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This year, the tent welcomes a baker’s dozen to the battle to be named the U.K.’s best amateur baker. Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins coax them through their Signature, Technical and Showstopper challenges, under the scrutiny of judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. With 13 bakers — from space engineer to student, teacher to dentist, psychologist to carpenter — Mary and Paul may decide at any time to banish not one but two bakers. After 10 weeks of whisking, crimping and piping, only one can emerge victorious.
Meet the 13 bakers who make simple sandwich cakes in the Signature challenge, angel food cakes in Mary’s Technical challenge and all things chocolate in the Showstopper.
Watch the 12 remaining contestants bake 36 perfectly thin and crispy bread sticks and technically tricky English muffins. The Showstopper features outrageous loaves of bread … from a Christmas wreath to a proud peacock and a psychic octopus.
Follow the remaining 11 bakers as they deal with desserts: a trifle of biscuit, cake, jelly or custard in distinct layers; perfect Floating Islands; and a Showstopper of 24 petits fours. For the first time, there’s a baking burglary in the tent!
Pies and Tarts
Watch the remaining bakers undertake double-crusted fruit pies, a challenge to even the most experienced bakers; English custard tart — a centuries-old recipe that causes a wobble for the contestants; and phyllo pie, with dough made from scratch.
Biscuits and Traybakes
The remaining eight bakers are faced with biscuits and traybakes. The Signature challenge requires that they produce their favorite traybake, offering Mary and Paul their twists on everything from bakewells to banoffees and brownies. Next, they face the thinnest Technical challenge ever devised for the show: French classic tuiles, fragile rolls decorated with delicate designs of piped chocolate. Finally, a Showstopper of epic proportions: biscuit towers. Mel and Sue follow the trail of biscuit crumbs as the bakers produce architectural feats inspired by everything from ancient Japanese civilization to one of time travel’s most feared enemies.
It’s week six and time for sweet dough — but will it prove bittersweet for the bakers? They start off with a Signature tea loaf. Since most of the bakers choose to make something connected to home, Mary and Paul are presented with everything from locally sourced loaves from Yorkshire and Oxford to Devonshire-inspired panettone and Welsh bara brith. The bakers face Paul’s most twisted Technical challenge yet and a Showstopper that draws on all of Europe for inspiration: 36 sweet European buns, from Swedish cinnamon buns to German schnecken and French brioches.
With only six bakers left in the tent, the stakes are getting higher. Tackling pastry, the bakers bring old- fashioned suet pudding up to date with their Signature creations, from “Spotted Dick with a kick” to fig roly-poly. The Technical challenge proves hellish with Mary’s command to make eight perfect religieuses — delicate choux buns filled with crème patissiere topped with ganache, balanced delicately atop one another. Finally, the Showstopper requires three different kinds of puffed pastries: one filled, another iced and the third the baker’s choice.
There are just five bakers left. This week’s challenges test them on working with unconventional flours and unusual desserts. For the Signature challenge, they must make a loaf using flours such as spelt, rye, potato or tapioca flours. The Technical challenge is dacquoise, made with three layers of fragile coiled meringue sandwiched with coffee custard and topped with hazelnut praline, a gluten-free dessert. For the Showstopper challenge, the bakers have to venture out of their comfort zone to create novelty vegetable cakes, dairy-free.
Three French bakes stand between the four semi-finalists and a place in the final. The Signature challenge raises the stakes, tasking the bakers to make three different types of savory canapés in just two-and-a-half hours. One must be choux and one another type of pastry such as shortcrust; the third is baker’s choice. The Technical challenge is the complex charlotte royale, which combines a perfect Swiss roll surrounding a delicate bavarois, set with gelatin to hold a firm dome. The final is a truly iconic French patisserie: the opera cake.
For the finale, Mary and Paul test how far the bakers have grown in skill and creativity. The Signature challenge is a technically difficult picnic pie, packed with fillings that form a creative design, surrounded by shortcrust pastry with perfectly baked sides. The Technical is 12 perfectly shaped pretzels: six savory with rock salt and six sweet with poppy seeds topped with orange zest and glaze. The year’s final Showstopper is the ultimate showpiece in a baker’s repertoire: a three-tiered wedding cake.