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Will Chocolate Melt Our Semi-Finalists On The Great British Bake Off?

A tricky soufflé gets them cowering by their ovens. Who'll keep their cool and come out ahead?

My daydreams often look like this, so I'm sure you can appreciate my gospel-choir bliss when I learned this week's episode was all about chocolate. Well...mostly. The showstopper calls for an ornate centerpiece that utilizes white chocolate, which -- as I stated last week -- is a cultural crime. My revulsion is more than balanced, though, by the cocoa-scented bliss of the chocolate tarts that are made during the signature.

Note: it turns out that adding cocoa to pastry, as the bakers are asked to do, is very tricky. You have to work hard to get the moisture balance right, or else you get this dusty mess:

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And then there's the technical: chocolate soufflés! Y'all, a good chocolate soufflé is a blessing on my life. It's also a boon for this show, since tension is elevated by staggering the bakes by an hour and fifteen minutes. No one can hide, and no one can blame a collapsed dessert on being made to wait while someone else's was served.

This set-up also generates a hilarious Secret Squirrel dining strategy for Paul and Mary.

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You'd think they were waiting for Agent X to deliver them state secrets while a group of covert Russian spies walked "inconspicuously" through a nearby park! But really: if you're making a soufflé, maybe the stakes DO feel that high.

So who emerged light and fluffy, and who just collapsed?

  1. Flora

    Poor Flora! Despite getting first in the technical, she still goes home, meaning her first taste of victory on this show is married with her ultimate defeat. At least she can hold her head high about this technical achievement:

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    In the signature, though, she bizarrely insists on adding macarons to the top of her tart, which: does she not listen? They keep telling her to knock it off with the bells and whistles. Besides, what is it with macarons on this show? People LOOOVE tossing them onto everything, and then you get a fussy eyesore like this.

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    Plus, the macarons are deemed gross and dry, while the tart itself is declared, at best, mediocre.

    Undeterred, Flora gives it her all in the showstopper, producing a chocolate carousel that looks pretty great to me.

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    Sadly, it crumbles into dust when people touch it, and the flavors are off in almost every element. Therefore, it's time for Flora to go. She's been a classic fourth-placer: obviously talented, but never quite good or memorable enough to merit the finals. Kara Janx, Tamyra Gray, and Darienne Lake await her now, ready to try her underbaked choux pastry.

  2. Tamal

    Tamal's tart is based on an American recipe, which I guess is why there are pecans on top of it. That seems really American to me. Anyway, this Yankee Doodle dessert looks good as hell.

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    Look at how thick and rich that chocolate filling is! Paul says that without the raspberry layer it would be too rich, but ultimately he and Mary both approve.

    Later, strong work in the technical lands Tamal in second, which sets him up well for the showstopper. He opts for a chocolate bell tower, and the result is this:

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    Mary politely says it looks better from afar, while Paul more bluntly says it looks sloppy. Still, the flavors come through well, which is enough for Tamal to reach the finals. I'm so glad one of my boyfriends from this season has made it all the way through!

  3. Ian

    Does everyone hate Ian back home? We've already heard that he can't even win his village's local baking competition, and now we hear that his own daughter doesn't think he's good enough to win. Get a grip, little sister! Your dad builds elaborate machines to construct delicious treats that are flavored with pheasant eggs and wild garlic that he wills into being in his own magical garden.

    What's that? You can't handle your dad because of his roadkill pie? Fair point.

    Still, I hope Ian's getting a trifle more respect these days. If nothing else, the very idea of a chocolate well should earn him a medal.

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    Plus, it works (more or less)! Even though the handle of the crank breaks off, Paul is still able to get a bucketful of white chocolate out of this thing. If Augustus Gloop had had one of these, he could've died peacefully at home, instead of at Willy Wonka's factory. I'm just saying.

    I'm also saying that the mirror glaze on top of Ian's tart is very pretty.

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    Paul is unhappy with caramel layer, though, and Mary feels the (admittedly strange) inclusion of bay leaf doesn't do much. And his soufflé is just okay -- nice flavor and texture, but not airy enough -- landing him in third place in the technical.

    Still, the chocolate well keeps him out of harm's way, sending Ian to the final. He certainly deserves to be there, so his hometown needs to get on board.

  4. Nadiya

    Oh, Nadiya! How you twist my heart!

    She starts on a glorious high with a peanut, salted caramel, and chocolate tart.

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    DEAR GOD YES. And once again, she's using some baller science to make her own peanut powder. Can I just pause for a moment to reflect on how awesome she is? She seems so friendly and open-hearted about things, AND she makes delicious food, AND she infuses her work with both inspired creativity and innovative technique. She is, quite simply, an empress. Acknowledging this, Mary says she loves the tart, despite not being a peanut fan, and Paul gives her a coveted handshake.

    Yet for all that, Nadiya still gets dead last in the technical, thanks to this sad, sad soufflé, which is laden with chunks of meringue.

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    At least Nadiya gets adorably irate about the whole thing. She says she'd sooner have another baby than make another soufflé, and when she finds paperclips in her ingredient pack -- they're supposed to affix some paper around the edges of the tin -- she says she'll use them to mark a file called, "Never Make This Again." You tell 'em, diva!

    But oh man, when Nadiya sobs at the disappointment at coming last in this challenge? Heartbreaking.

    With her centerpiece, though, Nadiya surges back ahead, even though calling it "Peacock in Nan's Door" makes it sound naughty.

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    Really, this is just breathtaking, capturing what makes Nadiya so spectacular. On to the finals she goes!

MVP: Nadiya's emotional rainbow.

LVP: Useless macarons.

Feed Me This Now: Peanut butter and chocolate are a perfect pairing, and I therefore want to eat Nadiya's tart right this very minute.

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Mel and Sue, Cracking Wise: When Nadiya explains her peanut powder recipe, Sue opines that Mary should become a powder, since everyone needs a sprinkle of Mary. Which is funny enough on its own, but then Mary scolds, "Have you finished?" And just in case you think she's really mad, she hits Nadiya with this sly wink:

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I AM SORRY TO SHOUT BUT THESE PEOPLE ARE GLORIOUS.

God Bless These British Dorks: To explain that the semi-final has no room for mistakes, Ian says, "Everything has to be tickety-boo." American slang cannot compete with that.

Mind Games With Paul Hollywood: When Paul sees the horse mold for Flora's carousel, he assumes she bought it. When he learns she made it, he seems momentarily impressed, then says, "You've got a dog here!" He's fronting like it looks bad! Just give her credit where it's due, you rascal!

Mary Berry's Guide To Style: Attention, class: please note that Mary's fingernails, jacket, and shirt all feature a matching shade of electric pink.

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If you want to graduate, then you need to give me work like this.

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