It's A Best-Pastry Scenario On The Great American Baking Show

You're in America now. Some basic knowledge of donut design is going to be required. STEPHANIE.

Before we proceed, it must be stated for the record that the MacEachern household has not recovered from the loss of Jeremiah, who once seemed head and shoulders above everyone else both in terms of technique and creativity.

We're down to three bakers now: none who get me overly excited, none who irritate me greatly. (Although it would be nice to watch one reality show where contestants don't praise their own bravery for putting themselves "out there.")

I was hoping Patisserie Week would help me sort out a new favourite, and it did, kinda, despite being a bland episode with no one baker standing out. Stephanie is named Star Baker despite making donuts THAT DON'T HAVE HOLES IN THEM, like, can you even imagine? Given that Amanda has been consistently good, Stephanie's win could only spell the end for Jennie, who biffs her showstopper.

Not that these are easy challenges: Signature is twenty-four petits fours; technical is a French cruller; and the showstopper is a Napoleon, also known as a mille-feuille.

  1. Jennie
    She makes honey walnut and lemon kiwi petis fours, but the lemon kiwi ones are all sponge, no filling. The ratio is better in the other ones but, aesthetically, the sides are all "higgledy-piggledy," as Mary points out.

    In the technical, Jennie's cruller's flavours are fine, but the glaze is much too thick, earning her second.



    It's the showstopper, though -- a strawberries and cream mille-feuille -- that sinks her. Johnny's concerned about the tendency of sliced fruit to blend into cream, and Jennie's plan, consisting of "hoping it wouldn't happen," does not inspire confidence. The strawberries bleed, and Jennie's done. (Also, the middle is pretty well raw. That's probably a worse problem than red-tinged cream.)

  2. Stephanie
    Stephanie makes rosemary olive oil and chocolate hazelnut petits fours, and she also makes me extremely agitated by achieving her layers by slicing her cake horizontally by eye, instead of doing two thinner sheets. But she does it absolutely perfectly, according to the judges. Apart from not having enough rosemary in the one batch, her entries are excellent.

    I guess Stephanie should be in top spot, since she was named Star Baker, but I refuse to give that honour to someone who is asked to make donuts but forgets that donuts have holes in the middle. As for how the cruller blobs turned out, they're nicely piped but not consistent. Third place.



    She redeems herself with her showstopper -- a banana cream pie mille-feuille -- despite almost dumping her puff pastry on the floor. The judges love it, and it looks great. When she's named Star Baker and earns a place in the finale, she has a touching conversation with her husband (I PRESUME) and he tells her he loves her so much, but keep in mind he doesn't know yet that she blabbed about his terrible eating habits, explaining that he has eaten a "million" donuts.

  3. Amanda
    Feels like the showstopper overruled everything else this week, because I was sure Amanda would be named Star Baker.

    For the signature challenge, she comes up with Mother-Daughter Tea Party petits fours: lemon sponge layered with elderflower butter cream and cucumber syrup for mom; a PB&J petit four for daughter (or for me, because I badly wanted to eat those).

    She also wins first place in the technical challenge for her tasty and perfectly glazed and aerated crullers, and the judges like her blackberry and pear mille-feuille that I thought was more appealing and interesting than Stephanie's banana cream pie thing.



    What really earns Amanda top spot with me is the way she movingly speaks about how her husband believes she can do anything, and how her success in this competition has helped her feel like she can too. And thanks to that, she has a message for her husband:

    "Be prepared, because there's a woman unleashed coming your way." Only a sedate competitive baking reality show could make that statement sound less terrifying than endearing.

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