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Season Finale: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!
We’re down to our final three bakers in the competition. Brian, Darlene and Francine all made it past the Semi-Finals and are ready to go head to head to head for the title of America’s Best Amateur Baker, a cookbook deal with Simon & Schuster and a quarter of a million dollars. Who will win it all?
SIGNATURE BAKE: THE SOPHISTICATED PEANUT
Jeff surprises our bakers by letting them know that for the final Signature Bake, they can make anything they want, as long as it includes Georgia’s official state crop, the peanut. Darlene is feeling pressure as she lives in Georgia and wants to represent it well. Their peanut creations should look sophisticated. They have two and a half hours to complete their Signature Bake.
As the challenge begins, Darlene, Brian and Francine hug each other and then begin the bake. Darlene is very nervous as she begins because she’s never competed before and has now made it to the finals. She is making a Peanut Cake Roll with Peanut Cream Filling. Darlene got the idea from her kids who enjoy her pumpkin cake roll, which is similar. When Paul stops by he thinks it sounds good and is curious how the flavor will be.
Brian is also making a cake roll, a Vanilla Peanut Chiffon Roll with a Peanut Mousse Filling and topped with Peanut Praline. Brian chose to make a cake roll because he wants it to look elegant. When the judges stop by, he admits he still gets nervous when they come over to talk. Brian also admits that this competition has humbled him as a baker and that he has learned so much. Paul says the day you stop learning is the day you give up.
With Brian and Darlene both making cake rolls, Francine is looking to impress with a family favorite. She is making a Spiced Peanut Peanut Butter Torte with a Cream Cheese Filling and a Cookie Crumble Shell. She combined three of her kids favorites recipes into one for the idea. When Marcela mentions that Francine is known for her flavor combinations that surprise, Francine admits this one will be a but her and a bit of her kids flavors.
Once the bakers have baked their cakes and torte shell, they all move on to making their fillings. Darlene makes her peanut cream. Brian makes his peanut ganash mousse. Francine begins to make her spiced peanut butter cream cheese filling.
Once Brian and Darlene spread their filling onto their cakes, they both begin rolling them up, a delicate process. Francine fills her torte with the cream cheese filling. With less than thirty minutes remaining in the challenge, the bakers start to feel the pressure with so much on the line.
As the bake winds down, the bakers begin to decorate their peanut creations. Brian tops his cake with a chocolate ganash and peanut praline. Darlene tops her cake roll with whipped cream and peanuts while Francine applies her thick truffle topping and peanuts.
The judges begin with Darlene’s Peanut Cake Roll. Paul sort of likes the appearance of her cake roll but it reminds him of something from the 1970’s. Once Paul tastes it, he declares that he loves it. Although the cake is a bit dry, the whipped cream makes up for it and it delivers a strong peanut taste. Marcela also enjoys her cake roll but says maybe bit less peanut flavor would improve it.
Up next is Brian’s Vanilla Peanut Chiffon Roll. Paul asks where the peanuts are and Brian informs him it’s ground up in the mousse filling. Marcela dings Brian again for topping his cake with mint, an ingredient that is not featured in his bake. Marcela loves the flavor of his mousse, but wishes there was more praline because it tasted so good. Paul also likes it and thinks his cake is baked well too. Marcela praises his bake as looking very sophisticated.
Last up is Francine’s Spiced Peanut Peanut Butter Torte. Both Paul and Marcela love the look of her torte and think it looks sophisticated. Paul has some difficulty getting a slice out because the filling is running a bit. Francine admits the filling hasn’t set like she wanted it to. Although Marcela thinks the flavor of the crust is really nice, she has issues with it being overcooked, and the elements not going well with one another. Paul agrees that the flavor of the cookie shell is nice, but he finds no flavor in the filling, which is unusual for Francine. Marcela then explains to Francine that the cream cheese is too overwhelming in the filling and it needed to be balanced out.
