Monday, June 10, 2013

NEW SHOW: The American Baking Competition

Longtime readers know that I enjoy baking competition shows because I'm an amateur baker myself (who has sold one cake, LoL). Because the bakers on this show claim to be hobby bakers and not professionals, I was particularly interested in seeing what they can do. Combine that with a tagline like "Who Will Rise and Who Will Crumble," and I'm hooked. Two episodes in, I think that the competition rounds are interesting, even if I'm not rooting for anyone in particular just yet. Speaking of which, here's a little run-down on the contestants:

Brian, 43, advertising executive who was recently injured and is currently using crutches.
, 35, social marketing consultant from Connecticut who dreams of owning a bakery.
Darlene, 51, project manager from Georgia.
Effie, 40, attorney from Tennessee. Makes Apple Quince Rose Pie.
Elaine, retired university administrator with great grandkids.
, 44, homemaker from Pickens, SC.
James, 26, photographer from Morristown, IN.
Jeremy, 35, firefighter from San Diego who lost 60 pounds in the last few years.
Kolette, home care provider. [no age or location?] She's a diabetic vegetarian.
, 22, student at Texas Tech.
Heather Wines / CBS
Each round will feature three different bakes - a signature recipe competitors have mastered, a technical bake where everyone gets the same recipe but there are missing instructions, and a showstopper round where the goal is to "wow" the judges: Marcela Valladolid and Paul Hollywood. Every week, there will be one "star baker" and one baker sent home from Atlanta. In the end, the prize will be a publishing cookbook for their recipes and $250,000.

The American Baking Competition
"Pies & Tarts" (S01E01): First, the important things about making pies: be sure to crumb the flour with the butter for a dough, then refrigerate so it's easier to roll out; to avoid a soggy bottom, bake the base of the pie separately 10-20 min with parchment paper and baking beads; there's a fine line between working the dough enough and making it too gummy. 

The Signature Bake: Your personal spin on the American Pie in 2 hours. The bakers struggle to finish the pies, especially the cooling process for those with toppings. [for what it's worth, I would have made my Rainier Cherry Pie for this.]

Brian makes Maple Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie, which had a good texture but too much liquor. [I thought it was beautiful.] 
Carlo makes an Italian Easter Pie with Ricotta. The judges find the look too "busy," the bottom too soggy, and the texture undesirable.
Darlene makes Sweet Potato Pie which the judges think is great in looks and taste.
Effie makes Apple Quince Rose Pie, which looks professional and has a great ingredient combination.
Elaine makes Peach Cobbler Pie, which wasn't baked properly and is too liquidy yet burned on top.
Francine makes Chocolate Peanut Butter Bacon Pie, which turns out lovely in appearance and tastes great, too. [not my kinda thing, but it was pretty.]
James makes Mile High Apple Pie with a great crust and simple filling.
Jeremy makes Sweet Potato Pie that's too simple and without decoration. The judges also feel there's too much nutmeg.
Kolette makes Chocolate Hazel pie, which is very rich but the flavors are good.
Whitney makes lemon pie with meringue, which is not the most tried-and-true recipe for her. The bottom is soggy and the lemon flavor didn't come through enough.

The Technical Bake
: Create a meat pie with a free-standing-hot-water-crust in 2 hours. The judges know that the crust is particularly difficult without the proper directions, as the dough must be rolled out and put in the pan before it starts to cool. Plus, getting the pies out of the mini-springform pans is difficult. The bakers have problems ranging from smoke from not putting a pan in the oven, thick dough, soggy bottoms, and uneven cooking because the vegetables aren't uniformly chopped. Carlo's is the worst and James's is the best, with Elaine coming in a close second. [I think I would have failed in this category, as I've never really done a savory pie.]

The Showstopper Bake: (held on a different day than the first two rounds) Make 36 sweet tartlets (basically miniature pies) in 3 hours. Going into this round, Carlo, Jeremy, and Whitney are in danger. [I don't have a great tartlet, but I think I would have gone with miniature versions of my triple chocolate mousse pie.]

