We’re halfway through Season 4 of The Great British Baking Show … but at least we have our butter to console us. Lots and lots of butter.
The eight remaining contestants walked into The Tent ready to put their layering skills to the test with pastry week. The mood was upbeat, and many bakers were still hopeful that Star Baker was within grasp. But Mary and Paul had a few challenges up their sleeves …
Read on to see who our Week 5 featured bakers are in The Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge, but first, let’s reflect on what we learned from the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show. Spoiler alert!
ROUND 1: DANISH
The bakers were asked to make 24 breakfast pastries, a dozen of each of two different types. Mary Berry made it clear that butter is the ticket, but that if that butter leaks out, the pastries will be “as dry as an old boot.” Less than ideal.
Paul Hollywood warned that timing is everything, and multitasking is key. The dough has to rest and proof, and fillings must be prepped. Unlike our Wisconsin bakers, the show’s bakers did not have the luxury of time on their sides.
On top of all of these curveballs, there’s measuring, folding, laminating … and more butter. And, if you’re Benjamina, there’s also some math involved (she explains that there’s actually a mathematical equation to figure out how many layers you’ll get from your folds.)
Favorite Pun: “As we say in the breakfast cereal world: Cheerio!” – Sue
Most Concerning Moment: When Rav realized he only put 11 pastries in the oven. “Fun times ahead …”
Favorite Quote: (To flossy Val) “You’re the first person we’ve had who’s actually flossed their pastry.” And later …”How’s the pastry flossing going? Have you found any cavities?”
Best Awkward Moment: When Val resorted to praying in front of the oven to avoid raw dough.
The Disasters: After all of the proofing, folding, filling, plaiting and buttering, a lot of bakers were left with barely any time to bake. It was a bit of a nail biter all around, and many pastries were underbaked in the end. Tom’s was perhaps the biggest disaster: One of his varieties was underbaked, and the other was described as “dry as a bone, with granola on top of that” by Paul. So … not great.
The Highlights: Paul said Jane’s orange pain aux raisin was “the ideal pastry” and Candice also got showered with accolades.
The Takeaway: Butter is great, but leaky butter is no good. Time is valuable. The perfect pastry is not easy to achieve!
HOW OUR LOCAL BAKERS DID:
Our bakers loved having a little more time to proof and layer, and many stretched the experience into a multi-day baking extravaganza. The Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge bakers also incorporated seasonal berries and ingredients and added Wisconsin twists whenever they could.
Robyn joined the challenge all the way from Lexington, Kentucky, with her Summer Fruit Danishes. “I started on Saturday morning and the dough developed a great flavor by the time I baked the danishes Sunday morning,” Robyn writes. “The finished pastry was tasty and very light and flaky. My husband said, ‘This tastes like it’s from a bakery’ and someone who tried one at a potluck later said it was the best Danish she ever had.”
Molly from Green Bay also loved seeing her hard work pay off. “When you cut a knife through the pastry you can hear the crunch of the layers,” said Molly. “There were just so many delicate layers in the pastry that you would never get from anything store bought.”
Jean from Madison knows the pastry struggle all too well from baking her Cherry/Raspberry/Strawberry Diamonds With Almond Icing. “2-6 tablespoons ice water? Egads, try 9. Rolling out dough to a rectangle is tricky business! Apres-baking, the texture is crispy, layered, buttery, yum-ness. (You’re not seeing the five that failed in the beauty contest.)”
Marie in Sun Prairie’s Krazy Kringle – Two Ways called for three (3!) days of pastry and butter rolling … did we mention this was her first time making pastry from scratch?!
Have we mentioned that our lovely bakers are turning on their ovens in the summertime?! This fact has not gone unnoticed by us.
Team Kramer’s Cran Cherry Danish‘s filling was inspired by a recipe they love to make at Thanksgiving. “As we were cooking the cranberry-cherry sauce the kitchen for a moment seemed like Thanksgiving time, except for the fact that we were sweating in the heat and there was nary a football in sight.”
Wisconsin twists aren’t always easy, but our bakers know how to make a twist manageable and delicious. “My son wanted to shape them like cows or cheese wedges, but that was beyond my skill set,” said Jenny from Mineral Point. “So we just used a lot of Wisconsin ingredients instead: Organic Valley butter and milk, raspberries and eggs from our farm, and organic flour from Meadowlark Organics near Ridgeway, Wisconsin.” We love your Wisconsin twists, Jenny!
ROUND 2: BAKEWELL TART
The classic British Bakewell tart has a thin, crispy pastry base, layered with almond filling, jam and feathered icing. If you’re British, you’re supposed to know what these look like, apparently.
Only a few of the bakers were experienced with this tart, so this Technical Challenge was off to an iffy start. But Val said she bakes one every week, so there’s that.
Of course, Mary Berry was on the lookout for soggy bottoms!
Favorite Pun: “Bakers: I don’t want to put you in a frangipanic but you’ve only got an hour left!”
Most Concerning Moment: Despite Val’s experience with Bakewell tarts, she lost part of her instructions and baked by guessing for half of the challenge. And Andrew forgot to turn the oven on.
Favorite Quote: “You’ve got to bake well. Not bake badly.”
The Disasters: Rav’s crust was a mess, and he ended up coming in last after his crust broke apart and his tart was a little too gooey. Poor Rav has spent the last three weeks at the bottom of the Technical. Despite her experience, Val didn’t do much better: her frangipane was running all over the place and her dough was raw.
The Highlights: Jane rocked this challenge, and Candice, whose nan used to make Bakewells all the time, wasn’t too far behind.
The Takeaway: Crispy pastry cases, clearly defined layers and a perfect feather are the keys to success … but baking well isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Make sure your tart’s cool before icing!
