Claire: They're gonna be scone in 60 seconds.
It's bread week! Before we go any further, I'd like to have a word with Foxtel/the producers. You've mixed up the order of the weeks. First it's cake, then it's biscuits, then it's bread. In all seriousness, bread week is one of my favourite weeks - I worked at Bakers Delight for nearly eight years, and it's rubbed off on me.
As always, you can find the recipes from this week's episode on the show's website.
Signature Bake: Focaccia
Focaccia, the Italian flatbread that I'm never quite sure how to spell. Maggie tells the audience that she wants a lot of olive oil in the base, so now I know something about making focaccia
Max made an olive oil and rosemary focaccia topped with fig, prosciutto and walnuts. He had some trouble in his bake because the proving drawer wasn't warm enough for the first prove, which meant that the yeast wasn't activated properly. The focaccia tasted good, but it needed more oil, and Matt would have preferred that the toppings were spread across the bread rather than in the centre.
Robert isn't very confident about bread week. Nevertheless, he made a rosemary focaccia with tomatoes, feta and black kalamata olives. When Maggie sees the black olives, she says they are the worst kind and points out that Robert has beautiful kalamatas on his bench. Robert won star baker last week, but he recognises that when Maggie Beer makes a suggestion, you should probably listen. What we end up with is what Matt calls the "perfect focaccia," and the best he's had for the day. Maggie is pleased about the olives, and also the way the dough has absorbed the oil.
Chris made a garlic and thyme focaccia topped with red onion, feta and zucchini, which I would very much lie to try. Matt comments that the first prove went well, and Maggie tells Chris that it'll be better if he touches it less. The judges love how the dough has risen, praise the base and call it a "great focaccia."
Alex has become the group's surrogate dad, and has been giving advice to the other contestants in his free time. His Spanish focaccia is topped with spicy chorizo, whole vine tomatoes and crumbled goats' cheese. Matt tells Alex mid-bake that he likes a thick focaccia, and Alex said that the pan was too big. When it came to judging, the focaccia itself was too thin which meant there was no depth to the mouth feel, and there wasn't enough oil.
At this point in the competition, Marcus the award for messiest bench. Last week he was dancing, this week he played piano on his focaccia dough. His goats' cheese focaccia is topped with glazed walnuts, herbs and smoked beetroot. Unfortunately he used a pizza stone to bake, and it didn't get hot enough to cook the base of the focaccia, and it stuck. The judges love the presentation and the flavours, but the base wasn't there.
Rae's eggplant and caremelised onion focaccia is topped with cherry tomatoes, herbs and dukkah. The judges think that she should have left off the dukkah for the presentation, and that there were too many flavours in there. Rae tasted her focaccia after the challenge and said it was awful.
Barb is excited about bread week, and made a herb and olive oil focaccia for her daughter, topped with rosemary and olives. Matt would like a thicker focaccia, but admits that he can't really fault it, while Maggie says that the flavours are great and she used a good amount of oil.
Emma had a bit of trouble making her focaccia with tomatoes and anchovies because she used spelt flour, which didn't rise as much as she'd hoped in the first prove. Maggie says that the 20% spelt flour ratio is enough to change the texture of the dough. Maggie says that despite Emma's concern the dough is spongy and better than she thought, but there's not much flavour.
Michelle made the other focaccia I really want to eat, a quattro formaggi with parmesan, fontina, ricotta and gorgonzola cheeses. Claire asks why you need four cheeses, can't you just pick one? But it's about the combination of flavours. The judges say that Michelle's focaccia looks appetising. It's a little bit under baked, but the flavour from the cheeses is fantastic, and Maggie and Matt don't seem to mind.
Claudia is wearing some very fancy goggles to help with chopping onions. I admire anyone who has found something that helps reduce onion tears. Her kitchenette focaccia is inspired by her heritage - it's flavoured with german beer, and topped with orange glazed onions and thinly sliced pears. Rae warns Claudia that she needs to get her focaccia in the oven when there's less than half an hour to go, and her focaccia is underbaked. The judges however are happy with the flavours and the height.
Dave, ever the accountant, is carefully measuring out his toppings. His pine nut and grape focaccia is topped with grapes, rosemary and sea salt flakes all equidistant from each other. The focaccia looks great, but it's slightly under-baked. Despite that, the judges praise the flavour and how Dave has worked the dough.
Technical Challenge: Pumpkin Scones
This week's technical challenge is Maggie Beer's pumpkin scones with "a little bit on the side". Her cryptic advice to the contestants before they see the recipe is: don't be scared of a wet dough, think tall and straight, and the lightest touch of any bake you'll ever make. Maggie's been writing some poetry in her spare time.
Robert is intimidated because he's "never made a good scone." Max has no idea what a scone is, so he's just going to follow Maggie's recipe. Likewise, Dave has neither baked nor tasted a scone. In the process of making the scones, the contestants need to whip cream into butter, then drain the buttermilk using a muslin cloth. The buttermilk is then incorporated into the dough, while the butter is served with the scones. Maggie has salted her butter, and hopes that the contestants do too. Other ingredients in these scones include: pumpkin (obviously), ginger beer (instead of lemonade), finely chopped dates and nutmeg.
