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‘The Great British Bake Off’ season 14 episode 9 recap: precarious patisserie

There are two constants for the “Bake Off” semi-final. It will be Patisserie Week, and it will be heartbreaking. This season was no exception. As we get towards the end of the season, it becomes more and more difficult to see any baker leave. And seeing a baker fall at the final hurdle, and get eliminated in the semi-final, is particularly awful.

 

The mood is more somber as the bakers march into the tent. We also learn that Allison is out sick. I’m very disappointed—I love Allison! Allison’s absence also means that the amount of innuendos drops significantly. The signature challenge this week is two different types of financiers. Financiers are a small cake made with browned butter, nuts and whipped egg whites. They are meant to resemble gold bars, hence the name. I love financiers, and they are also very fun to make. It’s a straightforward challenge for a semi-final signature, but sometimes going back to basics can be a challenge.

 

Dan is going for Asian flavors again. This time, he is making matcha, pink peppercorn, yuzu and tonka bean financiers. In my opinion, this is too much stuff, and it’s also a risk, since Paul loathes matcha. Dan’s second batch is keeping it more simple with peach and raspberry flavors. There is a long discussion of the vices and virtues of matcha, ending with Noel observing that Dan is wearing a matcha-colored t-shirt.

 

Josh, ever the classic baker, is sticking to comfortable flavors with bakewell tart flavored financiers and chocolate, hazelnut and orange financiers. Josh is also dressed to match his bake, in an orange shirt. Tasha is making hazelnut and coffee financiers, plus raspberry pistachio financiers that are meant to redeem her awful viennese whirls. Let the past be, Tasha. Don’t tempt fate. Matty is also using coffee for his tiramisu financiers, as well as a classic combination of mango, lime and coconut. Paul lectures Matty on his high expectations for a bit, and Matty brushes him off by saying “I know what I’m doing, and it’s written down, as is my schedule.” Matty clearly wants Paul to go away. What a relatable king.

 

It’s eerie to hear Allison’s voiceover when she’s not in the tent. Noel works hard to stay on top of the hosting duties, and delivers the understatement of the century about the semifinal “It’s a bit serious.” Dan also hops on the understatement train and declares patisserie to be “finesse … a bit of precision.”

 

Finesse and a bit of precision are not Tasha’s strengths, and it’s unsurprising to see that her station is a mess. She’s struggling to caramalize her hazelnuts, and her buttercream curdles, meaning she’s quite stressed going into judging.

 

Matty’s financiers meet with approval since they’re quite neat with good, “grown up” flavors. Unfortunately, they’re a bit over-baked and too thick. Tasha’s are pretty from far away, but up close you can see that they’re a bit messy. Her coffee and hazelnut financiers are good, but her second one is a bit untidy and her buttercream is a disaster. Josh’s financiers have too much almond essence and are slightly dry. And then it’s time for Dan’s risky financiers. Shockingly, Paul loves them. Paul enjoying matcha flavors was not on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are. And then, Dan gets a handshake. For MATCHA. In my notes, all I have is “is this an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone?’”

 

Dan is thrilled, but he says he would prefer a handshake from Prue. He’s so real for that.

 

The technical challenge is a tarte aux pommes. It takes me a moment to work out what they’re saying since British pronunciation of French words is atrocious. A tarte aux pommes is basically a frangipane tart with apples on top. It’s easy to bake, but the rose-like apple arrangement on the top is tricky. Still, it’s quite easy for a semi-final technical (this is a show that has forced bakers to make Les Miserables slices and torta setteveli in the semi-final technical), and it tests relatively fundamental baking skills.

 

There is an odd moment where Noel and Dan go on about big noses, which mercifully remains inoffensive. Then, we get on with the technical. The bakers blind bake their pastry, and Tasha takes hers out way too early. Why, Tasha? Matty has never made frangipane before, but he’s going with his heart and trying his best. I love him. Dan is also anxious, while Josh is horrifyingly calm.

