Things Women Are Allowed to be on Masterchef (and television in general) | #MasterChefAU

I’m loving the new season of MasterChef Australia, a show that I probably haven’t watched consistently for at least three years, for various reasons that I’ve discussed previously. However, the new judges and returning contestants (not to mention a whole week with Gordon Ramsay) have breathed fresh air into the show. My friends over at The Washing Up did a preview with Elena Duggan, which you should listen to. Something that came up briefly was a discussion around Tessa from last year, and how she was viewed by the audience as arrogant, when really she was just quiet and focused. Elena mentioned that she got the same feedback when she started to knuckle down in her season. Newsflash: that’s how she won.

One of my favourite MasterChef contestants of all time is Emelia Jackson from Season 6, who often got the same criticism. Why do audiences perceive confidence, focus and determination in the show’s female contestants as arrogance? Probably because they’re not allowed to be these things. We should be celebrating women who know they’re capable, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. So, without further ado, I present a list of things women can and cannot be on MasterChef (please don’t take this too seriously, I certainly haven’t).

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Reading Round-Up: March 2020

It’s early April, so it’s time for me to write about what I read in March. This was a bit slower than January and February, which is due to a few things. I went home for a few days to visit my family for my nephew’s first birthday. It could be being stuck at home due to CoVID-19 and low motivation to read generally. I also noticed that I only listened to two audiobooks this month. I’ve added a book of the month to the post, because I want to highlight the books I really loved.

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Penguin Books ...

Reading Round-Up: January 2020

After just reaching my Goodreads goal in 2019 (thanks to my discovery that I had an unread volume of Giant Days), 2020 has been off to a good start. So here are some thoughts on what I’ve read so far this year. As of January 14, all of the books I’ve read this year have been borrowed from the library in ebook or audiobook form, with the exception of Pride and Prejudice, which is out of copyright and I got it for free on the Kindle. I’m going to give a general spoiler warning just in case, so if you don’t want to be spoiled on something, just scroll on down to the next sub-heading.

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The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 10: Final

David: It’s either going to work, or fail spectacularly.

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We’ve reached the end of the season and our finalists are David, Dan and Sunny. There’s no funny intro this week, we’re just going straight into the episode, so I guess it’s story time for me. People may have seen me and some other people mention here and on Twitter that this season was filmed 18 months ago. If you want to know how I know that, I can tell you: I was at the finale, which I no longer have to keep secret. I was there with the season three bakers as well as Chris and Kristie of The Washing Up podcast, and it was a great time. I’ll put some small insights in as far as I can remember. I spent some time chatting to Don and Anston, who were lovely a. I remember seeing Annette and Angela around, but we weren’t introduced. I spent most of the time with the season three bakers, and it was great to meet some of the bakers from this season as well.

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The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 9: Party Week #BakeOffAU

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Party week is an excellent theme. I can only assume that the challenges for this week are party pies and sausage rolls, fairy bread and finally birthday cake. Who knows, maybe they have a different definition of party food (Yes, yes they do).

Claire is still sick this week, but apparently that’s all part of Mel’s plan to take over the show so it can become Mel’s Great Australian Bake Off.

Signature: Savoury pastry canapes

For the signature, the bakers need to make 24 savoury pastry canapes, twelve of which must be vol au vents. The other twelve could be party pies or sausage rolls, you never know! It’s raining outside the Bake Off shed today, but our dog walkers are still very committed. The bakers have two hours to make their canapes, which isn’t a lot of time considering they have to make pastry.

David made chicken, mushroom and leek vol au vents with a beschamel sauce. Matt and Maggie warned David about the possibility of the beschamel overpowering the other flavours. For his other canape, David made mini beef wellingtons with mushroom duxelle, pea puree and beef short rib sauce. Matt and Maggie said that the pastry was good for the vol au vents, but the filling needed more seasoning. They loved the beef wellingtons and the saltiness of the sauce. The pastry was really flaky and the beef cooked beautifully.

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Don started the challenge talking about making tart shells for his escargots, which was a little confusing because there’s a pastry called an escargot. But actually his tarts had snails in them, along with cauliflower, broccolini and garlic cream. His vol au vents were duck a l’orange with mushrooms. Matt and Maggie said they looked inviting, like great canapes. The tarts had beautiful pastry, and the snail was tender rather than chewy. The vol au vent pastry was undercooked, but the orange brought out the flavour in the duck.

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Sunny made mini savoury cones with a wonton dough, which she filled with tuna tartare, wasabi and yuzu. Her vol au vents were filled with smoky baba ganoush, tahini and yoghurt dressing and pomegranate. Sunny says taht she’s turning her two favourite foods into canapes, sushi and Lebanese food. Sorry Sunny, but since you’re doing Lebanese, where is the garlic sauce? Matt and Maggie said that the canapes looked fantastic. Maggie loved the flavours of the yuzu, wasabi and tuna together in the cones. The vol au vents were rich, the creaminess of the eggplant went with the yoghurt and the pastry was well-made.

