Let's get this out of the way: biscuit week is my least favourite week on the show (except for that time they did choux pastry). The traditional Bake Off (the British one) definition of biscuit seems to be thin and crisp, which does nothing for me.
I don't even like shortbread unless it's made by Joy from choir, who smothered them in icing sugar last Christmas. I love savoury biscuits, especially anything involving cheese, but when it comes to sweets, I'd much rather have a chewy cookie. But this is about the show, and it was a great episode. The cast is fantastic, and I don't want any of them to go home.
Signature Bake: Biscotti
The signature challenge is to make 32 biscotti, which can be sweet or savoury. I'll let you know now that no one makes savoury biscotti - I was disappointed too. Maggie would like the biscotti to have a variety of textures, and Matt says they should be crunchy and have some flavour - even though it's dry, you don't want it to taste like cardboard.
This week Emma is using her recipe like a scientific method - she wants to get this right. Her Swotty Biscotti is flavoured with sour cherry, pistachio and chocolate. After getting feedback about the flavours not coming through, that's what she's focusing on this week. Matt would have liked it if Emma's biscotti were a bit bigger, but they're crisp, and Maggie loves the combination of the sour cherry and chocolate.
Max is using a family recipe for his French inspired biscotti, flavoured with almonds, fennel and apricot. He realises that they might have been over baked the second time they were in the oven. Matt says that his presentation - some arranged on the board and others on a biscuit jars - is a little underwhelming. Unfortunately the biscotti were overbaked and too crisp.
After two weeks of pink cakes and bread, Chris is making manly biscotti, filled with pistachio and almond. Maggie can see the pistachio and almond, and both the judges praise the texture, and the full flavour of the nuts.
Claudia's Lab Experiment biscotti are filled with hazelnut praline, sour cherry and cocoa nibs, and served with dark chocolate and kirsch fondue. She presents her biscotti as a lab experiment, and it looks fantastic. The judges that the flavour is to die for, and the texture is great. Maggie describes the fondant as the 'icing on the cake', and Matt says it's some of the best biscotti he's ever tasted.
Raeesa's biscotti is filled with dates, walnut and orange. The judges love the presentation, but Maggie's worried that it looks over baked. Once she tastes it she immediately apologises because the texture is perfect, and the flavours work well together.
Dave carefully measured out his ingredients and the size of the individual biscotti, which is exactly what we expect from him. His cranberry and walnut biscotti are coated in chocolate and crushed pistachios. He runs out of time, and gets help from Chris and Robert. They're still going after time's up, and Mel threatens them with detention. The judges look at Dave's presentation and can tell that one side looks perfect, but the other doesn't so he must have been rushed at the end. His biscotti aren't dry, so it's more of a biscuit than a biscotti, so now I have no idea what a biscuit is.
Marcus' apricot, almond and fennel biscotti are presented as the Colosseum, since biscotti date back to Ancient Rome. The judges love his presentation, the texture and flavour of the biscotti. Claire says he's comfortable with biscotti because it accounts for 50% of his patients. We've discovered the secret of dentistry!
Michelle's sour cherry, white chocolate and pistachio biscuits are dipped in white chocolate. She added pistachio paste to the dough, which made it wetter, so the biscotti didn't have time to dry out. Despite the softer texture, the flavours are good, and the judges said that she just needed more time.
Barb made cranberry and pistachio biscotti dipped in white chocolate sauce. The judges say that the decoration with both white and dark chocolate is a bit much, but the texture is excellent. We don't hear anything about the flavours so they were probably okay. After the challenge, Barb says that she's going to focus on presentation this week.
Robert likes a thin biscotti, so he slices his almond, cranberry and pistachio biscotti thinner than is traditional. Matt says that the presentation of the biscotti is more like an almond bread, but he's dipped them in chocolate flavoured with orange zest, and the judges love that, so he's done okay.
Technical Challenge: Jam Drops
I nearly guessed all of this week's challenges from the opening montage, but I guessed Jam Fancy instead of Jam Drop. This is a Matt Moran recipe, and before he leaves the shed, his clues are that size matters, and he prefer red to brown. Jam drops are shortbread biscuits filled with jam. They're traditionally made with raspberry jam, but Matt has used fig jam and we all know that fig is one of Maggie Beer's favourite ingredients. The contestants need to use lemon juice to prevent the jam from going brown.
Emma's never made jam drops before, so she's a bit nervous. The dough has to be refrigerated so the butter sets, which gives it the short texture. Barb has made jam drops previously for the local show, but never with fig jam. Marcus says it's hard to dance when making jam, but you can do a 'jam jam'. Meanwhile, Dave has made a second batch of jam. There was nothing wrong with the first batch - he just had fun, so he made another one. Matt told the contestants that size matters, so the contestants wonder what size their biscuits should be. Claudia thinks small and delicate, while Raeesa says big and high. Dave has calculated how much dough there needs to be in each biscuit, and Marcus puts Mel to sleep with some long division. Raeesa nearly runs out of time, so Rob and Chris help her put the biscuits onto the plate. The funniest part of judging was when the judges came upon a messy plate and say that it couldn't be Dave's because he wouldn't be able to sleep.
