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‘The Great British Bake Off’ season 14 episode 5 recap: easy as pie

It’s Pastry Week! Although it could have been called Pie Week, since all of the challenges were either pie or pie-like. The bakers head back to the tent, and we are reminded that two bakers will be going home this week. Nicky appears confident. “I actually like pastry,” she says. “I find it quite therapeutic.” Alarm bells go off in my head because anytime someone says they like the theme of the week they have an awful week.

If orange was the outfit theme last week, the theme this week is florals. Both Noel and Allison are in florals, as are Tasha, Cristy and Rowan. Dana has an amazing long floral coat which I would like to steal.

The signature challenge is twelve individual savory picnic pies, made with hot water crust pastry. The bakers are given two hours, which is tight but not impossible. A reasonable challenge? What?

Hot water crust pastry is made by boiling water and fat, adding all the flour at once and then kneading and shaping while the pastry is still hot. The bakers begin by cutting butter and lard. Josh, for some reason, is using a massive knife. I wonder if he is compensating for something, then reflect on how “Bake Off” is corrupting my brain.

The editors appear to be equally corrupted, because right after Paul says the pies should be “moist to the mouth,” they cut to Rowan saying “oh I love a sausage.” Editors, I see you.

Matty is making spanakopita-flavored pies. Dana is making potato dauphinois pies. Paul says it sounds like a pithivier, and when Dana doesn’t know what that is, he simply says “interesting,” in a bit of foreshadowing. Tasha is making sausage pies with a Christmassy twist. Dan is making spicy lamb keema pies. To prove his spice tolerance, he eats a raw chili pepper. Saku is making spicy tuna pies, although she’s making them milder than normal for Paul and Prue. Cristy is making cream, leek and garlic mushroom pies with a lattice top, because she is a woman who would make a lattice pie. Matty is also making a lattice, because he feels like it. 

Suddenly, disaster strikes. Nicky’s pastry scrambles due to adding egg to enrich the dough. I didn’t know you could scramble pie pastry, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything. She’s using an old-fashined mold which wins her points with Prue. While she remakes her pastry, everyone else is putting pies in the oven. During this, Dan remarks that his oven wasn’t on. And then the cameras promptly cut away, denying the viewers the classic “Bake Off” drama of ovens not being preheated. Oh well. On the other side of the tent, Cristy is crying because she thinks her pies are ugly. Spoiler: they aren’t ugly. And Rowan discovers his pies have soggy bottoms.

Onto the judging. Matty has a messy lattice. Say that five times fast. Luckily, he has strong flavors. Tasha’s are very cute, and she does well. Saku’s pies are anemic. To be diplomatic, Prue says “it could have been a little browner.” Dan’s are dense, but the flavor is good. Dana gets similar critiques. At this point in the judging I’m quite hungry. Luckily, the camera cuts to Rowan’s pies. Now, Rowan said his pies had soggy bottoms. This was a lie. His pies have no bottom. Just congealed filling holding them up. To illustrate this, Paul flips them over one at a time. Miraculously, they still taste good. Meanwhile, Nicky did achieve pies, they are undercooked and gloopy.

And then it’s time for the pies Cristy was sobbing over. Her pies, you know, the same ones she was sobbing over for being ugly, are deemed “elegant.” And they taste good, so she gets a handshake. Blah. They were good, but in my opinion, they were not handshake worthy.

I normally don’t discuss how technicals are announced, but I have to this week. Because Noel calls Paul “the Pastry King.” Now, I can accept Paul being the Bread King, but he’s only allowed to be the king of one bake. Not multiple, otherwise his ego will inflate so much he’ll pop. And then Allison invokes Mel Gibson. No, Allison! I watch “Bake Off” to be soothed, not to be reminded of the existence of Mel Gibson!