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Dan started off saying that he needed more muscles in his life as he was making his pastry. We all know that’s not true. Perhaps he was referring to the mussels he put in his vol au vents with spinach and roquefort. He also made 12 savoury choux buns filled with wild mushrooms, montgomery cheddar, truffles and truffle oil. When Matt and Maggie came to Dan’s bench, they commented on the smell of the truffle oil and warned it could overpower the other flavours. Maggie liked the brightness of the mussls and spinach in the vol au vents. The pastry was good, but needed more time in the oven, and the roquefort was too strong and diminished the flavour of the mussels. The choux buns had good pastry and the truffle oil worked well with the cheese and didn’t overpower any of the other flavours.

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Technical: Sicilian Cassata Cake

This week’s technical is a Maggie Beer recipe – who as Mel points out, is Bake Off‘s very own party animal. Once you get into the verjuice fields, who knows what can happen?

Maggie’s hints for this one are:

  • Be an old soak – I watched this twice and I have no idea if it’s right or what it means
  • Don’t whip yourself into a frenzy
  • Dress to impress

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The cake is filled with ricotta and citrus and covered in marzipan. Dan did a cassata cake in week one, so he has a slight advantage here. We go to the potting shed and see what Maggie was on about. The sponge needs to be soaked in a syrup. That still doesn’t explain how “old soak” is an expression though.

Back in the shed, the bakers are figuring out whether they need to separate the eggs. David doesn’t, and he knows that his sponges aren’t right when he pulls them out of the oven. He’s upset with how it went, but Dan gives him some advice. I didn’t quite understand what Maggie was looking for at the beginning, but then see that the bakers need to cut a quarter out of the bigger cake to make the dome mould. While the bakers are soaking their cakes in syrup, Don comments that he took his too far, and it does look more like a marmalade than a syrup.

Just before the end of the challenge Dan said, “I need to nail this, otherwise I’m not Italian.”

From last to first, we have David, Don, Sunny and Dan, which means that Dan can still be Italian!

Showstopper: Entremets

During Judges’ tea time, Matt and Maggie tell Mel that Sunny and Dan are ahead, while David and Don are down the bottom. They also acknowledge that there’s not much between the bakers, so it’s going to be tough. Semi-final week judging is never easy.

For the showstopper, the bakers made twenty entremets, ten of which had to have a mirror glaze. They had four and a half hours to make their entremets, which are small mousse cakes with layers of sponge, biscuit and jelly.

In her cut to camera, Maggie said there was lots of opportunity to shine, but also lots of opportunity for things to go wrong. It looks like Evil Maggie is back!

David’s entremets were carrot cake and a triple chocolate opera cake. His carrot entremets had a carrot cake base, carrot jelly centre, walnut praline and creme fraiche mousse. The opera cake had a hazelnut biscuit base, dark chocolate sponge and layers of raspberry, white chocolate and milk chocolate mousse. It was topped with a layer of dark chocolate. After the technical, David wanted to show that he deserved to be in the final. He began by making more sponges than he needed, just in case. As David unmoulds his carrot cakes, he cut them open and anticipated having to tell his wife why he did it. Mel says that the carrot cakes look like big multivitamins. Maggie loved the creaminess of the mousse and the flavour of the fresh raspberry in the opera cake. Matt said he loved the flavours, but there was too much crumble in the biscuit. Maggie loved the carrot cake and said it wasn’t oversweet. Matt said that the carrot and creme fraiche were a match made in heaven and showed why David won Star Baker twice.

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Don’s mango entremets had a dacquoise base, mango compote and white chocolate pate bomba, covered with a mango mirror glaze. His chocolate entremets had a dacquoise base, praline crunch, dark chocolate mouse and coated with a cocoa butter velvet spray. Matt and Maggie come up to Don’s bench and ask him if he’s made it before, and Don says only once, as they take time. When Don sprays on the cocoa butter, his entremets start to crack. The mango entremets were soft and custardy. Matt says the dacqoise is the star, but it needed more mango. Maggie loved the crunch in the chocolate entremets, but the mousse needed to set more. They also needed more mousse so the flavours could be well-balanced.

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Sunny made a berry opera cake with lemon jaconde, strawberry mousse and elderflower jelly. Her chocolate and ginger entremets had a ginger jaconde base, pear jelly centre and dark chocolate mousse, decorated with candied ginger. When Sunny goes to put her entremets in the fridge/freezer, they’re all full! Such is the case with a cold dessert challenge. Everyone gets their own oven, but it’s not the same with fridges. The opera cake had fine layers, beautiful flavours and the mousse and the jelly formed one continuous flavour. The pear gave the chocolate entremets texture, while the chocolate was rich and the ginger finished it off.

