The Great American Baking Show Makes Tarts And Crafts
There are very few 'soggy bottoms' in this episode, but they sure do say it a lot. Weirdest TV catchphrase ever!
I've never understood arguments about pie vs. cake because...both? Sometimes simultaneously? But if pies and tarts have an edge, it's that they can be both savory and sweet; when pie crust is done right, it can be the perfect delivery system for just about anything. That makes this week's episode really fun to watch.
Less fun for me personally is that the Signature Challenge is a meringue pie, and I hate meringue. Several of the bakers choose fillings that sound revolting to me too. (I guess this is a point for cake: I'd be hard pressed to find a cake I'd turn down.) But your mileage may very -- I realize that meringue and, say, banana creme are very popular and I'm the weird one here.
Mary's "Partridge in a Pear Tart" is the Technical Challenge. A pear and almond filling, in a tart crust formed -- freehand -- into the shape of a pear, with a little crust bird on top. Shockingly, there are no disasters here.
As much as I love dessert, I think I may love hors d'ouevres more, and for the Showstopper the bakers must each make two kinds savory holiday tartlets, with different crusts, and quite simply I want to eat all of them forever. Mary specifies that party food shouldn't crumble and get all over the floor, proving once again that she is the best. (Part of my day job involves choosing catering menus for events, and I would love to get Mary's thoughts about skewers sometime, since I have a lot of opinions. But I digress.)
We've reached the point in the competition where everyone is generally excellent, so a small mistake can sink you. So how did our bakers do?
Michael "became ill overnight" and had to leave the competition. I didn't care for Michael, but that still sucks. Also, what's going on on this show? First Antoinette and now this? Are they filming this thing in Roanoke?
Ashlyn was Star Baker last week, but this week she gets sent home. It's easy to see why: she messes up her puff pastry (after talking about how precise it had to be and how she always messed it up at home...maybe don't do it, then?), and her grit tartlets have an ill-conceived balsamic reduction in them that soaks through the dough. (Don't get me wrong, I'd still eat them, and her spinach dip vol-au-vents, over-puffed pastry or not!) Her spicebrush eggnog pie looks exactly like a bowl of eggnog, but she didn't mix her filling properly, leaving chunks of gelatin in it, and it's too sweet to pair with the meringue.
Prachi has issues with crust throughout this episode. Her coconut custard pie tastes okay, but the crust is a mess. She's second-to-last on the Technical for not properly glazing or distributing her pears, so they don't cook properly. Her mathri tartlets, with spicy potato and mango, are gorgeous...
...but she forgot to cover and weight the crusts in the oven, so they fall apart completely. She gets by on originality and good flavor.
Jeremiah places last in the Technical due to an uneven bake. He also made his tart gigantic and his bird decoration tiny, and the judges roundly mock him for it. His passion fruit pie with chocolate and cream cheese tastes good, but the filling and meringue are out of proportion, and the crust is "rubbish at the side." He's redeemed by his sea urchin mousse and fig & goat cheese tartlets, which both look and taste amazing.
Stephanie and Jennie are pretty much a tie for me, so I'm leaning toward the judges' critiques. Steph's strawberry hibiscus pie is out of proportion (we hear this a lot this week), but the flavors are strong. For the Showstopper, she makes short rib tartlets and Chinese BBQ shiitake galettes, incorporating kim chi butter into her puff pastry.
Give me those NOW.
Banana is not my thing, but we're told that Jennie's chocolate banana creme pie is perfect, and all the more impressive because it had a lot of components for the time limit. She wins the Technical, then goes on to make shrimp and cream cheese tartlets, and prosciutto and date tarts.
The filling-to-crust ratio on the shrimp ones is off (the judges deem the little crust hats unnecessary -- but they're so cute!), but the prosciutto ones are perfect. A good reminder that classic works.
Interestingly, Amanda wins Star Baker despite overcooked crusts in both the Technical (she comes in second) and the Signature. But her pie is basically the platonic ideal of what meringue should look like...
...and the flavors are so good that Mary has a second bite. In the Showstopper, Amanda has the pleasure of introducing Mary Berry to pimento cheese. Her carnitas tartlets have a cornmeal crust, which doesn't really get discussed but sounds brilliant to me. Plus a perfect presentation...
...and Mary has seconds again!
Now who do we have to call in the ABC press department to have a dozen of each of these delivered to me? I'm sure they'll freeze well. I'll pay for shipping!