Bake Off: Stacey’s not to be tri­fled with


I’LL BE hon­est — when Radlett’s finest, Stacey Hart, turned up on our screens with her (fairly aver­age) hand­bag cake, I thought she was lucky to hang on to her apron. She has, how­ever, im­proved as the Great Bri­tish Bake Off has pro­gressed. Her bis­cuits in week two were no­tice­ably bet­ter, and last week’s caramel-themed chal­lenges saw her fin­ish as a con­tender for star baker. Episode five con­tin­ued the up­ward tra­jec­tory.

This was pud­ding week, ooz­ing with a se­lec­tion of ter­ri­bly English con­fec­tions, kick­ing off with that school favourite — for any­one older than Liam’s ten­der 19 years — the steamed pud­ding.

At the out­set Stacey said she would be “chuffed” if she got to week seven, al­most im­me­di­ately re­vis­ing that to “week eight — I’ll be chuffed if I can get to week eight.”

She has the ded­i­ca­tion to do bet­ter than that as she con­fessed to hav­ing prac­tised her steamed sponge no less than 17 times. “Let’s see if num­ber 18 works” re­marked Paul Hol­ly­wood dryly.

The sim­ple-sound­ing, stove top­baked desserts look sim­ple to pre­pare, but as Hol­ly­wood shared that they are “one of my favourite things ever” and co-judge Prue Leith warned: “It’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to tell if it’s cooked”, the pres­sure was on.

Steamed pud­dings are cooked in wellsealed bowls in pans of wa­ter. Get the seal wrong and your pud­ding will be wa­ter­logged. You have no idea how it is get­ting on in there, be­cause if you open the lid you lose all that pre­cious steam.

The bak­ers also needed to pro­vide ac­com­pa­ni­ments, like cus­tard, an­other del­i­cate and dif­fi­cult-to-pre­pare sauce.

With a range of fruity vari­a­tions, in­clud­ing Yan’s mango fruit hat and two ver­sions of a Bakewell tart — from Liam and Stacey — the bak­ers did Hol­ly­wood proud. The sil­ver fox doled out no fewer than three hand­shakes: to Steven for his le­mon and black­cur­rant, in­jected pud; for Yan’s dou­ble mango de­light and to Stacey for her Bakewell. “You have the tex­ture of a Bakewell tart in there, which is very clever… over­all it’s ab­so­lutely de­li­cious.”

Stacey was de­lighted with the hand­shake. “He re­ally did not want to give me one as he’d given two al­ready, so I’m well chuffed,” she said.

The tech­ni­cal round was even more vi­cious than usual, stag­ger­ing the starts for the con­tes­tants, who each had to make six mini, molten choco­late puds.

Hol­ly­wood had warned it was all about tim­ing, and it was. Un­der­cook and you get raw bat­ter. Over­cook and the pud­ding sets too firm. True to Leith’s Steam-pow­ered: Stacey Hart puts the fin­ish­ing touches to her pud­ding

pre­dic­tion, few of them pulled it off per­fectly. Clev­erly, the pro­duc­ers let us in on the op­ti­mum time for a per­fect pud — 10 min­utes — so we view­ers could hold our heads in our hands as the bak­ers de­lib­er­ated; moot­ing times from James’s too-short eight min­utes — leav­ing him with a liq­uidy, un­cooked pud

— to the rock hard 35 min­utes pro­posed by Kate, whose week was go­ing from bad to worse, after her cus­tard had been shot down in flames by both judges.

So­phie’s plen­ti­ful peanut but­ter fill­ing won her the round, with Liam’s ef­forts tak­ing sec­ond place. “That was sick,” he smiled. Stacey man­aged a re­spectable fourth. By the show­stop­per, she, Steven and Yan were look­ing well placed. Kate wasn’t.

The chal­lenge — an or­na­men­tal tri­fle ter­rine — was ex­actly that, a chal­lenge. It needed a baked el­e­ment, a set cus­tard or mousse and a jelly, and it needed to look as good sliced as it did whole. A lot to achieve in four and a half hours.

Stacey de­cided to go girlie: “I’m not muck­ing about with the pink to­day, I’m go­ing for it. I just love this colour,” she said.

It was very pink. Fuschia meringues stud­ded the out­side of her cir­cu­lar pud. In Stacey style, her pineap­ple, rum, mint and lime cre­ation, was blingy and OTT.

Hol­ly­wood loved it, judg­ing it to be “spot on” and lov­ing the chilli kick. “Who would have a chilli in a tri­fle, but it works. That lit­tle bit­ing heat at the end is fas­ci­nat­ing,” he en­thused. A beam­ing Stacey could be proud.

Steven’s US flag-in­flu­enced pud won ap­plause for the stars that stud­ded each slice, but fell down on tex­ture. Ju­lia’s jelly also let her down. Kate pulled it back with hers, but James’s too firm tri­fle let him down and left him in the drop zone with Ju­lia and Liam.

So­phie pulled off what Hol­ly­wood de­creed was a dessert he would ex­pect to find in a Michelin-starred restau­rant. It was enough for her to pip Stacey to the cov­eted star baker ti­tle.

Poor James, with his too-firm ter­rine and liq­uidy pud, was giv­ing his march­ing or­ders.


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