It's family favourites week, and this is a great theme. We start off with some banter between Mel and Claire about the goings-on in Claire's trailer and whether they were the favourite child growing up. Claire was, but Mel wasn't - and Mel was an only child. More importantly, Barb can juggle! I'm keeping this in mind in case I ever need to make a #JusticeForBarb meme.
As always, you can find recipes on the show's website.
Signature Bake: Muffins
For the signature bake, the bakers need to bake 24 identical muffins. There's a bit of a primer on muffins, but do we need that? Muffins: not cupcakes, but according to Matt Moran they still need to be decorated. I guess this is a baking show. Maggie wants great flavours and it needs to be moist rather than cakey. They talk about cooling the muffins down in order to decorate them, but everyone knows the best way to eat a muffin is warm with melted butter, right?
Emma's muffins are inspired by humminbird cake and are filled with pineapple, banana and walnuts to represent Queensland. The hummingbird muffins are topped with cream cheese frosting, and the judges describe them as moreish.
Dave makes breakfast muffins, and this is the recipe I'm downloading when it goes live on the website. The muffin batter contains maple syrup, bacon and cheese, and they're topped with scrambled eggs and candied bacon. Dave says that his wife loves it when he makes these, and he calls them the 'ultimate wake-up treatment.' The judges love how moist the muffin is thanks to the bacon fat. Maggie says that the muffins would be better if they were bigger because the flavours are so good, and now I'm hungry.
Michelle made pumpkin, sage and goat's cheese muffins topped with a goat's cheese mousse, walnuts and sage leaves. The judges say it should be a good week for Michelle, who has big family dinners every week like it's Parenthood (for those of you who haven't seen it, this is a compliment). She puts some vanilla in the goat's cheese mousse, and Mel's very confused. The muffins are a little too dense, and the vanilla in the mousse has thrown off the flavour balance, so they aren't as savoury as expected.
Chris likes the idea of family week because he can pretend he's baking for his family rather than the judges. His banana, blueberry and walnut muffins are topped with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate dipped banana chips. Matt likes that he can see what's in the muffins just by looking at the toppings, and says they're great muffins.
Marcus makes apple and plum muffins with cinnamon and apple cider batter with a side of apple and caremel sauce and topped with hazelnut praline. My impression of these muffins are that they look a bit brown, but when the judges break them open, you can see the colour from the fruit. The judges can taste the apple cider and cinnamon, and love Marcus' muffins.
Barb made apple, carrot and raisin muffins with coconut walnut and cinnamon, topped with cream chese frosting, lemon zest and coconut. That's a lot of ingredients, and Maggie's a bit worried about how they'll all go together. Barb says this is her go-to muffin for breakfast, particularly when the kids are playing bus chasey. Matt Moran doesn't know what bus chasey is, which leads to an explanation from Barb, and a great moment from Claire. The judges say that the muffins have a beautiful colour, and they're moist in the middle. As they bite into the muffins, the first words come from the mouth of Mel - "Oh, Barb." The judges love the toppings - Maggie is pleasantly suprised that all the flavours go together, and she was worried that there were too many. Matt says it's his favourite muffin and takes two to go.
Claudia makes muffins filled with custard and stewed plums, topped with cinnamon toffee and mandarin marscapone cream. The judges describe the muffins' appearance as wholesome and attractive and now I really want to see fanart of an anthropomorphic muffin. They love the texture of the custard and that it adds depth to the flavour, and Maggie likes that there's a big piece of plum on top.
Robert's lumberjack muffins are filled with apples and dates, and have a caramel coconut topping. He tells the judges that he's taken all the sweetness out of the batter, and the only sugar comes in the fruit and the topping. Then the judges have to taste the batter, and Robert warns them that it's not great. Unfortunately Robert's muffins are too doughy and heavy, more like pudding in texture.
Raeesa is using her mum's recipe that has secret ingredients, at least until it goes up on the website. Her muffins are filled with carrots, pineapple, pecans and spices, and topped with a brown buttercream frosting. Raeesa accidentally tells the judges that she used tinned pineapple instead of fresh, and despite the great texture, the muffins are too sweet. Using fresh pineapple would have added some acidity to the flavour.
Technical Challenge: Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie
The technical challenge this week is a rough one, and left several victims in its wake. Maggie's tips are that the contestants need a light touch, and they need to be careful not to overcook the defining ingredient. As the judges walk off, they're described as the Margaret and David of baking. The contestants learn that they need to make a family sized chicken, leek and mushroom pie. Maggie Beer has decided that the recipe's difficult enough, so she hasn't left out any of the steps. The baking time is also 3 hours and 15 minutes. That's a long day.
When Maggie and Matt taste the pie, Maggie tells Matt that the pastry needs to be delicate and melt in the mouth. Matt says that the flavours are well defined, and Maggie would like the filling to be well seasoned. Matt comments that he's looking forward to being the favourite judge after this challenge.
When it comes to making the pie, the pastry is shortcrust, which is difficult to work. Rob is convinced he's going home and makes a second batch of pastry after the first one doesn't work out. Michelle is having a great time and has pulled ahead, and Raeesa remarks that at least the rest of them are on a level playing field.
The filling is cooked in two batches, beginning with chicken, leeks and kale. Michelle says she wouldn't put kale in her chicken pie because she wants people to eat it. The contestants then make a mushroom beschamel before combining the two together and chilling the filling so it doesn't melt the pastry. Claudia gets sauce everywhere, including her hair which is the sort of thing I would do.