The technical challenge is a dauphinois pithivier (plus a roquefort sauce), which explains Paul’s comment to Dana earlier. The camera keeps zooming in on her as she smiles nervously. A pithivier is a domed and filled puff pastry. I’ve made it once, and it was very labor intensive and took over three hours. The bakers only get two hours and 45 minutes, but they are more capable than me. 

Prue describes the pithivier as “carbs on carbs served with cream” which feels about right. It is made with a rough puff pastry, which means you fold in grated butter rather than a sheet of butter. However, Josh and Matty make a rookie error and put all the butter in at once. Dan cuts his finger grating butter, gets blood in his pastry and has to start again in the name of health and safety.

The technical continues without much drama, other than being informed that the tent smells really bad as all the bakers melt roquefort simultaneously. But then the pithiviers come out of the oven. And Cristy, Nicky, Josh and Rowan all have flat pithiviers. Dan, despite having to start over, is very successful and his pithivier is massive. 

In the technical judging, Nicky is last with a flat, underbaked pithivier with a raw filling. Josh is in eighth with a flat and pale pithivier. At the top is Dana in second, and Dan takes his second technical win in a row. 

In the judging pavilion, we are told that Nicky is in danger, and Josh, Rowan and Saku could all be the second person to go home. Cristy, Dan and Tasha are in line for star baker.

The showstopper is a display of decoratve sweet pies, made in four hours. Okay, I’m going to say it. The challenges this week were good! They were reasonable! They made me hungry! I’m thrilled. 

Everyone has a really good idea for this showstopper. Cristy is making autumnal pies. Rowan is theming his pies after the British sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous.” Josh is making a tribute to his late grandmother who taught him how to bake. I decide that if he goes home on this challenge, I’m no longer writing these recaps. Dana is making a baklava-flavored tree pie, and Dan is making pies inspired by his trip to South America, including a pastry toucan. Matty is making a stewed plum filling. Paul does his best to turn “stewed plums” into an innuendo, but thankfully Prue puts him in his place.

Because sweet shortcrust pastry is relatively straightforward to make, most of the focus is on the design. Matty is lattice-ing again. Rowan is painstakingly hand-painting Eddie and Patsy (the main characters of “Absolutely Fabulous”) on pastry. And Tasha is trying to cut out pastry shaped like letter signs in BSL. It looks horrifically fiddly.

And then Rowan looks in his oven, and discovers a disaster. His pie is leaking. Well, saying it’s leaking is too kind. His pie has turned into a fruit-juice waterfall. It’s so leaky that when he tries to take it out of the tin (assisted by Allison) he splits his pie in half, and is forced to serve it in the tin. Poor Rowan. At least his painted Patsy looks good.

At judging, no one has quite achieved the full potential of their idea. Tasha’s are deemed a bit “rough and ready.” Dan’s pies are dry, bland and strange respectively. One of Dana’s pies is too rich, the other is too sour. Matty has a raw top (no comment). And Saku’s filling is undercooked. The only two bakers who do really well are Cristy, whose pies are gorgeous, and Josh, whose pies are a legitimate work of art. Knowing it’s a tribute to his late grandmother, it’s hard not to tear up.

And then it’s Rowan’s turn. His filling is a soup. The pastry is good, but there’s no way he can come back from a pie that’s that soggy. And his other pie, ironically, is too dry. Nicky has done okay, but she needed a lot more than “okay” to survive the week.

Star baker this week is Cristy, probably due to her handshake. She didn’t do superbly this week, but she did do better than everyone else. And going home are Rowan and Nicky. Now, is this the right decision? Yes. Am I heartbroken? Also yes. Rowan and Nicky were two of the best characters in the tent and it’s a shame to see them both go at once. This season really won’t be the same without them.

Next time: Botanical Week! We’ve only had Botanical Week once before, but that episode is one of my all-time favorites. Can Cristy get another Star Baker? Will Dan win another technical? And who will give us fantastic quotes now that Rowan is gone? Keep reading to find out.

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