 

The bakers are then forced to hand slice the apples, without a mandoline. This is evil! And the apple arranging causes some stress. Matty and Josh do it correctly, and Dan and Tasha mess theirs up. Tasha’s tart is also anemic, which is awful to see. We then get our only innuendo of the episode, as Noel and Tasha decide that “kinky apples” will be their band name. Personally, I prefer “eggy rubber,” the band name of Noel and 2019 contestant Rosie (who ironically went out in the semifinal). And it feels like having a band name with Noel is bad luck, because Tasha’s technical is truly awful.

 

In judging, Tasha’s tarte is deemed a disaster, messy and raw. Matty’s is pretty but the pastry is soggy. Josh’s is perfect. And Dan’s is clumsy, but has a nice pastry. Tasha is last (uh-oh), Dan is in third, Matty is second and Josh is first. This puts Dan a little ahead and Tasha a little behind going into the showstopper, but it’s still all to play for.

 

The showstopper is an exquisite millefoglie. A millefoglie is an Italian celebration dessert, and it’s basically a giant mille feuille. If that still means nothing to you, it’s large sheets of puff pastry sandwiched with cream. Yum. Prue cheerily tells the camera that the challenge is “very difficult.” Well, I would hope so. It’s the semi-final. She then attempts an Italian accent during the judge’s walkthrough, which is horrible.

 

It’s Tasha’s birthday, and I get the sinking feeling that she might be going home on her birthday. Worse still, she has decided to make reverse puff pastry. Here’s a tip: DO NOT MAKE REVERSE PUFF PASTRY. Everytime someone has done this on “Bake Off”; it’s gone badly. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t do it. Tasha’s flavors are inspired by tropical cocktails, which is risky, since Paul and Prue have very different preferences for alcohol levels.

 

The other bakers are thankfully making normal puff pastry, and alcohol is a very popular flavor choice. Matty is doing a three-tiered millefoglie, and each layer is flavored by a different Italian spirit. Dan is also using alcohol as part of his tirimisu-flavored and guitar-shaped millefoglie. Josh is the only baker not using alcohol. He’s making a lemon, blackberry and blackcurrant millefoglie. It’s dedicated to, you guessed it, his grandma. It was cute the first time, but now it’s getting a little repetitive. It’s still sweet though, and Josh is a very good grandson. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

 

Tasha quickly falls behind all the other bakers because reverse puff needs longer to chill. As the other bakers put their pastry in the oven, she’s only just rolling hers out. And it has no layers. She is so doomed, although Noel tries to cling onto shreds of optimism so Tasha keeps going. Good for him. As the challenge goes on, Josh, Dan and Matty are calm and collected. Tasha, meanwhile, is suffering an utter disaster. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion, and she barely assembles her millefoglie in time. Still, all the bakers are exhausted by the challenge, and as Noel calls time, Dan lies down on the floor. Same, Dan. Same.

 

Onto judging! Josh’s showstopper is a thing of beauty and perfection. Dan’s looks very cool and his pastry is lovely, but his turquoise mirror glaze is strange and rubbery. Matty has rubbery puff pastry but his bake is very celebratory. And then there’s Tasha. It’s sad, ugly and her mango curd is grainy. She clearly knows she’s going home. Matty is a broken man, but he’s safely through to the final. Dan and Josh are tired but happy.

 

Josh wins Star Baker, finally getting to be the bride instead of the bridesmaid. He’s thrilled, and I’m very happy for him. And Tasha is going home. It’s a shame—I had her down as my winner—but she was certainly the weakest baker. I predicted last week that Tasha would struggle since patisserie is a weakness of hers, and I was right. Tasha is crying, which is heartbreaking, but it was her time to go.

 

The other three bakers have made it to the final, making this the first all-male final since 2012. Josh is in mild disbelief. Dan is adorably excited. And Matty is downright delirious.

 

Next week: the final! It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of the series. I guess the main question is who will win? Keep reading to find out.

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