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).
David: It’s either going to work, or fail spectacularly.
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.
Claire: Now that Matt and Maggie have gone to hybridise a pheasant with a lamb…
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.
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.
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!
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
It’s a difficult technical because it’s Maggie Beer’s
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.
Actually, not just Matt and Maggie, there are a bunch of cows and chickens who are rapt about this as well.
Last year The Great Australian Bake Off merely flirted with the idea of leaving things out on “free from” week, better known as the week Robert went home. Now it’s time for vegan week. There was a vegan week on last year’s GBBO, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this series was filmed 18 months ago, either before or concurrently with that season. We don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg.
Anyway, we open the episode with lovely shots of the flowers of the Dame Edith Walker Estate before coming across the Vestus pissedofferum, whose common name is Matt Moran.
We start the episode with the bakers telling us how they feel about vegan week. When Don thinks about vegan food, he thinks of lettuce leaves on a plate. When it comes to his feelings on vegan food and colourful shirts, Don is a lot like Jon from Wales on the last season of GBBO. Wynn is also not a fan of this particular concept. Anston however, is thrilled. We learned in week 1 that he’s vegan and this is the first week he can taste his bakes. I’ll argue that he could’ve made vegan bread, but then we wouldn’t have had those delicious looking pork scrolls. Angela is also vegan, but we didn’t know about it until now. She doesn’t assume that this will give her an advantage, because things can still go wrong. All in all though, this is perhaps the most prepared group of bakers they could’ve found for vegan week.
I’m going to go to Arlette, I’m going to find the person who invented those biscuits, and shove a custard pie in their face.
I loved this opening bit with Claire. One of the great things about Bake Off is that Mel and Claire each take their turns to be silly, and this week it was Claire’s turn. However, you can tell how much time has passed since production and airing by the way this episode references Game of Thrones. This season was filmed before season 8 went to air, and you can tell because they don’t mention how it ended.
Anyway, it’s biscuit week! I’ve mentioned previously that I find biscuit week a bit boring. Not because I don’t like to eat them (although I’d prefer a cookie), but because they’re not the most visually interesting bakes. I will concede that they make an excellent construction material. Also Mel seems determined to improve every sport by replacing the balls with baked goods. I approve.
Wynn: I think the only thing more deflated than me is my bread.
Maggie: You live or die by the dough.
Both those quotes were wonderful, I couldn’t choose between them. Welcome to bread week, aka my favourite week of Bake Off. Having yeast adds an extra dimension to the bakes, which means there’s even more that can go wrong. Over proving, under proving, over working the dough along with all the usual risks of baking a cake. Sometimes the bread is too yeasty, like that one episode of Great Canadian Baking Show. Going into this episode, Sue said that bread was her forte, so we immediately need to put her on going home watch. It doesn’t matter how much the producers prod you, NEVER say that this is your week! It’s practically a guarantee that you’ll be going home. Meanwhile, in #wildlifewatch, there’s a turtle! Maybe it’s there to see Annette.
Also Mel invents a new form of golf:
Scrolls! Yes, this is exactly my kind of challenge (although I’m still hoping for a cheesymite scroll technical challenge in the future). Cinnamon scrolls and the aforementioned cheesymite scrolls are among my favourite foods. I wish I had been in the tent to try some of these. The rules: they can be sweet or savoury, but there must be 12, and they must be identical.
Annette made Adult cinnamon scrolls. That’s not a euphemism, that just means there’s a bit of alcohol in them. More importantly, we learn that Annette is an ex karate champion! I need to know more about this previous life of yours, Annette! At least karate keeps her in shape for kneading dough (which gets tiring after a while). Oh, you wanted to know about the scrolls? Annette’s cinnamon rolls have a spiced dough and are filled with rum-soaked raisins and walnuts, with a rum caramel drizzle on top. Wynn smells Angela’s drizzle and reels back at the sheer alcohol content. Matt says that it’s okay that they’re batch baked, but they’re not the same size. Matt feels like there’s too much spice. Maggie says there’s too much rum, but Annette has done well with the dough.