From last to first, we have Claudia, Robert, Marcus, Raeesa, Emma, Michelle, Max, Chris, Barb and Dave. Matt tells Chris that there wasn't anything wrong with his jam drops, there were just two that were slightly better. He says that Dave's are almost as good as his - maybe it had something to do with the extra batch jam. I'm a big Dave fan, and it's only a matter of time until he wins Star Baker.
The next morning, the judges tell Mel and Claire that Chris, Dave and Barb are all in contention for Star Baker, it just depends which of them makes the best showstopper, while Robert and Max are in trouble.
Showstopper: Biscuit Jigsaw Puzzle
One of my issues with biscuit week (in Bake Off generally, not just Australia) is that the showstopper is nearly always 'build a 3D structure out of biscuits,' and biscuit puzzles are a nice change of pace. The biscuits must form a scene, object or theme. Range of biscuits, decorated - taste as good as they look - four hours. Matt - lots of different flavours - multiple biscuits
Chris' nickname is Grizz, which is short for Grizzly Bear, so he's making a self-portrait in biscuits. His Grizzly Bear jigsaw puzzle has a coffe and chocolate face, peanut butter snout, and buttercream fur, with a vanilla biscuit base decorated in camouflage. Midway through the challenge he has a towel fight with Max, who he describes as 'a lovely boy.' The judges say that it looks fantastic, and the biscuit and buttercream are great, and it's a great bake overall.
Claudia makes a Pieces of Sydney jigsaw, with 50 pieces. The four corners of the puzzle have different flavours: salted chocolate, lemon myrtle, orange and wattleseed, and passionfruit and coconut, and it's topped with her homemade marshmallow fondant, which she decorates with Australian imagery. The judges love the fondant which isn't too sweet, and remark that it's a beautiful piece.
Barb's lemon and lime sunflower with a spiced pot has 70 pieces, so she needs to give herself time to decorate. Maggie says it's beautiful, joyful and full of sun, and Matt says it's the best work she's done. The biscuits are a good shortbread, and they love the spices and softness in the pot. Matt welcomes Barb to the competition, and we have a contender for Star Baker.
Dave made a 40 piece tangram puzzle inspired by the five Chinese virtues: kindness, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and faith (I didn't quite catch what Dave said the third one was, so I Googled it). His vanilla and lemon biscuits were covered with a vanilla fondant, which he decorated with bamboo and Chinese calligraphy for the five virtues. The judges describe the piece as elegant and beautiful. The biscuit is a bit soft, but the flavour is fantastic, so it doesn't matter.
Marcus loves space, so his biscuit jigsaw depicts the solar system. His From Another Planet jigsaw has a background of vanilla shortbread and white chocolate glaze, and planets made from black sesame macarons and coconut macaroons. It looks a bit messy, and the judges can't see the jigsaw, but the planets are tasty.
Emma's Jigsaw is of the Periodic table of elements. She has four different flavours of biscuit to represent different sections of the periodic table (it's been 10 years since I studied chemistry, so I can't remember what the different sections mean, other than that the noble gases are on the very right hand column): banana, cumquat, lemon, and chocolate orange. Emma says that if she was an element she'd be a noble gas - happy and content. Maggie would be titanium because of her knee. The banana biscuit was a bit doughy, but the cumquat has a strong flavour, and Matt gives Emma an A+.
Rob's jigsaw is a chai spiced biscuit with salty vanilla fondant, and decorated with sunflowers. Sunflowers remind Rob of his wife because they're loud, tall and joyous. Midway through the bake he's worried he hasn't done enough for a showstopper. It's eye-catching, but it only has 12 pieces and one flavour. The judges love the level of detail in Rob's biscuit, and say they have a Van Gogh in their midst. The fondant is great, and he's achieved the right ratio of fondant to biscuit. The biscuit is short and flavoursome, and Maggie tells Rob he's done enough to save himself.
Michelle made a Blooming Marvellous jigsaw with orange blossom flowers and a vanilla biscuit base. It's covered with vanilla fondant which she didn't make, and decorated with bold and bright colours. The fondant is too sweet, but the biscuits are good. Matt says it would have been better if Michelle had made a royal icing.
Raeesa made a Tree of Life puzzle with chocolate and hazelnut, gingerbread, and vanilla bean biscuits. The tree represents Raeesa's life experiences and the places she's travelled and lived. It looks beautiful, and Matt tells Raeesa that she's too hard on herself. Unfortunately the flavour isn't coming through because she tried to do too much.
Max is owning his Frenchness, and making an Eiffel Tower jigsaw. The tower is a spiced speculus biscuit with vinno cotto icing, and the background is a chocolate biscuit with orange icing. Christ drew the Eiffel Tower design for him, and Max says he's made a brother today. Then they play fight with towels and wooden spoons, and these friendships are one of the reasons this show is so great. The presentation of the jigsaw is a bit wonky, but the speculus biscuit is very crisp and has a beautiful flavour, while the chocolate is too soft and a bit like cake. I'll have that biscuit please.
Barb wins Star Baker! I was convinced it was going to go to Chris and was ready to make a #JusticeForBarb meme, while Max is going home. Au revoir Max, it was a joy to have you in the shed.
Programming Note: The next two weeks are slightly up in the air. I'm flying to Perth next Thursday and I'll be there for 10 days. I have screeners so the recaps will be on time, but I don't know if I'll be able to livetweet with everyone, which is always fun.