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Dan made Holiday Fling themed entremets. His mojito entremets had a mint sponge, mojito cremaux and lime mousse, topped with a rum jelly square and fresh mint. His tropical sunset entremets had a coconut base, dacquoise sponge, passionfruit, yuzu and banana compote, surrounded by a lime mousse. Dan could smell the rum when he was making the jelly, possibly getting drunk on the fumes. Dan’s the first to try setting his mousse with dry ice – he’s a scientist after all – and the rest of the bakers follow suit, probably because they’ve run out of fridge/freezer space. Dan had some issues with his mojito entremets as the jelly kept sliding off the top. He replaced them with a slice of lime. Matt said they all looked very tropical, but he didn’t like that there was something inedible on top. The sponge on the lime entremets was really good and the coconut was a good balance with the lime. The judges loved the natural flavours in the tropical entremets, which were balanced out with the banana.

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At the end of the challenge, Matt and Maggie congratulate the bakers on how well they’ve done. They say that they’ve made their decision difficult for them. Back in their shed, Matt and Maggie say that the entremets could have been in a shop window and said that their job is so difficult they may have to go back to the start of the series to make their final decision, as they want the three best bakers in the final.

In the end, Mel announces that Sunny has won Star Baker and Don is going home. Don has been great throughout the series with his love of French flavours, his odd sense of humour, and as Maggie points out, he’s passionate and kind. I’ll miss you next week, Don.

We’ve got one episode left this season, who do you think will win?

Other thoughts:

  • This week in “this was filmed 18 months ago,” we have the rain. I can’t remember the last time it rained all day in Sydney, and I’ve only lived here 13 months. And it’s not like I’m in a different part of the city, either. I live about a 10 minute drive from where they film
  • As promised, here is The Washing Up’s interview with Executive Producer Nicole Rogers
  • There will be a couple of posts next week, there’s a special feature as well as the finale recap.
  • I love Mel, but I also missed Claire this week. They bounce off each other so well.

The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 8: Hybrid Week #BakeOffAU

Claire: Now that Matt and Maggie have gone to hybridise a pheasant with a lamb…

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Our Mel…

We’ve made it to week 8 and there are only 5 bakers left! We have truly reached the pointy end of the competition and there’s not much between our bakers at this point in terms of skill and ability. Mel’s eating a hotdog and then Claire’s doing her best Dr Emmett Brown impression. Hybrid week is something we haven’t seen yet on this series, and it’s a good one. Between cronuts and cruffins, hybrid baking is becoming more common, or perhaps Dominique Ansel just wants to turn everything into a croissant.

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… and our Claire

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The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 7: Spice Week #BakeOffAU

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My favourite thing about this season of Bake Off has been the continuing narrative (partially created by we the fans) that there’s something going on with the hosts and judges. Matt has taken up gardening, possibly as a second job. We saw that Mel is now a newsreader, with a special cross to Matt and Maggie all on Claire’s ‘moods’. Now we see that Mel is camping on set while Matt and Maggie are sleeping in the shed. Maggie also seems ravenous by the time a technical challenge comes around and just wants to eat the food. Is there a budget issue? Where is craft services? Doesn’t the shed get cold at night? Maybe that’s why it’s spice week. Before we get into the challenge, Don points out that all the remaining contestants have won Star Baker, but no one has won it twice yet.

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The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 6: Patisserie Week #BakeOffAU

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Anston: It’s a showstopper or go-home-stopper

Week six! We have passed the halfway point of the season and things are getting serious. There was a break from sending someone home last week, but now we’re back on track! Let’s check in with Mel and Claire!

406 Frenchmen

Yep, that checks out. Also it turns out Mel does a live update to Matt and Maggie every morning on Claire’s mental state. Or at least that’s what she says. I think Mel does have a second job. We already know that Matt’s fallen on hard time and taken on some extra gardening work.

Anyway, it’s patisserie week, which is why Mel and Claire are dressed like Frenchmen. I feel like they should get together with Dan and Julia from Canadian Bake Off (yes, I know they’re no longer hosting) and put together an act. I’d pay to see it.

Dan says that “hopefully this is going to be my week” and that he’s wearing a shirt for Star Baker. Get your ironic statement awards ready! Unless they’re trying to #reversethecurse

The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 5: Cake Week #BakeOffAU

It’s a difficult technical because it’s Maggie Beer’s

Matt Moran

This week, we open the show with a classic catch, continuing with the sports theme for openings this season. I don’t think there’s a lot of overlap between Bake Off fans and sports fans, but I appreciate Mel and Claire’s continued effort to improve sports with baked goods.

I’d also like to point out that Claire’s skirt this week is amazing. Mel and Claire always have great clothes, but I really love this skirt.

Over in baker land, everyone (except maybe Anston and Angela) is thrilled that vegan week is over and they can use butter again. Don’s excited for classics week and is this close to saying it’s his week. He just manages to hold back.