Dennis makes Chelsea bun scrolls filled with dates and cranberries and topped with lemon icing and orange zest. Maggie tells Dennis that it’s important for him to do well after last week. Dennis replies that he’s more comfortable in the shed and more comfortable with bread than cakes. There’s not much of a scroll in them, and they’re a little bit blond, which means it’s slightly undercooked. The texture is more like a scone than a bread.
When Laura tells the judges that her scrolls are rum, raisin and pecan flavoured, Matt asks Laura if she knew pecans were Maggie’s favourite nut. Actually, pecans are one of the few things Maggie Beer doesn’t like along with chilli. Laura says she also doesn’t like pecans, but they work in this context. Laura’s scrolls are topped with a rum glaze, chocolate drizzle and chopped pecans. Matt says the dough is unusual in that it’s not light and fluffy, but he likes it. Maggie says that she doesn’t mind the pecans because they’re in disguise.
David makes some of the most intriguing savoury scrolls, with beetroot flavoured dough. I’m not a fan of beetroot, but I might be okay with it in bread form. They’re filled with caramelised onion and feta and garnished with beetroot microgreens. Maggie loves how identical they are. The beetroot and caremelised onion balance well with the cheese. Matt said he would have liked if they were baked a bit longer so that they become a little bitter.
Don made a French inspired scroll after he and his partner Bob went to Paris and took a cooking class together. There were chopped figs (a Maggie favourite) in the dough, with chestnut and white chocolate filling. The topping is a caramel, vanilla bean and cream drizzle. Matt comments that it’s one big scroll. Maggie says that it’s very sweet but the dough is good. Matt says it’s light and fluffy and gives him full marks.
Dan made Italian scrolls with caremelised onion and gorgonzola. They were topped with walnuts, burnt butter and sage and topped with rosemary sprigs. Dan’s scrolls aren’t all the same size and some of them weren’t cooked enough. Maggie said the cheese carried it beautifully, but the onions weren’t cooked enough.
Wynn made his family’s favourite cinnamon and apple scrolls. They have a cream cheese frosting with lemon zest and are decorated with chopped walnuts. Wynn’s daughter also wrote him a letter and drew a picture of him presenting his food to Matt and Maggie. Maggie and Matt praise Wynn for using Granny Smiths and loves the acidity of the apples with the sweetness of the icing.
Before we know exactly what Angela is making, we have the following hints: she talks about cream cheese, then her cinnamon and brown sugar mixture which goes over the dough. Yes, Angela is making my favourite cinnamon scrolls! She told the judges she makes them for Christmas breakfast and like Mel, I am very jealous. Matt says the dough is fantastic and Maggie says the cinnamon flavour is terrifc.
Sunny enjoys pottery, which I guess means that when she’s finished with Bake Off and/or her PhD, she can audition for The Great Pottery Throwdown. She makes za’atar scrolls filled with spices, feta and mozzarella cheese. The topping is a labne yoghurt drizzle and mint. Matt loves the presentation of the scrolls. Maggie loves the dough as it’s well developed and the za’atar is fresh. Matt says he loves them.
Sue tells us that she enjoys making bread with her grandchildren. Sometimes they forget the salt and sometimes they forget the sugar. I’d like to remind Sue not to forget anything this week or she’ll get sent home, especially since she said that bread was her forte. Sue’s Lebanese scrolls are filled with tomato, onion, paprika and chili, with shankleesh cheese that she made herself. The first thing Matt says is that the flavours are amazing. Doughy on the bottom and crunchy on the top. Maggie says the cheese has made a difference.
When the judges approach Anston, he’s cooking the pork for his International pork, rhubarb and caramelised onion scrolls. Anston’s pork rolls are an homage to an Asian pork bun, so he’s used a sugary dough for the scroll. Matt’s worried that two hours won’t be enough time for Anston to cook the pork in time, but Anston is confident that he’ll be fine with his pressure cooker. Maggie says the sweetness ofrhubarb and dough against the richness of the pork is fantastic. Matt says that he likes the dough, which is fluffy and soft.
At the end of the challenge, Sunny goes over to Sue to admire her scrolls and Sue just puts cheese into Sunny’s mouth. It’s such a wonderful moment.
