(This post contains spoilers)
It’s completely fair to say that The American Baking Competition has been my favorite show of the summer. In fact, it’s been the best new show that I’ve seen in a long time. I love it. I’m learning about baking technique and being inspired all the time. I even love the kitchen that they film in! I love so many of the signs and cute little accessories that they have decorating the set. We loved the premiere and the other subsequent episodes (Cookies and Cakes) and now we are going to share what we thought of the past two week’s episodes, which focused on breads and desserts.
Last week’s episode showed the contestants attempting various bread challenges. I love baking bread. It’s so calming and it’s also very satisfying when you think of the nourishment that you are creating. For the signature bake the contestants were supposed to make free-form yeast breads. Darlene’s twisted pesto loaf looked delicious and I don’t even like pesto! Francine really took a chance and made a loaf of bread with toasted pecans and Red Hots (yes, the candies) and the judges really liked the flavor. Poor Effie messed up and didn’t bake her challah bread long enough, which was a shame because it looked lovely. For the technical bake they were required to make soft pretzels. I really like soft pretzels, but I had no idea that they were so hard to make. I don’t think the baking of them is that hard necessarily, but the twisting looks very tricky. Darlene did a magnificent job; her pretzels were golden and bursting their burnished crust. Several of the contestants especially Kolette and James really struggled with the pretzels and produced pretzels that were too waterlogged. For the showstopper they were to prepare croissants. While I love croissants, I admit that I’ve been slow to try baking them because of how time consuming they are. However, I think that watching them make the croissant dough has given me the confidence to try- at the least plain croissants. Flavored croissants may have to come later. The contestants were required to make some plain and some filled. James croissants filled with chocolate looked really delicious. Effie had too much water seep from the pears that she filled her croissants with and poor Elaine didn’t even get all of her croissants baked. Darlene rocked in all the challenges during bread week. I’m so glad to see her doing well, because she’s been a favorite of mine from the beginning. She showed ingenuity (cashews instead of pine nuts in pesto and skill (her pretzels and croissants) and I was so pleased that she was star baker. Poor Kolette did so badly at all the challenges. Her pumpernickel was under baked, her pretzels looked deformed and her croissants sopped with the DOUBLE amount of butter that she purposefully used. She seems like such a sweetheart and I wish her the best, but she may not be suited to being a competitive baker. It looks like she loves caring for people and making food so I hope she keeps sharing her talents!
This week the contestants tackled desserts. Wait, I thought that was primarily what they were cooking on this show? I guess they thought “egg-based concoctions” sounded clunky. Custard, soufflé and meringue were all attempted in varying degrees of success. Darlene’s vanilla custard was praised for it’s taste and texture and looked scrumptious! Brian overcooked his Mexican flavored custard and I agreed with Marcella- they looked like frittatas. He thought he would have a winner with her for sure, but not with such bad texture! James made yummy caramel custard, but put whipped cream on while it was hot so it ruined his presentation. The biggest tragedy of the week was Effie’s performance in both custard and soufflé. Her soufflé (lime- which sounds gorgeous and the judges praised the flavor of) were totally liquid. Poor Effie! Then during the technical bake she forgot to put sugar in her soufflé and took it out 25 minutes early to spare the judges waiting for a bitter dish. This turned out to be a mistake, because they at least wanted to see if the soufflé would have risen. I have bookmarked this key bit of information if I’m ever on a reality show: no matter how bad it looks- finish it in every way possible! Most of the bakers did a pretty good job and had soufflés that rose and quivered with chocolate pouf. But, Brian decided he knew better than the recipe and ended up with a no-rise chocolate soufflé that had huge rubbery pieces of egg white throughout. The judges actually voted him for the worst soufflé- his was worse than a severely under baked, un-sweetened soufflé. That’s bad. Effie really rallied in the meringue challenge and made an awesome looking multi-layered dessert with chocolate, vanilla and hazelnut. It looked stunning and Paul and Marcella both praised it! Darlene’s cake tasted good, even if looked gruesome, and her consistency secured her star baker for the 2nd week in a row! James, perhaps flush from his victory made an enormous layered cake that he ultimately ended up butchering. His toppled mess then was only sparingly splashed with sloppy frosting. It was a disaster and I felt so bad for him. He definitely should have left his tall, but complete cake alone! I was very disappointed with the judge’s decision to send home Effie instead of Brian let’s look at the breakdown
Completely uncooked but wonderfully flavored custards
Completely unbaked and unsweetened soufflé (that did have achieve a bit of a rise)
Gorgeous, great tasting multi-layered meringue desert that was highly praised by judges
Over baked too frittata consistency custard
Changed the recipe given by the judges to produce a completely dried out, flat, egg white studded mess that Marcella said tasted” like breakfast eggs”
Small cake that was poorly frosted and hidden with nuts (as noted by Paul Hollywood) that they said lacked any wow factor
How did Effie go home? I still can’t understand. At this point while Darlene and Francine are my favorites, I’m cheering on James and Elaine, too. Anyone but Brian! He’s so arrogant, he’s been unkind to Francine and he frankly isn’t a great baker.