Halfway through the bake Alex makes a noise, realising that he's mixed the butter into his dough instead of the buttermilk. He starts again using pumpkin scraps from other contestants. When Claire learns that ginger beer is part of the recipe, she remakrs that it would be a good name for Robert if he married Maggie. For the technical challenge, Maggie has left some key steps out to test the bakers' knowledge - the recipe says to bake the scones until they're golden, and she wants to see if any of the contestants will salt their butter. Max is used to salting his butter but doesn't because it's not on the recipe - he's never made scones, and he probably doesn't want to make any changes after last week, but Robert does. Alex gives Max some plating tips, telling him that he can put the flatter scones at the raised edge of the plate. And now it's tasting time!
From last to first, we have Emma, Raeesa, Chris, Barb, Alex, Marcus, Michelle, Dave, Max, Claudia and Robert. Max didn't expect to come third, he would have been happy with second. He thanks Michelle and Chris for their help, and Matt says they should stop helping him if he's going to beat them.
During their pre-Showstopper pow wow, the judges identify the best and worst bakers so far. Robert is easily at the top, having come first in the technical and made the best focaccia. He was also Star Baker last week. The judges are also really impressed with Dave, and Matt says that Claudia was a 'real bolter' in the technical challenge. In the Danger Zone we have Emma, Alex and Raeesa. Now let's get to that showstopper challenge.
Showstopper: Pull Apart Centrepiece
Claudia’s Eidelweiss Pull Apart
The show is really challenging me this week. Pullapart? Pull Apart? Pull-apart? We had pullapart at Bakers. The centrepiece can be sweet or savoury and can have several types of dough, but as Claire says, it needs to be "so beautiful it makes the gluten-free set question their religion." Maggie says that the contestants have a lot of opportunities to bring great flavours into their bread, while Matt says that it needs to look spectacular, but still be made from bread.
Chris made a deconstructed apple pie pull apart with three tiers of scrolls: apple on the bottom, cinnamon in the middle, and custard on the top. Matt remarks that it looks like a big cake even though it's made of bread. The judges say that it tastes great and the cinnamon scroll is Maggie's favourite (mine too).
Rae made a baklava inspired pull apart filling a white dough with nuts, honey and spices. She knows she needs to do a good job because her focaccia had too much flavour, and the scones not enough. The judges love the flavour of Rae's pull apart, and Mel gets a nudge from Maggie, who says she might prefer this pull apart to actual baklava.
Emma is bringing her love of science to this bake, making an atomic pull apart with light and dark rye bread and topped with caremelised onions and caraway seeds. The presentation is a little sloppy and Matt says that the dough is over proved, but the dough is really good - the bread is fluffy on the inside, which is difficult to achieve with rye because it's heavier than wheat.
Marcus made a delicious looking French onion pull apart. The star shaped base was filled with caremelised onion, garlic, thyme and cheese, and it was topped with a cob loaf containing French onion soup. When the judges go to taste, Maggie says that she needs a spoon, and Matt just happens to have a couple. They love the presentation and say that it's incredibly creative, and the bread itself (which you can dip into the also delicious soup) is full of flavour.
After a good first day in the shed, Robert is having a little trouble with his pull apart. He messed up the dough for his cheesy pull apart - soft mini rolls filled with cheese, garlic and chives - so he starts again. When Matt asks Robert what he's done, Robert's response is "panicked and thrown bacon at it," and I can assure Robert that we've all been there. The bread itself is good, but the pull apart isn't at the same level as his first two bakes. Nevertheless, Maggie tells Robert that he needs to stop saying he's not a bread person.
Alex is making a Tsoureki, which is a Greek Easter bread filled with chocolate and almond paste. He achieves a beautiful shine on the pull apart, but the judges comment that it might be a bit plain for a showstopper. They love the almond and chocolate flavour, but the bread is undercooked.
Michelle is getting in the holiday spirit with a sweet and savoury Christmas tree pull apart, and we've now covered the two major holidays in the Christian calendar. The tree is sage and spec bread topped with cranberries, and the star is a brioche dough filled with rhubarb and orange jam. The judges love it, and say that the brioche is light the way it should be, and the flavour of the jam is good.
Max is feeling a bit better after the technical challenge, and he's making a Tour de France pull apart. There are four different kinds of bread rolls to represent the cardinal points, with matching cheeses in the middle. The north is garlic and butter, the south is olive oil focaccia, and east and west are fig and walnut, and sundried tomato and chilli - I've forgotten which is which. When Claire visits Max, she sees that he's got tiny buns proving on his bench as well as the bench behind him, so he's put a lot of effort into this bake. The flavours are fantastic, and Matt says it's a great idea, but the breads all needed to be cooked more so that there was some crunch on top.
Claudia bakes an Eidelweiss pull apart inspired by her German heritage. The flower petals are poppy seed stollen. Inside that are steamed German sweet buns infused with apple, pear, orange and lemon, and the centre is sticky buns inspired by bee stings. The judges comment that Claudia's bread is light, and even though the apple has made the dough moist, it's still fluffly. Maggie says that it has a real zing to it, and that the flavours all meld together Matt says that if Claudia can make this in four hours, no one else has any excuse.
Barb made a bouquet of pumpkin bread roses filled with spinach and cheese, which sounds delicious. The judges can see the work that Barb has put into the roses, and Maggie likes the salt on the top. They love the flavour, and mention that the bread is beautiful, fluffy and light.
Dave made an enchanted rose pull apart with wholemeal artisan bread. There are wheat spikes, braids and an edible dome enclosing a rose also made of bread. Maggie says it's beautiful and doesn't want to pull it apart, but Matt does. The judges say that the crust is beautiful and the dough is really light, and that it's a work of art.
Claudia wins Star Baker, and Alex is going home. We'll miss you Alex, and it looks like the other contestants will too.