Technical: Rye and Beetroot Bread
The bakers have three hours to make Maggie Beer’s rye and beetroot loaf. Before she leaves, Maggie gives the bakers some tips: knead well and give it a good tap.
Over in the potting shed, Maggie tells Matt some important things she’s left out for the bakers: the prove is important as always, but this time the second prove is longer than the first, which is unusual for bread. Rye flour is also difficult to work with because it takes longer to develop the gluten, which is why they need to knead it more.
Back at the regular shed, the bakers are trying to interpret Maggie’s recipe. Dennis realises he forgot to add the plain flour to his mixture, which is why it’s extra sticky, while Wynn knows that something isn’t right. This week we learn that Wynn’s mother owned a bakery while he was growing up. The technical is always interesting because some things are left off the recipe (they should do this for MasterChef pressure tests), like how long the bread needs to both bake and prove for. Most of the bakers do a longer first prove, then their bread cracks in the oven. The few people that get it right do a longer second prove. David proves his bread for as long as possible before putting it in the oven until the last few seconds of the challenge.
When the technical challenge involves a lot of waiting, we get some of the bakers’ best moments. Dennis is the highlight of the challenge, first casting a spell to make his bread better, then holding the thermometre for Sunny as her bread cools down.
You asked for GIFs?
From last to first, we have: Wynn, Dennis, Sunny, Sue, Laura, Annette, Don, Dan, Angela, Anston and David
Showstopper: Soft Pretzels
Before we move onto the showstopper, Mel and Claire catch up with Matt and Maggie to see how the bakers are progressing for the week. Dave, Anston and Don are all doing well, while Dennis and Annette are in trouble. Claire asks if Wynn is the seesaw of the season after he did well in the signature but had issues in the technical.
The showstopper challenge this week is to make 24 soft pretzels – 12 sweet and 12 savoury. I love a soft pretzel, which is another example of why bread week is always great. Also pretzels are twice cooked. They’re boiled before they’re baked, which is how they get that shiny crust (this is also how bagels are made). There are lots of pretzels down at the Barrossa where Maggie lives.
Sue’s sweet pretzels are filled with date, cardamom and aniseed, while her savoury pretzels are covered in sesame seeds and flavoured with molasses. Sue is measuring out the date filling for her pretzels ahead of time. Maggie says they’re abundant, and Matt says like a typical Lebanese platter. The sesame on the savoury pretzels comes through, and Matt says it’s the lightest dough they’ve tried so far. Matt says the flavours in the sweet pretzel go well together, but the aniseed dominates. Then he acknowledges that Maggie probably loves it, and she does, because they’re not too sweet.
When the judges walk up to Annette, she’s chopping chilli. Another one of Maggie’s least favourite ingredients! Maggie asks how many she’s going to use. Her savoury chili and cheese pretzels are dipped in dark chocolate. Her sweet pretzels have a cinnamon and ginger dough, topped with white chocolate, licorice and pistachio. Matt says that’s a lot of flavours and Annette says they’ll be subtle. Maggie says they have a great shape. There’s a lot of chilli in the savoury pretzels and it’s a lot for Maggie. Even Matt comments that they’re really hot. Maggie loves the ginger in the sweet pretzels, but comments that it’s confused because there are too many flavours.
Dan is making cannoli inspired sweet pretzels. They’re filled with ricotta and pistachio paste and drizzled with chocolate. His savoury pretzels are flavoured with squid ink and fig and topped with prosciutto crumb. It’s quite strange watching him knead that black dough. Maggie loves the extravagance of the squid ink. The pretzels are soft, but very rich. The sweet pretzels are full of textures that Maggie loves.
Wynn mentions that he talked to his wife overnight and she reminded him why he was there. He’s drawing on his South African heritage for his savoury pretzels with biltong, which are served with beer. His sweet pretzels are a triple chocolate braid topped with flaked almonds. Matt comments that the biltong pretzels are a bit flat, but “he’s seen flatter” – cut to Anston. They smell meaty straight away, and Maggie likes the flavour of the pretzel, Matt says it has good flavour. The flavour is good in the sweet pretzels, but there’s no chewiness.
