Dave: The last 8 weeks has been the story of Dave and his Star Baker Friends.
It’s nearly the end of the show, so the judges have decided to celebrate a week early. This week the contestants are baking foods to celebrate special occasions: Easter, Christmas and weddings! Thankfully no one sings celebrations, but we get a great dance from Claire.
Signature Bake: Hot Cross Buns
I went on a bit of a rant about hot cross buns last week because I’m that person in your life who doesn’t like dried fruit. I also used to work at Bakers Delight, so I have opinions:
- The best chocolate chip hot cross buns are from Bakers Delight. That’s not bias speaking, bread dough shouldn’t have cocoa in it. If the supermarkets made chocolate chip buns with a regular spiced dough I’d buy them because I don’t have a lot of money.
- I quite like fruitless hot cross buns but they need more spice.
Anyway, the contestants have two hours to make 24 hot cross buns. They can use any flavour combination, but the dough must be yeasted and will need to be proved twice. Maggie believes you shouldn’t eat hot cross buns before Good Friday, and my parents are also of that belief system. But when you do the closing shift at Bakers Delight the hot cross buns go to charity, so we’d take them home and keep them in the freezer.
Claudia makes a different kind of hot cross bun every year – without fruit peel, because her children don’t like those. Her ‘Boozy Bunnies’ have prune, apricot and orange zest mixed in the dough, and a chocolate rum ball in the middle. The judges love the presentation of the buns, but the dough is a bit heavy. Maggie loves the flavours saying that they’re complex but they marry together.
Barb‘s hot cross buns are filled with figs, walnuts and candied orange peel. She puts some loaf tins of boiling water in her proving drawer to speed up the process. Her hot cross buns are fluffy and Maggie loves the glaze. Unfortunately there isn’t an even distribution of flavours, but they taste good when they’re together.
Dave made matcha and red bean paste hot cross buns using a traditional Chinese technique to keep moisture in the dough. His buns come out really soft, and he says “You can literally sleep on my buns if you want…. ohhhh, dirty!” It’s good to see that Dave is joining in the innuendo game. Matt describes the hot cross buns as “pure fluff” because they’re so light. The hot cross buns are different to anything the judges have tasted, but they love it. Maggie likes that they aren’t too sweet because the matcha has offset the sweetness of the red bean paste.
Chris made the hot cross buns that I’d most like to eat: cranberry, white chocolate and cinnamon. I’m not big on dried fruit, but I don’t mind cranberry, especially if there’s chocolate involved. Chris mentions that he didn’t know where the cross came from, and I yelled “flour and water!” just before he explained it. One of my favourite things at the bakery was watching the bakers do the crosses on the buns, and I’m glad we get to see it here. Like Barb, Chris had an uneven distribution of fillings. Maggie would have preferred more fruit, but she loves the cinnamon, and the hot cross buns were nice and light.
Technical Challenge: Mince Pies
This challenge was quite Christmassy; Mel is wearing Christmas colours this week, and the judges’ nicknames were Verjuice Mary and Joseph Moran. Claire calls mince pies the baked treat you turn to on Christmas when all the good stuff is gone, and I agree. Chris doesn’t like them either, so we’ve formed a little club. Just before he leaves the shed, Matt’s hints to the bakers are: seal well, I like even pieces, and make sure it’s sticky and fulsome.
Mince pies date back to the 13th Century, when they were made with minced meat, fruit and spices. Now the mince refers to the fruit. There’s also a lot of brandy involved, and Claudia says it smells like Christmas. Chris has never made mince pies because he doesn’t like them, but Dave’s never had them before. He eats pudding or fruit cake at Christmas, both of which also have fruit and alcohol in them. It’s raining in the shed, so we know this wasn’t filmed at Christmas. Mel and Claire try some of Dave’s leftover fruit mince, and Mel spits it out because it’s disgusting – it tastes just like fruit.
