Thursday, June 20, 2013

American Baking Competition: Baking Bread

I sometimes hate the editing in competition shows. It's quite clear at this point that the producers want viewers to dislike Brian, as his confrontation with the judges over how he deserves to be Star Baker was obscene. On the other end, I am SO GLAD that Kolette is gone. From the beginning, she has not seemed like she belonged with the lead competitors, so I'm excited that the level of competition will really become more intense now. That said, I wouldn't have made the cut on these particular challenges, either. I have an excellent clover roll recipe, and because banana bread isn't what they're looking for, I guess I'd go with a potato bread. But it's not a free-form bread, so it probably wouldn't work out, either. The croissants would have been a struggle for me because I've never made them before. I've actually done pretzels a couple of times, but the amount of work involved is so extreme. Fortunately, I do know how to do the twist, so at least I'd have that advantage! And, speaking of pretzels, I used to live in Pennsylvania (and I adored the Keystone State!), so I found it interesting that PA makes 80% of the nation's pretzels and those who live in PA eat 12x more than the rest of the country!

Remaining Contestants:
Brian, 43, advertising executive who works from home, is a gym rat, and was recently injured so he is currently using crutches.
Darlene, 51, project manager from Georgia.
Effie, 40, attorney from Tennessee. Born in Israel to a Palestine father and a Persian mother.
Elaine, retired university administrator with a large family including great grandkids.
, 44, homemaker from Pickens, SC. Has kids ages 22 and 18.
James, 26, photographer from Morristown, IN.
Kolette, 30, home care provider from Norco, CA, who is a diabetic vegetarian. She misses her cats terribly. [seriously?]

The American Baking Competition "Breads" (S01E04): A tough one because Paul's specialty is breads.
The Signature Bake: In three hours, bake a free-form loaf of yeast bread, hand-shaped.
Brian makes a Cheese and Onion Braided loaf that includes caramelized onions and a powdered mix. It's bland and could use raw onion to permeate the dough. [I add raw onions to my onion bread, LoL.]
Darlene makes a Twist-and-Turn Pesto Wheel. It includes cashews instead of pinenuts. [I thought this was a cool take on the assignment.]
Effie makes bread weekly and goes with her Enriched Challah bread for this competition. It normally rises twice as long and bakes longer, but she goes with the flow, resulting in a bread that looks great but isn't baked through.
Elaine makes Old Fashioned Potato Loaf, with a great braid. It's loved, dense, and moist.
Francine grinds up red hots for Red Hot and Pecan Bread. [sounds crazy!] Paul was suspicious, but the flavor was good. However, he says the texture is wrong and it's under-proofed.
James makes bread more than anything else, so he does a Prosciutto, Capicola, Pepperoni Loaf. He preheats a second pan and throws some ice onto it just as the bread goes in to add some steam. [I might try that!] It's foccacia-like with a great texture.
Kolette doesn't bake much bread, but she does dark breads for her brother and goes with a German Pumpernickel for this. Unfortunately, it is a time-consuming project and is under-proofed and under-baked. [and it looked funny.] 

The Technical Bake: Bake eight soft pretzels in the classic looped design in 1 hr, 45 min. The exterior should be crispy, the interior should be chewy, and the color should be strong. How long to plunge the pretzels into the water is left our of the recipe, as well as the proofing time. Thirty seconds in the water is all that's needed! Effie's over-proofs, Elaine's twists aren't right, and James' and Kolette's fall apart because they spent too much time in the water. [ what was with her comment, "I've never boiled anything before" ??] The worst pretzels are James', as he didn't even get them all on display, having burned himself. [and he's actually made pretzels in the past!] Effie's are under-baked, making hers the second-worst. Darlene's were the best (and had the best color), with Francine's close behind. [haha, like Francine, I also learned pretzel-twisting  at an Amish factory during a vacation!] 

The Showstopper Bake: There's no break between the technical and the showstopper this time! The challenge is to make 24 croissants - half plain and half filled. The contestants get two hours immediately, then three more the next day. The doughs are very labor-intensive, and you have to add a lot of butter into the dough so that the final product comes out buttery, golden, and flaky. 
Brian does a filling of ham, cheddar, and chives.
Darlene does a filling of apricots and toasted pecans.  
Effie does Pear Feuilletes with poached bosc pears, which she's never done before. [I guess, like me, she doesn't have a croissant recipe?] She has issues with uniformity, color, and sogginess.
Elaine bakes raspberry-and-white-chocolate-filled croissants, but the flavor doesn't work out right. It could be because she froze her dough, having never made croissants in the past. Another problem is that she ran out of time and only had nine to present. 
knows that croissants are tough, and has a date-nut-honey filling that she has used before. They turn out not flaky enough and too much like bread. 
James makes chocolate-filled croissants. [I think that may be the only type of "filled croissant" that I've had!] His dough is very sticky and he takes a slightly different approach to the shape. [I don't think they turned out differently, though...] The plain ones are just right but the chocolate is too bitter.
Kolette makes almond-filled croissants but uses too much butter (almost double at 1 c. butter to 2 sticks butter). She also has uniformity issues.
The Final Results: Darlene wins, with Brian close behind. Low-ranking bakers this episode were Kolette (constantly in trouble), Effie (did poorly in the technical and the showstopper), and Elaine (didn't finish). The baker sent home is Kolette. 
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