Paul is a great judge, but Marcella’s pauses and tone sometimes get on my nerves. I am not always pleased with Jeff Foxworthy’s jokes if they are blue, but for the most part he is a great host. I was amazed at the care with which he hand-delivered the soufflés to the judges. He may be there to host and be funny, but it was very cool to see him respecting the bakers and their work.
Next week the contestants will face a double elimination, which means that we are rapidly approaching a finale. I’ll miss this show so much when it’s gone! But, I hope when the show does end that we’ll find some other great little gem! It’s lost a little of my favor since it sent home one of my favorite bakers when they should have sent home someone who ruins the show. But, I still enjoy it.
Kari’s Rating- 8
These past two weeks have been the best so far for The American Baking Competition.
The Breads week saw some interesting challenges and results from competitors. I especially liked James’ Prosciutto, Capicola and Pepperoni loaf. It’s a shame he came in last for horrible pretzels, because in the showstopper he got big kudos from Paul Hollywood about how his croissants turned out. Kolette on the other hand, sweet as she is, continued to not measure up. She actually put in double the amount of butter that you’re supposed to for her croissants. Who thought that would be a good idea? Unfortunately, she did deserve her ticket home. She seems very nice and that she devotes her life to others, it’s a shame she wasn’t more proficient. I hope she finds much success and happiness in life. Effie also didn’t do very well this week, which was painful to watch, because she’s been so good in the past. The most interesting part was watching Paul break down people’s bread in the Signature challenge to get to any shred of raw dough. That guy was breaking those loaves down quicker than a marine could put a gun back together!
The next week was desserts. Everything was pretty, but I’m not sure how much I’d actually eat. I love custards, but I’ve never had a soufflé, and I’m not a big fan of meringue. James continued to do well with his caramel espresso custards and coming in first in the technical bake for his first ever soufflé, but he really botched the showstopper. He wasted time disassembling his creation because he thought it was too tall, and because of that, ran out of time and wound up literally throwing hot frosting on about a quarter of his cake. I was really hoping he’d get star baker this week! Brian did really bad at everything this week and still didn’t go home. The judges hated his jalapeno and chorizo custard, he placed dead last with the worst soufflé (it fell and wasn’t mixed properly and just tasted like scrambled eggs because he changed the recipe!), and they didn’t like his meringue either. With all that bad work who got sent home? The shocking answer is Effie. Don’t get me wrong, Effie did bad too this week, but I don’t think she deserved to go home. Her custards were pretty much soup, but the judges said they tasted good. They actually loved her showstopper piece. Where she really lost it was with the technical challenge. At first she forgot to put any sugar into her chocolate soufflé. That wouldn’t have been enough to hurt her too bad, but then she purposely undercooked it just to get the soufflé to be judged. If she had just let it bake its full time the judges at least would have seen she could execute parts of it! I was really worried about her future when she did that. I still don’t think she deserved to go home. It’s simple math. They hated everything Brian did, but liked some of what Effie did. That sounds like they like him better than her to me!
Even with that heartbreak this show is still good enough to keep watching. I just hope Brian goes home next week if he keeps up this level of performance!
(image from cbs.com)