When the judges walk up to David‘s bench, Matt tellshim it’s his week. Way to jinx him, Matt! Has he ever seen a competitive reality cooking show? David’s sweet pretzels are filled with banana and drizzled with caramel. His savoury pretzels are filled with roasted garlic and parmesan. I would like one savoury, please. When David presents his pretzels, Maggie says that they look like a German bakery. Matt and Maggie love the savoury pretzels and Matt says he could keep eating them. The combination of garlic, cheese and the chewiness of the pretzel work really well together. Matt likes the banana in the sweet pretzel and is happy that the caramel on top is salted. Maggie loves the mouth feel.
Angela is once again making something that I desperately want to eat. Her savoury pretzels are topped with parmesan, rosemary and garlic powder. Her sweet pretzels are topped with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with dark chocolate. Matt says “that is chewiness at its best.” Maggie says that the garlic powder overpowers the other flavours in there. Matt says that the chocolate and cinnamon is great.
Don‘s savoury pretzel is a traditional German dough, which is quite heavy, sprinkled with sea salt. His sweet pretzels are filled with raspberry cream and topped with freeze dried raspberry powder. Claire asks if the raspberry will ooze, and Don says maybe not. Claire likes the ooze, so Don offers to make her one with double the filling. Maggie says, “Me too!” Matt says that Don’s savoury pretzels look like the perfect pretzel. When he tastes it, he says that it’s a real pretzel. The flavour and texture are spot on. The sweet pretzel isn’t as chewy, but that doesn’t matter. Maggie loves all the raspberry. Matt says they’re the best he’s tried so far.
Sunny is doing garlic naan flavours for her savoury pretzels, including nigella seeds. Her sweet pretzels are orange and cardamom with an orange glaze. Maggie comments that they’re golden and identical and Matt says she nailed the brief. Matt loves the garlic hit and the salt. Maggie loves the nigella seed. Matt likes the glaze on the sweet ones, and Maggie enjoys the flavour combination of orange and cardamom. Matt says it’s not overpowering and Maggie says it’s fantastically balanced.
Laura is making savoury pretzels with pistachio pesto, mozzarella and ricotta. Her sweet pretzels are orange and almond, topped with frangipane. Laura’s savoury pretzels are sticky in the middle, which means they’re underbaked. The pesto was so thick that it stopped the rest of it cooking. Maggie says the sweet pretzels are more like a brioche.
Dennis is a sweetheart, so of course his sweet pretzels are heart shaped. The dough is orange and poppyseed flavoured with an orange glaze. His savoury pretzels are topped with mozzarella and bacon. Maggie says the savoury pretzels are moreish, but they don’t look like pretzels because of the cheese and bacon. Matt loves that the cheese has given it an extra chewiness. Matt likes that the poppyseeds are all the way through the sweet pretzels, and Maggie comments on the flavour combination and the glaze makes a difference.
Anston is using the same dough for his sweet and savoury pretzels. The sweet ones have a marshmallow fluff filling and dark chocolate and meringue on top. The savoury pretzels are filled with brie and camembert and have a burnt butter and rosemary sauce on top. Does anyone have a Liz Lemon GIF handy, because I want to go to there. At the end of the challenge, Anston commiserates that they look like flatbreads. Maggie says the colour is good, but Matt comments that they’re a bit flat. Matt then says “they’re still bloody good to eat.” Matt says the flavours are good, and compares Anston’s pretzels to a great bicycle with flat tyres.
At the end of the challenge, we can see the bakers who have finished helping those who haven’t. Bake Off is back in its purest and best form.
Unsurprisingly, this week’s Star Baker is David, after three great bakes. Unfortunately Annette is going home. Farewell Annette, we hardly knew ye. I hope that someone somewhere appreciates how much alcohol you put in everything. Also that they make a movie about your Scottish karate champion Adelaide farmer baker life. I’d watch it.
Annette: I’m secretly trying to get them drunk.
Mel and Claire: You’re a clever girl, Annette.
It’s finally back! The Great Australian Bake Off has been off our screens for so long that Matt Moran, owner of Aria at Circular Quay is now moonlighting as a gardener. As is tradition, it’s cake week (we’ll pretend that British Bake Off didn’t start with biscuits last year)! On with the show!