HOW OUR LOCAL BAKERS DID:
Alaina from Milwaukee said: “I am very happy with the dough. It turned out very flaky, buttery and light. No soggy bottoms!” And, like we mentioned with Team Kramer, we are forever impressed by our bakers braving the summer heat. “Even in 90-degree weather with no A/C at home, I was able to get the dough rolled out and into the tart pan with ease. That calls for extra points, don’t ya think? ;)” We see you, Alaina!
Remember how Val didn’t have a full recipe to work with during this challenge? Well, Bren from Green Bay can relate. “The recipe that I used this week was from the Greater Green Bay Cook Book published by the Ladies Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church in 1896,” explains Bren. “The recipe begins, ‘Line a soup plate (heavy ware) with a rich crust…’ and that is the total description for the crust. It ends with, “Bake in a very slow oven…”
We’d like to thank Sarah for a good giggle this week thanks to her “The Cat Likes it” Bakewell tart. Plus, she even frosted with green and gold!
ROUND 2: FILO PASTRY AMUSE-BOUCHE
As Pastry Week wound down, the Showstopper Challenge called for 48 filled filo-pastry amuse-bouche, 24 savory and 24 sweet. With delicious fillings, of course!
Filo dough might be what nightmares are made of. Mel calls it “the most delicate pastry there is.”
Mary says the trick is to get the filo dough super thin, “so that when you hold it up, you can almost see through it.”
Favorite Paul Comment: [Referring to how the pastries need to be bite-sized] “I know I’ve got a big mouth, but I’m talking an inch and a half max.”
Most Concerning Moment: (When Tom revealed that he was planning to combine steak and chocolate.) Mel: “That’s meat? I thought those were very flat brownies.”
Favorite Quote: “The first time I made filo pastry, it was about 35 years ago … and I thought ‘this is no joke’ … and I never made it again! -Val
Best Awkward Moment: Candice’s black pudding surplus. “Feel the weight of that, Mary!”
The Disasters: Tom’s chocolatey meat creation looked a bit “informal” in Mary’s words and left Paul disappointed by their size and flavor combo. “It’s gone on a night out, I think,” said Tom. Val’s dough was a disaster, and in the end, her bakes were underdone and the pastry was too thick.
The Highlights: Benjamina rocked her plantain creations. Andrew packed a ton of flavor into tiny packages. Jane’s bakes were too large, but Mary said her pastries were “absolutely delicious.” Candice’s black pudding paid off: Her plating was superb, and Mary and Paul loved her flavor combinations.
The Takeaway: When Paul says to keep things small, listen! If you can read a book through your filo, it’s thin enough.
HOW OUR LOCAL BAKERS DID:
Have we mentioned that filo is a nightmare? Very few bakers tackled this challenge. In fact, only three brave bakers joined in.
Erin from Superior was honest about her feelings on filo: “Actually, I loathe to work with ready-to-use filo pastry — so, so, so brittle and difficult to make anything other than a square.” Erin used high-gluten flour to get stronger layers, and filled the pastry with cheesecake in a nod to Wisconsin cheese.
Rebecca from Manitowoc was the first of our bakers to complete the challenge and was “pleasantly satisfied” with her Mini Midwestern Meat Pies & Mini Apple Pies. They “needed to be thinner, but I’m definitely pleased for a first attempt,” she said. We’re pleased with your bravery, Rebecca!
Star Baker: Candice, for her sweet and savory masterpieces. “Goodness gracious, great balls of pig!”
Kicked Out of the Tent: Val (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)
MEET OUR SIX FEATURED LOCAL BAKERS FOR WEEK 5
Jill in Hollandale
Wild Berry Danish
Jill rolled and folded her way to a flaky, delicious and buttery pastry — just in time for her husband’s birthday.
Kimberly in Madison
Wisconsin Cheese and Blueberry Danish
Kimberly created a flaky Danish featuring Wisconsin butter and blueberries, and Crave Brothers Mascarpone cheese.
Ralph in Madison
Ms. Elder Berry’s Tart
Ralph went above and beyond to add a Wisconsin twist and ended up with a “flakymeltinyourmouthish” crust.
Check out Ralph’s process video. Reminder: You can submit your own 30-second video when you share your baking stories! Your video must be posted first on YouTube, Vimeo or Google Drive shared via a link.
Sue in Oregon
Bakewell Cherry Tart
Sue used Mary Berry’s recipe for a firm crust and admittedly benefitted from the luxury of time.
Betty in Allouez
Raspberry Jam and Frangipane Tart (My Way)
Betty used historical recipes and baked in a historical kitchen, and incorporated the freshest raspberries, currants and eggs.
Rebecca in Stevens Point
Filo, Phyllo, Sweet & Savory
Rebecca created sweet and savory amuse-bouche built on a base of tiny, crispy baked filo pastry cups, featuring Ski’s Meat Market bacon.
Shout Out to Our Trusty Bakers!
Since we’re at the halfway mark, we’d like to take some time to give special recognition to 18 bakers who have participated in every challenge so far. Here’s to:
Jill in Hollandale
Marie in Sun Prairie
Alaina in Milwaukee
Sandy in Appleton
Ruth in Oshkosh
Kevin in Viroqua
Joshua in DePere
Molly in Green Bay
Dick in Madison
Team Kramer in Wauwatosa
Kim in Hudson
Mary Jane in Eau Claire
Jean in Madison
Rebecca in Stevens Point
Sarah in Wisconsin
Team Shlimder in Madison
Jean-Margret in Blanchardville
Ralph in Madison
It’s never too late to join The Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge and show us what’s cookin’ in your kitchen. We hope you will join us for our Week 6 Challenge: Botanical! If you need inspiration, you can watch the Botanical episode of The Great British Baking Show online now.