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Patisserie: THE SEMI-FINALS!
It’s the Semi-Finals and it’s down to five bakers in French Pastry Week of The American Baking Competition. The pressure is on in Week Six as the bakers head into the home stretch of the competition. Brian, who still desperately wants the title of Star Baker, is confident that he has what it takes to finally win that title. Francine who has been baking in competitions her whole life knows she has the skills to win this. Darlene, on a roll after winning Star Baker twice in a row, is upbeat. James, though, is nervous, and knows he must be consistent this week to make it through. In a surprise twist this week, the bakers will face a double elimination and only three will advance to the Finals!
SIGNATURE BAKE: TARTE TATIN
The atmosphere in the tent is tense. When Jeff announces that this week’s Signature Bake is the classic French dessert, Tarte Tatin, the bakers focus and get to work immediately. They have two hours and 15 minutes to complete their Signature Bake.
A Tarte Tatin is an upside-down tart, which should have a glazed top from caramelized sugar. Most bakers are making a traditional “sweet” Tarte Tatin, except for Brian who opts for a savory one. Brian’s savory Tarte Tatin with Gruyere Cheese and Onions is a big risk and Marcela lets him know that Paul does not like savory Tarte Tatins. Darlene’s Tarte Tatin features Apples, Pears and Cranberries but to give it her own personality, she adds oatmeal to the crust. Francine has made a Tarte Tatin in a previous competition but had no idea it was French or called a Tarte Tatin! For this challenge, she chooses to make a Peach and Berry Tarte Tatin because peaches are the main food in her home state. Elaine is familiar with fruit desserts from her mother’s baking but cannot decide whether or not to slice the pears in her Bartlett Pear Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon and Cognac. James is also using pears and is making an Asian Pear Tarte Tatin with Crushed Almonds and Rum.
The bakers start off the bake by making their pastry dough. While the dough chills, they get to work on their fillings. With one hour remaining, the bakers are cooking and caramelizing their fillings over the stove. Elaine goes an extra step to impress the judges and decides to caramelize both sides of her pears. As Brian adds vinegar to his onion mixture, Francine starts to cough, choking on the smell and jokes with Paul that she needs mouth-to–mouth!
While their fillings are still caramelizing, the bakers roll out their pastry crusts and then layer the crust over the fillings. James pokes holes in his crust to allow for the steam to escape through the top of the crust. The bakers then put their tartes in the oven. After a short time in the oven, Elaine remembers that she forgot to turn her pears back over after choosing to caramelize both sides. She takes her bake out and starts fiddling with it, unsure whether to try and fix it. In the end, she dissects her pastry and ruins her crust before putting it back in the oven.
The bakers begin to take their bakes out of the oven and Francine’s Tarte Tatin is overflowing with juice from the fruits. She’s worried about the liquid, knowing how Paul Hollywood feels about soggy bottoms. The bakers must allow enough time for their tatins to cool before flipping it. As the bake winds down, all the bakers flip their tartes, revealing the tops of the tartes for the first time.
Darlene is the first to face the judges and Paul loves the color and flavor, but advises that she could have had a richer piecrust by adding more butter. Jeff does a gag and pulls out an extra long fork to get a taste of the tarte.
James’ Asian Pear Tarte Tatin is next. Both judges love the appearance of his tarte and Paul even comments that it looks very professional. Marcela finds the rum overwhelming and Paul finds that it lacks flavor.
Next up is Brian’s savory onion tarte. Judges Paul and Marcela love the appearance and flavors. Paul loves the taste and comments that it’s also baked well.
Francine’s soggy bottom fears are realized when Marcela’s first comment is regarding the liquid coming from the tarte. Paul confirms that it has a soggy bottom.
Last up is Elaine. She explains her mistake with the pears, only to have Paul take a bite of raw dough. Paul is surprised that she would mess around with her pastry at this point in the competition.
After the judging, Brian feels confident heading into the Technical Bake while Francine are Elaine are very disappointed with their poor bakes.
TECHNICAL BAKE: NAPOLEONS
For the Technical Bake, Jeff informs our bakers that they will be making four perfect napoleons, and Jeff jokes that this is his recipe! But then lets them know this is a Paul Hollywood recipe and they will have two hours and thirty minutes to complete it.
Napoleons have three layers of puff pastry, two layers of filling, chocolate ganache and then whipped cream. The first step for the bakers is to prepare the puff pastry. Elaine realizes immediately that she has made a mistake and must start over. After forming the dough, they need to flatten out the butter into a square, which most do by hammering the butter with their rolling pins. After rolling out the dough, most of the bakers measure and cut the dough into uniform rectangles before baking. James has a different technique, though, and does not cut the dough into rectangles before baking. He hopes this will ensure uniform napoleons. Once again, he burns himself as he places the tray in the oven, joking “burn #1 for the day!”
While the pastry dough is baking, the bakers make the pastry cream. When Jeff visits Francine, he jokes and points to a deer to sneak a taste of her chocolate ganache.
With only thirty minutes left, the bakers begin to take their puff pastry out of the oven. Brian is elated as he takes his tray out of the oven and even serenades his pastry. Darlene, on the other hand, is frustrated that her pastries are not puffy. Elaine is also not happy with hers but is running out of time and must take them out. James is even more crunched for time, and must take his pastry out before completely baked.
Darlene and Francine both pipe the cream while the pastry is still warm and the cream runs out the sides. James just makes a complete mess of his Napoleons as he drizzles the pastry cream.
When Jeff gives the five minute warning, Brian is calmly decorating the top of his napoleons while the other four bakers scramble to get their melting Napoleons decorated and on the plate. Elaine, Francine, Darlene and James are all frustrated by the lack of time in this challenge.
