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French Week Gets Très Stressful On The Great British Bake Off

If your cream horn drips and your pastry tower falls, then you might be sent to the guillotine.

Ooh la la! The bakers create desserts that are fit for a patisserie window in France. That means cream horns for the signature, which are NOT nicknames for porn accessories so don't be nasty. I know this for a fact because Sue says the horns have been "assessed by the double entendre police," and they are just fine.

More importantly, the bakers can choose among three kinds of pastry: flaky, full puff, or ruff puff. Ruff puff! Ruff puff!

Where was I? Oh right...RUFF PUFF!

In the technical, it's Mokatines, and I love how every damn week this show delivers something sweet and delicious that I have never heard of before. A "Mokatine," as it turns out, is a delicate sponge cake with a coffee and buttercream filling. As someone who doesn't care for the taste of coffee in any form, I have to pass, but I'd still like to see them in a shop window. Just look at how attractive the "perfect" version is that Mary and Paul eat in their private tent.

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Finally, the showstopper is a tower of eclairs -- vaguely in the shape of a nun -- called a Religieuse à l'ancienne, and the only way that could be more French would be for Catherine Deneuve to be standing on top of it singing "Alouette." The big twist is that the towers have to be assembled then left to stand for several hours, since they're meant to be centerpieces at parties. Watching the nuns to see which ones will collapse, I find myself chewing my fingers and pacing the floor. It's so nerve-wracking that you'd think the GBBO got crossed with The Americans.

  1. Prison Paul

    One of Prison Paul's cream horns is flavored with bananas and custard, which is apparently a combination Paul Hollywood associates with his happy childhood. So it's like serving Proust a madeleine. No pressure! Sadly, Paul feels the banana is not strong enough, and he complains about it so much that you can imagine what a fussy child he was at dessert time. Still, let's take this time to celebrate the effort Prison Paul makes to get the thick cream inside these things:

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    During the technical, we learn that Paul has never made a genoise sponge, and given how tricky that particular cake is to make, it's very bad news for him. His first cake is raw, so he tries to make another one. It doesn't work, though, and the end result is rubbery. He finishes the technical in last place.

    And then this happens with his tower:

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    No surprise that Paul is sent home to his prison, where his calm demeanor and skill with bread animals will no doubt keep recidivism rates in his county near 5%.

  2. Flora

    Flora's cream horns are (1) peach, lemon, and thyme and (2) butterscotch and smoked almond. To me, these both sound delicious, and I appreciate that Flora's putting her penchant for fanciness into the primary dish itself, instead of overworked extras that nobody asked for. Except...when it's time to make the damn things, she gets completely distracted by creating tuile cigars to go on top of the horns, meaning her primary pastry gets left for the last minute. Focus, homegirl! Unsurprisingly, her horns are sub-par, and they drip filling all over the place.

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    Later, Flora's tower is served in two sections, since she worried that it would collapse if she didn't take it apart. The judges also say the flavors in her eclairs aren't coming through. It's only because of Paul's epic disasters that Flora stays in the competition. Maybe next week, she'll simply do what's she supposed to do and hit a home run!

  3. Tamal

    Despite Paul's doubts about his flour, Tamal's cream horns turn out beautifully. Things don't go well in the technical, though, where runny icing and ugly piping land him in fourth place. And seriously...this Mokatine resembles a German chocolate cake that's been regurgitated by a mother bird.

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    Happily, his tower is great, and I'm especially interested in his pistachio and raspberry eclairs.

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    So Tamal will go on to the semi-final and charm us for another week.

  4. Nadiya

    Oooh lord. Nadiya's cream horns sounds like a potential disaster, since one of them is flavored with rose and white chocolate. For one thing, rose is a pungent flavor, and as Paul rightly says, even a little can go too far. For another, white chocolate is the devil's confection. I don't know how this cloyingly sweet sugar-paste got the name "chocolate," but it sullies the very notion of dessert.

    But Nadiya gets back in my good graces when she talks about how many of these things she's made during her prep week. "If you ask me if I like cream horns," she says, "I will tell you 'no.'" Walk in your truth, my sister! And no matter what she thinks of them, they turn out really well. Even the rose ones look tempting.

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    During the technical, Nadiya reveals a clever trick for knowing when the egg whites are ready for a genoise sponge: you draw a figure eight in the mixture, and if it stays there for more than three seconds, it's firm enough to hold its shape. Clever! That knowledge blends with this lovely presentation...

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    ... to get the first-place finish in this challenge. Remember when Nadiya used to struggle in the technicals? Maybe she was just hustling us!

    Then, in case you were worried she was giving up on stank flavors, she puts bubblegum icing on some of her eclairs. I'm quite literally gagging thinking about this. Nadiya looks like SHE'S about to gag as she brings her tower forward, since it's about to collapse...

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    ... but the bakes on the eclairs are deemed acceptable. Because there is still sanity in the world, Mary says the bubblegum icing "is not quite [her] favorite," which obviously means, "Girl, this is disgusting." Still, Nadiya takes star baker for the week. I cannot, however, give her first place in my heart. The one-two kidney punch of white chocolate and bubblegum just can't be excused.

  5. Ian

    Ambitiously, Ian tries to combine chocolate and regular pastry into a cream horn, but it doesn't work. Both the taste and the appearance are harshly critiqued, and you can tell the horns haven't set correctly.

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    Ian delivers on the technical, though, where he gets second with a beautifully made sponge cake and tasty filling. (His piping and icing are called "messy," but what can you do?)

    Awesomely, Ian calls his showstopping tower as "nun with hidden passions," since he's hidden passionfruit-cream eclairs among the ones flavored with
    heavier ingredients like cardamom and coffee.

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    This thing is so playful and so impressive that I'm putting Ian in first.

MVP: Nuns with surprises.

LVP: Coffee, white chocolate, and bubblegum: those flavors have made many of this week's bakes seem unappetizing to me. PLEASE FEEL SYMPATHY.

Feed Me This Now: I'd love to taste Tamal's raspberry and pistachio eclair, which sounds like a dreamy flavor combo.

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Mel and Sue, Cracking Wise: Speaking to Flora, Mel says, "When Madonna makes cream horns, she simply uses her bra." God bless her. That joke is 25 years out of date, but it's still relevant to ME.

Mind Games With Paul Hollywood: As you can see, Paul does not like the flour Tamal is using for his cream horns...

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... and if you look on the right side of that photo, then you'll notice that Mary's dubious about something, too. So much shade!

Mary Berry's Guide to Style: No, it's not the jungle room...

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...it's just Mary's jacket!

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