The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 2 Episode 2: Biscuits

Claire: We started with a dozen. Now we’re one sandwich short of a picnic.

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Cheryl learns that Mel and Claire aren’t there to help, but for offcuts.

As is tradition, Week 2 is Biscuit Week! Or bikkie week! The producers asked the contestants what sort of biscuits they’d be. James is shortbread: light and fluffy in the middle. As someone who isn’t particularly fond of shortbread, I would like to give his a try. Fiona is something a bit flakey and probably a bit cheesy. She’s my favourite just for that.

Signature bake: Savoury biscuits

Our bakers are making 36 individual biscuits each! That’s 396 savoury biscuits, so I really hope the crew didn’t go hungry this week. Matt says making biscuits is the first thing you ever do as a baker. Is that true? I can’t remember what my first bake was, but the first thing I did as a baker was lick the bowl.

James is making parmesan and chive biscuits topped with smoked salmon cream and a parmesan crisp. 5 minutes in and I’m already hungry! Matt says it’s the best thing he’s tasted so far, but it’s too soft for a biscuit (I like soft biscuits).

Olivia is making salted oatmeal and poppyseed biscuits, which sound perfect to have with cheese. And she’s served them with cheese! The biscuits are very good, but they’re too salty.

Monica is making savoury macarons, so hats off to Adriano Zumbo. They’ll be filled with gorgonzola, fig jam and prosciutto. The judges aren’t too sure about this one. Maggie suggests burning the fig jam, which is one of her ice cream flavours. The flavour combination doesn’t quite work, and Matt Moran says it doesn’t feel like a biscuit.

Cheryl barely made it through last week, so she’s going big with checkerboard biscuits. They’re flavoured with blue cheese, garlic and chives and coloured with activated charcoal. I don’t know what that is, either. Oh, it’s from the health food store. Okay. The judges praise her creativity and thankfully the charcoal doesn’t have any flavour.

Noel is making a savoury shortbread, the most overrated of biscuits. Except he’s replaced the sugar from his sweet recipe with cheese and he’s added rosemary, parmesan and cayenne, so I’d probably eat that. Maggie advises a light hand when it comes to cayenne. Noel is worried because he’s never made savoury biscuits before, but the judges love them.

Bojan is also making a savoury shortbread, but Mediterranean themed with sundried tomato and parmesan cheese. Everything’s going according to plan, so he’s worried a disaster will befall his biscuits. His biscuits are good, but too cakey.

Fiona is the early leader in pun awards for her Cheesy Good Thyme biscuits, flavoured with chilli, thyme and fennel. Maggie was a bit shocked when the chilli came through, but both of them loved it.

Jeremy is my new hero with his pizza biscuit topped with ham and gruyère and a cheddar stuffed crust. I really hope this one works. Matt Moran is worried about this because for some reason he doesn’t like cold pizza. They taste good, but the pizza biscuit is a dish best served hot. He eats his biscuits for his post-challenge interview.

While waiting for their biscuits to bake, Antonio and Noel meet over a cup of tea. A nod to his heritage, he’s making savoury biscotti filled with sundried tomato, fennel and garlic. They taste great, but the biscotti isn’t dried out enough. I’m going to put that down to not enough time.

Diana has had some trouble with her biscuit dough. She’s making bacon and fennel crackers which sound delicious. Her biscuits come out very crisp, and she remarks that someone could break their teeth. Matt says they taste good, but they’re a bit too simple.

Liesel is making pumpkin seed oatmeal biscuits filled with goats’ cheese and pomegranate. She helps Jeremy with his pizza sauce. Her biscuits are delicious and the flavours are perfectly balanced. She’s one to watch.

Technical challenge: Florentine biscuits

The bakers have two hours to make Maggie’s florentine biscuits, complete with Australian fruit. Many of them are unsure as to what a florentine looks like, so this is going to be interesting! Maggie’s secret ingredient is angelica. Cheryl says it looks like celery. Mel says “Perfect. Who doesn’t love celery in a biscuit?” James says that if he comes first in this challenge he’ll get a florentine tattoo. We can only hope for this outcome. People are re-cutting their florentines after they’re baked. Someone did that on GBBO a couple of years ago, and Mary Berry does not approve. It’s been an interesting two hours for our bakers.

From last to first: Jeremy, Cheryl, Noel, Monica, Bojan, Fiona, Liesel, Diana, Olivia, James, and Antonio wins, depriving the world of James’ florentine tattoo. Noel is going to make them at home, sans chocolate.