After the bakers place their Napoleons behind their photos, Paul and Marcela return to the tent. The judging starts with Darlene and although it’s clear that she’s piped them while still warm, the judges still appreciate the detail on top and the flavor of the cream.
Brian is next. Both judges are pleased with the appearance of his napoleons and also find the pastry light and flaky and overall really nice.
Elaine is up next and the judges can’t find anything right with her napoleons. They are not uniform, they were warm when filled, the dough is undercooked and the icing is too thick.
Elaine, however, does not have the worst bake – that would be James. James’ napoleons are a mess, completely raw and Paul calls it a disaster.
Last up is Francine. For the most part, the judges like her flavors and the pastry but the pastry needed to be more flakey.
James easily comes in last place with Paul being very disappointed with him. Elaine finished 4th. Darlene 3rd, Francine 2nd, and Brian wins the Technical Bake. Paul also comments that Brian has proven that there was enough time in this challenge to make Napoleons.
While Brian is ecstatic, Elaine feels the pressure and knows the Showstopper Bake is the most important bake yet for her. Heading into the Showstopper, James is embarrassed and is not sure he can even advance to the finals at this point.
SHOWSTOPPER BAKE: CHOUX TOWER
This is the last bake before the finals. Darlene is feeling good coming into the Showstopper but Elaine, James and Francine know this is a big challenge after their poor showings in the previous bakes. Jeff announces that they will be making a Choux Tower and that he has no idea what that is! For the bake, they must make 80 choux pastries with the filling of their choice. They’ll have four hours and thirty minutes to complete the bake.
The bakers all begin by making their pastry. The choux pastry is tricky, tedious and difficult to make. The bakers must mix it over the stove by hand, quickly and vigorously, ensuring the eggs don’t scramble.
Francine has made a Choux Tower for her own wedding, and today is making Vanilla Cream Choux Buns.
Elaine is making Chocolate Espresso Cream Choux Buns and prepares her baking pan by making a stencil for the buns. Marcela is impressed by this, but comments that the stencil size seems small.
Once the bakers make the pastry, they pipe them onto the baking sheets. Some with their own techniques— Francine pushes down the points to prevent burning and Brian’s keeps them to a teaspoon in size because he knows they will expand.
James’ batter is very runny but bakes it anyway.
After the pastries go into the oven, the bakers prepare their cream fillings. Darlene is making an orange pastry cream for her Citrus Choux Bun Tower, which will be topped with spun sugar and James is making an almond orange cream but is worried he won’t have anything to pipe them into.
When Jeff announces the halfway mark, the bakers begin to take their choux out of the oven. Darlene is elated but James is completely defeated. His choux pastry look likes pancakes and he has no idea what he did wrong. Brian offers help, and shows James how to make the choux paste. James is still stressed but very appreciative and starts over with his choux buns.
After Jeff announces the thirty-minute call, the pressure overwhelms Francine. She has a breakdown and cries to Jeff about how much winning this competition would mean to her family.
Brian is creating a Black and White Choux Tower by topping his chocolate mousse choux buns with white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. When Jeff visits, he asks Brian about making it to the Semi-Finals. Brian admits that he has been humbled in the competition.
Francine, Darlene and Brian are using cone forms to build their tower, Elaine and James are doing theirs free form. To bind the choux buns together, most of the bakers use caramel, which they prepare after filling their choux buns. It is a tedious process as they stick each bun to build the tower.
Francine announces that she has made 171 cream puffs but does not have enough to complete her tower. She doesn’t panic but simply saws off the top part of the cone tower.
With ten seconds remaining, the bakers scramble to finish— drizzling caramel to finish it off. James, however, does not have enough time to even make caramel.
The Showstopper Bake judging begins with Brian. As he presents his tower, Paul comments on the airy and openness of the choux buns and likes the black and white appearance from the white and dark chocolate. Both judges like the flavor of his chocolate mousse.
Elaine is next and both judges are disappointed by the sad, small appearance. Paul says the choux is slightly raw inside and Marcela does not like the caramel.
Francine is judged next. Paul’s first comment is that she cut off the top part of the tower. The sugar is burnt and the puffs are slightly too small but Marcela likes the flavor of the cream.
Darlene is up next. She impresses the judges with her presentation and the flavor of the orange cream.
James is last. He presents a plate of choux buns that are not bound together and tumble when Paul shakes the plate. James admits to having a hard time and Brian coming to his rescue. The filling is lacking and grainy and Paul is again, disappointed with James.
DELIBERATION AND ELIMINATION
At the Judges Tent, the judges begin the deliberation with Star Baker hopefuls. Marcela points out how well Darlene did with both her Tarte Tatin and with her Choux Tower. Paul agrees but adds that Brian must be considered as well. He liked his Choux Tower and points out that Brian came in first in the Technical. Now they move on to discuss who is up for elimination. Paul makes it clear that two should go. They discuss Elaine, Francine, and James’ bakes. Elaine ruined her Tarte Tatin and her Choux Tower was disappointing. And even though Francine came in 2nd in the Technical, her Tarte Tatin was soggy and the caramel was burnt on her Choux Tower. James came in last in the Technical and most of his choux buns lacked cream.
Jeff and the judges return to the Baking Tent. When Jeff announces that Brain is this week’s Star Baker, Brian lets out a shout of joy! Jeff then lets the bakers know that James and Elaine will be going home. Elaine is happy to have found baking friends and appreciates the adventure. James is disappointed but has so many new recipes to win over dates with.
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