While the pies are baking, Marcus and Robert give Mel and Claire some dancing lessons. Michelle has a cup of tea, while Claudia, Raeesa and Dave describe themselves as the pie whisperers. In the final rush of the challenge, Robert and Barb's pies collapse, but the rest of them hold together.
From last to first, we have Emma, Chris, Marcus, Rob, Barb, Dave, Claudia, Raeesa and Michelle. Michelle says that maybe she's willing to try putting kale in her pie next time.
When the hosts and judges go back to the tent, they identify Emma and Rob as the two contestants in trouble, and Claudia, Raeesa and Barb as potential Star Bakers. Maggie apologises for the technical challenge but the contestants aren't there to hear her.
Showstopper: Tiered Pavlova
This week's showstopper is a tiered pavlova, complete with fillings and decorations and must have at least three tiers. Claire makes a joke about shedding tears when she scratched Matt's car, which is just another reminder that I scratched a colleague's brand new car in December. Maggie wants to see something really impressive, but the contestants will have to think about the construction. If the filling isn't cold, it could lead to pavlova collapse. No one's pavlova is topped with strawberries and peppermint crisp.
Emma loves pavlova and has it every year for her birthday cake. Her pineapple inspired pavlova is filled with alternating banana, passionfruit curd, strawberries and pineapple, and decorated with mini meringues to represent the pineapple's crown and thorns. Matt would have liked it if the meringues covered the whole pavlova rather than just a section of it. The judges love the freshness of the flavours, but there's a little too much cream (a frequent mistake in this challenge), and that it’s a little too basic for a showstopper.
Dave's making a pavlova with fresh fruit in rainbow colours and rose scented cream. Remember what happened with the rose cake last year, Dave! The layers are filled with strawberry, mango, blueberry, kiwi fruit and passionfruit respectively. When the judges come around, Matt holds the bowl of egg whites over Maggie's head to make sure they're whipped properly. When Dave's assembling his pavlova it collapses, and he holds it together with acetate. Matt says it looks good from the top - the amount of cream has caused it to collapse - but the layers are good, and the judges love some passionfruit on their pav.
Michelle made a 6-tiered pavlova, and intended to make half of them a hazelnut dacquoise, but that mixture didn't work out. Her pavlova is filled with marscapone creme fraiche, figs, pomegranates and spiced syrup, all of which are Maggie Beer's favourite things. Matt think the presentation could be better, but I think it looks great. It's not the first time we've disagreed on such things. When he tastes it he says "that's a pavlova," and Maggie says it's well balanced with great flavours.
Claudia made a 5-tiered pina pavlova with fillings of marscapone cream, rum and pineapple, and chantilly vanilla cream. She used pulled sugar to make the crown of the pineapple, and saffron to colour the meringue. Matt wants Mel to try the saffron, thankfully Maggie and Claudia are there to stop him. The judges love the marshmallowy texture, and say that the pineapple and mint come through, but it lacks definition because there's too much cream.
Chris is breaking convention and making a rectangular pav, filled with alternating passionfruit, raspberry and lemon curds, and topped with fresh fruit and candied lemon. Matt says it's different to any pavlova he's ever seen, and Maggie comments that it's definitely a showstopper. The pavlova is too thin, but the curds are beautiful and the flavours well-balanced.
We take a brief detour into the pavlova debate: was it invented in Australia or New Zealand? Marcus correctly points out that it was made in honour of a ballerina, Anna Pavlova, and is supposed to represent her skirt. Robert says it's like Russell Crowe - no one knows and it doesn't really matter - but I think we're more enthusiastic about claiming the pav than Russell.
Robert's pavlova is full of flavours: chocolate, coffee, cherries, hazelnuts and almonds and a chocolate ganache. It's decorated with rose shaped meringues, which Matt says are very pretty. As he's baking, Robert chants "I'm not going home" to himself, which I completely understand. The judges can see that Robert has put a lot of work into his pavlova - the pavlova and flavours are good, but there are too many flavours.
Raeesa made a picnic basket shaped pavlova with alternating layers of passionfruit and orange curd, mango and mint, and lime and coconut curd, which she decorated with piped meringe. Maggie praises the amount of work Raeesa put into her pavlova, and Raeesa says it was worse than running a marathon. I'm not sure that's possible. The flavours are beautiful and the layers well-defined. Matt's only criticism is that he would like more crunch on the outside.
Marcus' pavlova has three tiers which have alternating fillings of passionfruit curd, vanilla coconut cream, lime zest and banana rolled in roasted coconut somewhere. It's also served with a salted caramel sauce. Marcus says he wants to keep it simple and not use too many flavours, but that sounds like a lot of flavours for me. Maggie loves the presentation which is both simple and whimsy, and Matt says it has all the flavours he loves in a pav. Later on they say it's the best showstopper of the week.
Barb makes a black forest inspired pav, with dried sour cherry, chantilly, and coffee and chocolate cream fillings. It's decorated with chocolate dipped cherries. Maggie says the presentation is a bit messy, but the flavours of chocolate and cherry are delicious. As with many of the bakes, there was too much cream, which masked the other flavours.
Claudia is this week's Star Baker and our first repeat winner. This is the first week that the showstopper hasn't been the deciding factor in who wins Star Baker. The pavlova challenge was difficult for everyone, and the judges had to take the first two bakes into account - which is what they're supposed to do. You shouldn't win Star Baker on the showstopper alone. Emma goes home, which makes this Robert's lucky week. Bye Emma, we'll miss you on the show, but hope you’ll continue to live-tweet with the rest of us.