From last to first, we have Dave, Claudia, Barb, and Chris. The next day, the judges say that there’s no one on the top or bottom. We’re at the semi-finals, and it’s too close to call.
Showstopper: Wedding Cakes
If you don’t remember this wedding cake, it’s because it wasn’t on the show. My sister and sister-in-law got married a couple of weeks ago, and made their own cake (that’s who they are) and it took DAYS to make. I went over two days before the wedding for icing and fondant, and there were at least three days of baking before then. There was a six person cake crew, and my sister-in-law’s sister made those sugar flowers over FOUR WEEKS. The bakers have five hours to make a three-tiered wedding cake, and they all do a great job. Claire also brought (and possibly made) Matt and Maggie finger puppets:
Chris’ wedding cake has three tiers – mixed berry and white chocolate, orange and poppyseed and chocolate and peppermint. It’s covered in buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers. The judges say it’s his most refined piece of work in the competition, and he’s come a long way in 9 weeks. The orange and poppyseed cake was delicious, but there wasn’t enough fruit in the berry cake and there was too much peppermint. The judges praise his presentation again at the end of the tasting.
Claudia‘s Prince Regent cake has eighteen layers, one to represent each year of her marriage. The Prince Regent cake (which would normally take two days to make) is filled with alternating layers of vanilla custard buttercream, morello cherry jam, chambord ganache and almond praline. The top two layers are rum flavoured tree cakes, which are cooked in layers under the grill. The cake is decorated with marshmallow fondant and rice paper feathers and topped with lovebirds. Maggie says that the cake is beautiful and a showstopper. She loves the combination of the praline and the sour cherry and the cake is moist and luscious. Matt describes it as “absolutely superb” and they can definitely tell that there’s rum in the top two tiers.
Barb wanted her wedding cake to reflect her personality: out there, a bit alternative and loud and proud. She’s also pulling out all the stops and making four tiers: date and rum, chocolate and bourbon, ginger, and carrot. The cake is decorated with buttercream and coloured candy melts. When the judges stop at Barb’s bench they mention that they can smell all the alcohol in her batter. Barb runs out of time when she’s decorating her cake, but she also gets some help from Claudia and Chris. Maggie says it’s definitely a showstopper, but Matt says it definitely looks unfinished from one side. The rum is definitely present in the date cake, but it’s not overpowering. Maggie says that the chocolate is a lovely strong flavour, and Matt says the ginger is his kind of cake.
Dave says that looking at wedding cakes with his wife is how he got into baking. Then he made a floating wedding cake that would normally take three days and he’s won Star Baker, we don’t need to wait for the announcement. The bottom tier is raspberry, the middle is passionfruit and the top is lemon, decorated with Italian buttercream and modelling chocolate. Dave gets out his cake levelling tool to make sure it’s even – Mel and Claire joke about it, but the cake floats, so it had better be level. Matt says that in three years he’s never seen anything like it, and Maggie says it’s a shame to cut it open. The fruit flavours come through very well and are offset nicely by the buttercream. The judges praise the presentation again because it’s so beautiful.
Dave wins Star Baker, which everyone knew would happen after he presented a floating wedding cake, and Maggie and Matt spend a lot of time deliberating who out of Chris and Barb will be sent home. Chris just misses out on the final, and it was a really rough decision. I can only imagine how hard that would have been, and Claire was crying when she made the announcement. Bye, Chris! It was great having you on the show and we’ll miss you next week.
- #wildlifewatch: There was a rabbit today, but it looks like a domestic rabbit rather than a wild one.
- My least favourite Bakers Delight slogan is easily the year they went with “Our buns are hot and cross, but our bakers are warm and happy.”
- The day before Good Friday (Holy or Maundy Thursday in the Church) is known in the industry as “Bun Day.” It was one of my favourite days to work.
- My least favourite part of hot cross bun season was getting chocolate all over my arms bagging hot cross buns.
- When Mel said “Good luck” at the start of the showstopper, I expected the RuPaul “and don’t fuck it up” to follow.