After the judging, Francine is devastated. With the judges out of the tent, she gets very emotional and wonders why she is even in the competition. Darlene comforts her and tells her she is a great baker. With a poor performance in the Signature Bake, Francine now must pick up her game in the Technical Bake if she wants to win the title of America’s Best Amateur Baker.
TECHNICAL BAKE: BOSTON CREAM DONUTS For the final Technical Bake, Jeff informs the bakers that they will be making a dozen Boston Cream Donuts, or as Jeff calls it, breakfast. This challenge will test their baking instincts and their frying ability. This is a Paul Hollywood recipe and they will have two hours and forty-five minutes to complete it.
When Jeff visits Darlene, she tells him she has never fried a thing in her life and that she teaches her kids not to fry food.
These donuts are yeasted donuts. The bakers must first prepare the dough and knead it. Once kneaded, they must proof the dough until it doubles in size. As the yeast feeds on the flour, it releases carbon dioxide, which in turn creates air pockets. It’s these air pockets which then make the dough rise. If the bakers don’t allow their dough to fully rise, they run the risk that their donuts won’t puff up enough when fried.
With the baker’s dough in their warming drawers, they begin making the pastry cream for the donuts. They cook it over heat and then put in the fridge to set. With the cream done, they move onto the chocolate glaze. Paul’s recipe calls for a shiny glaze and not every baker knows how to achieve this. As Brian wonders why he has vegetable oil, Francine and Darlene know it’s the key ingredient for the glaze.
Brian and Francine take their proofed dough out and begin to roll it out and cut the donuts out of it. Darlene waits a bit longer to take her dough out and then joins the others in the rolling out and cutting. All the bakers are concerned that they don’t make their donuts too thin before going into the oil.
As they begin to fry the donuts, Darlene is a fish out of water. She has no idea how long to fry something, never mind a donut. As Darlene continues to fry, Francine wonders why her donuts are not puffing up enough as she’s frying. Brian, whose donuts are looking similar to Francine’s, thinks his look just fine. One way for the baker’s to know if they’re doing this right, is that a white ring should appear around the middle of the donut. This is created by properly proofing the dough. If the dough is proofed right, the middle doesn’t hit the oil, even when flipped, and the lack of direct contact with the oil creates the white ring.
Before adding the cream filling, the bakers need to let the donuts cool or will fill with steam and become too moist. With five minutes remaining, the bakers fill and glaze their donuts for presentation.
Paul and Marcela return to the tent to judge the baker’s donuts. Darlene’s donuts look great and Paul and Marcela like the way it tastes. Paul’s only knock is that there is too much cream, but it tastes so good he’s ok with it. Brian’s are too flat with no ring and his chocolate glaze doesn’t have a shine on it. Francine’s are similar to Brian’s but she has a shine on her chocolate glaze. Paul says both Brian and Francine didn’t proof their dough long enough to get the proper rise.
Brian finishes 3rd, Francine 2nd, and Darlene ends up with her first Technical Bake victory. She can’t believe it since she has never fried before. Heading into the final bake, Darlene is in the driver’s seat to win it all with two solid bakes. Brian and Francine are not far behind, making the final Showstopper Bake the most important bake yet. This competition is anyone’s to win!
SHOWSTOPPER BAKE: MINIATURES
It all comes down to this, the final Showstopper bake. Jeff lets them know that after the bake, there will be a party with special guests attending. For the bake, they must each make 72 miniature desserts inspired by the American Flag, 24 mini-meringues, 24 mini-tarts and 24 mini-cakes. They’ll have 5 hours to complete the bake.
All three bakers know this is a big challenge. Creating miniatures is very difficult because it requires precision on such a small scale. The baker’s all begin by making their meringues. These take the longest to bake and cool, so they’re getting a head start.
Darlene is making 4th of July Mini-Meringues with Pop Rocks Candy on top, Peach and Grit Mini-Tarts and USA Mini-Cakes featuring strawberry preserves and covered in fondant.
