofs.
It’s doomsday time, and week three star baker is Giuseppe. He took him out of the park with his Italian rocket, and I think he’s a serious contender to move forward in the series. Unfortunately, the baker to leave this week is Rochica. She was unfortunately at the bottom of the challenges this week. She says in her confessional that she enjoyed her time and will continue to cook after the show.
Predictions and other thoughts:
- I was not surprised to see Rochica leave, as she made a few missteps this week. While I find Maggie endearing at times, I feel like she got lucky this week and will probably have to work wonders to stay in the competition.
- Glad to see Giuseppe win Star Baker. And get him to receive the first Hollywood handshake of the season ?! Che bello! I think on her heels are Freya, who seems to be constantly on the top, and Lizzie, who has also done really well this week.
- Jurgen may have had a week off this week, but I think he will be a longtime contender and likely bounce back after this week off.
- Noel’s red and white striped sweater reminded me Where’s Waldo? Or, if you are in the UK, Where’s Wally?