Showstopper: Biscuit landmarks

As always with biscuit week, the Showstopper tests the bakers’ construction skills. This time they’ve been asked to make a recognisable landmark out of biscuits.

Cheryl is very aware that she needs to perform well today, and her showstopper is a recreation of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow with chocolate and orange flavoured biscuits, decorated with meringue and fondant. The presentation is good, but the biscuits haven’t worked out well. The shortbread is too hard.

James is honouring Perth with his Bell Tower biscuit structure. Matt has been to Perth many times, but he’s never heard of the Bell Tower, so this could be interesting. The structure will have sugar biscuits, chocolate covered gingerbread and isomalt shards. It breaks during construction, and James is understandably upset. He’s got something to present, but it’s not what he wanted, especially since he considers biscuits to be his strength. James explains what happened, and then Maggie and Matt praise his biscuit, so he’s done something right. He karate chops his Bell Tower after it’s been judged and everyone rushes to eat it. Praise all around!

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James takes revenge on Perth

Diana has chosen to make the Eiffel Tower out of chocolate biscuits with vanilla icing decoration. Matt asked why she chose the Eiffel Tower, Diana says that if she can’t go there, she’ll build it and eat it, which is a fantastic reason. At least Matt has heard of the Eiffel Tower, so that’s a point in her favour. The structure holds, and her icing detailing is intricate. Furthermore it tastes good, so well done Diana.

Antonio is making a gingerbread Big Ben. He’s “pretty sure” it’s in London. He’s using caramel as his glue. It’s a bit too hot for Matt (Maggie says it’s the nutmeg), but Antonio has done a “damn fine” job. I wonder where he’s at with his Twin Peaks rewatch.

Noel is also using gingerbread to recreate l’Arc de Triomphe. The top of the structure will comprise of shortbread, chocolate creams and ginger creams. It’s in honour of his mother, who made all of these biscuits every Christmas. The gingerbread was a bit too tough, but the creams were good. The judges would have liked some more intricate decoration.

It’s an ‘Arc-Off’ as Olivia is also recreating l’Arc de Triomphe with gingerbread. She’s using three different kinds of sugar to set her gingerbread apart. Her Arc is decorated with royal icing, and she’s included the roundabout and cars as part of her structure. Maggie loves it, and Matt says she’s done a “pretty good” job. His standards might be a touch too high.

Liesel is making a butter biscuit, infused with chai and earl grey tea to recreate the Taj Mahal. She’s put a lot of thought into it (the pool is going to be filled with custard), and Matt is excited to see how it turns out. She poured her custard into the pool from a teapot and it was amazing. Matt says it’s “superb,” so she’s definitely up for Star Baker this week. Also Star Human.

Jeremy is also making the Taj Mahal. His biscuits are flavoured with saffron and cardamom. His pool will be filled with blue jelly. Maggie loves the cardamom and saffron. Matt says the biscuits are a bit too thick, but it’s “pretty damn good”. He’s a man of few words.

Fiona‘s decided to recreate the pyramids of Egypt! Her pyramids are orange and cardamom flavoured, the sphinx is flavoured with rose water, and she’s made a pistachio and rose water praline for her sand. Her flavours and concept are great, but Matt is concerned that it’s not big enough to be a showstopper.

Bojan is also recreating an Egyptian structure and his Sphinx is made from spicy gingerbread. Maggie says that the sphinx has a presence, and the biscuit is very good. Matt says Bojan has done a “great” job. I’m going to figure out his scale of praise at some point.

Monica has decided to reimagine the brief; her structure is inspired by her travels, so she’s made a biscuit tier with fourteen different gingerbread landmarks. With her different flavoured gingerbreads and stunning decorations, she’s redeemed herself in Matt’s eyes.

Over in the potting shed, Matt says they’re choosing between two to go home. Mel asks if it’s her and Claire, and Matt tells her she would have been gone long ago.

Liesel is this week’s Star Baker, as well as Star Human for comforting James when everything seemed to go wrong, and Cheryl is going home. Come back next week for pies and tarts!

Other thoughts:

  • As always, this is where you can find recipes from this week’s episode.
  • #wildlifewatch: The first three shots this episode are of a spider, a kookaburra and a dog with a very large stick. Following on from there, we have the small bird I need to look up, a bee, a black and white bird that isn’t a magpie, and then I stopped keeping track.
  • On the prominence of macarons in Australia: MasterChef has a lot to answer for. When I was at uni, one of my classmates from the US was seeing them everywhere and asked what they were.
  • There were so many cuts to James’ disappointed face when the judges praised someone else’s work. That’s just cruel.
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