Brian is making Whipped Cream filled Mini-Meringues topped with White Chocolate dipped Popcorn, Mascarpone Cream filled Mini-Tarts topped with Berries and Raspberry White Chocolate Mini-Cakes also topped with berries.
Paul is interested to see how the popcorn plays in the mini-meringues.
Francine is making blueberry cream-filled mini-meringues topped with fresh berries, Red, White & Blue Mini-Cakes covered in White Chocolate and Peaches and Cream Creampuffs pastries.
When Paul and Marcela check in on Francine, she reports that she is feeling much better than after the Signature Bake when Paul ripped her a new one. Paul gives her a hug and Brian also wants a hug, which Jeff promptly gives him.
With the meringues in the oven the bakers move on to the mini-pastries. Brian remembers almost cracking Paul’s tooth with his Week 1 tarts, so he is making his pastry dough thinner this time.
With the bake in full swing, we stop by the party and see visit in with some former bakers and family members. Each of the baker’s family members are rooting for them to do well and win!
After the bakers fill and decorate their tarts they move on to making their mini-cakes. Jeff stops by to talk to Brian and he reveals he wants the title of America’s Best Amateur Baker more than anything else. He says he’s grown a lot through this competition.
As the bake winds down, Darlene is suddenly hit with a lot of emotion and it brings her to tears. Her father had recently passed away and she’s been too busy to mourn since and it caught up with her. As she battles back tears, she continues to finish her mini-cakes. With a 15-minute warning, the bakers finish their final cake decoration and fill their meringues.
The judges begin the final Showstopper Bake judging with Darlene. First up are her mini-meringues. Marcela feels the Pop Rocks Candy creates a salty flavor and takes away form the meringue. Paul says it’s so sweet that it is salty. Marcela like the peach flavor in her mini-tarts but can’t taste the grits. There is also too much pastry in proportion to the filling. Paul notes it’s raw inside because it’s too thick. Last up are the mini-cakes and unfortunately the fondant crystalized. Although Paul like the cake underneath and saw what she was trying to do, he says she is a bit off the mark for today.
When the judges get to Brian’s station, Paul notes he like the look of the whole lot, they look very neat and precise. First up are Brian’s mini-meringues and outside of the popcorn being a bit soggy, they go over well as both Paul and Marcela love them. The mini-tarts are up next and Paul like them as does Marcela, although she wishes the filling was a little bit sweeter. Brian’s mini-cakes please the judges as well and Brian is a happy baker.
Francine presents her bake to the judges who think her bake looks beautiful. Paul thinks her mini-meringues are too sweet, but Marcela really likes the flavor. It’s not all positive from Marcela though as she points out Francine made a similar mistake to her Signature Bake with cream cheese. Francine’s creampuffs are under baked and doughy. Her mini-cakes flavor goes over well.
With all three bakers doing well at times and struggling at times, it’s anyone’s game. Now the judges need to deliberate and choose a winner.
DELIBERATION AND WINNER
At the party, some former bakers check in and say who they’d like to see win. As each of our finalists arrives at the party, they see their families and embrace.
Back at the Judges Tent, the judges weigh the baker’s hits and misses. Paul notes it was Darlene’s to lose but her Showstopper Bake struggled. Marcela points out how well she did in the first two bakes. Paul notes Francine did poor on the Signature, but came in 2nd on the Technical. Her Showstopper had great flavors but was awkward. Paul really enjoyed Brian’s Signature and Showstopper Bake’s, but was not pleased with Brian’s Technical Bake. With every baker doing well on some things and not so well on others, Marcela and Paul know they have a lot to think about to make their decision.
As Darlene, Brian and Francine mingle with the former bakers and their families, Jeff, Paul and Marcela show up to announce the winner. While everyone did great, only one can take the title of America’s Best Amateur Baker…
The winner of the American Baking Competition is Brian!
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