Brian's Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets have tough crusts.
Carlo's Calabrese Pite Tartlets (fig, cocoa, marsala, coffee, spices, orange rind) look dark and the flavor combinations don't work.
Darlene's Blooming Apple Tarlets don't look uniform, but the flavor is nice.
Effie's Orange, Almond, Vanilla, & Ricotta Tartlets are great.
Elaine's Meyer Lemon with Crystallized Ginger Tarlets are fantastic.
Francine's Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Tartlets are great.
James' Ricotta and Greek Yogurt Honey Tartlets don't have the shine you get from apricot jam.
Jeremy's Blueberry, Kiwi, Mango tartlets have custard in them, which is easy to burn. This causes him to have to start over, and then he runs out of time. The fruit is unevenly cut, the pastry is nice, but time management killed him.
Kolette's Goat Cheese and Cherry Tartlets lack good flavor.
Whitney's Rum Coconut Tartlets with Custard and Orange Zest have an overworked pastry but a good filling.

The Final Results: Francine and Elaine are early favorites, with Jeremy, Carlo, and Whitney at the other end of the spectrum. Francine wins Star Baker, and Carlo is sent home, shocking Jeremy, whose time management problem isn't as big as Carlo's skill problem. [experienced reality viewers may have been able to guess this, based on the amount of information we got from each competitor.]

The American Baking Competition "Cookies" (S01E02): Only a few tips... ground almond works to dry things a little. Perfect graham cracker dough is really dry, and many people add more milk, which makes it too sticky. [Also, general note, I wasn't a huge fan of Kolette's "homesick" stuff.]

The Signature Bake: In 90 minutes, 12 cookies must be baked, and every single one presented to the judges. [that's a touch rule! with that in mind, I would have gone with my S'mores Cookies, as they turn out more uniformly pretty than my other best cookies.]

thinks he has a great chance at winning this one with his Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies, but they are underbaked. He actually hides a batch of six and makes six more, hoping they turn out better. He knows it's cheating, he's caught, and he's told not to do it again. [I'm surprised that the punishment wasn't greater!]
Darlene makes Red Rose Crumbles, which are too crumbly. [I feel like they were supposed to be in this case, though....]
Effie makes Rosemary Cherry Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies, a dessert made without eggs. They turn out beautiful.
Elaine makes Ginger Cookies, which are lovely.  
Francine makes Slap-Ya-Mama Chocolate Fudge Cookies, which contain chipotle. It's a complex cookie, which the judges like. [I like how her recipes are unique.]
James makes Brutti ma Buoni with Hazelnut Ganache, which are good. [I won't even pretend to know much about this cookie!]
Jeremy makes Fat Pills, which are loved. [I wasn't quite clear on why they're called that.]
makes White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies. The look isn't consistent but they taste good. [I've made that cookie a couple of times, and I'll second that it IS a challenge to chop the nuts uniformly.]
makes Lemon Poppyseed Cookies, but she added more juice to add more flavor and the cookies spread. [another lemon choice? is that her thing?] The cookies are almost too cakey. [I like that but not everyone does.]

The Technical Bake: The competitors have 2 hours, 15 minutes to replicate "Sophisticated S'mores," a recipe which is temperamental and has a tough marshmallow technique. [getting the history of graham crackers was interesting.] Brian scratches off some burned bits, and also has floppy marshmallows. [I liked learning more about what defines the "soft ball" stage.] Francine's are crispy but the marshmallow is correct. Brian's are too sweet. Kolette's don't look the best and are messy, but they're good. Jeremy's don't look ideal. Darlene's are overbaked. Effie's look good and the ratio is good. Whitney's don't have enough marshmallow and the cracker is underbaked. James's are the worst because you can see the graham cracker. Francine's come in second, with Effie's winning for smooth tops, great graham, and best ratio.

The Showstopper Bake: Make 20 each of two different sandwiched macarons in four hours. [yikes. tough cookie!] Piping the cookies is tough, with some bakers tracing a cutter to make the cookies even, but others eye-balling it. [personally, I've never attempted macarons. the closest I've come is probably Pumpkin Cream Cheese Whoopie Pies, which aren't really comparable, LoL.]

Brian makes Coffee & Cream and Mint & Chocolate Macarons. The cookies aren't dried out enough. [the flavors sounded good, though!]
Darlene makes Black Sesame and Chocolate Cinnamon Macarons, which are bland. [I think that cinnamon-chocolate is a tough combo.]
Effie makes Saffron Rose & Curry Coconut Lime Macarons. The curry flops, and the other ain't great, either. 
Elaine makes Coconut Ganache & Lemon Buttercream Macarons. They turn out great, and the presentation is also appreciated.
Francine makes Drunken Orange & Raspberry Pistachio Macarons. They look underbaked and taste very moist, with the filling being too strong.
James makes Clementine and Early Grey Macarons. [didn't like the tower presentation.] The tea is too "perfume-y" for Marcela but Paul likes them.
Jeremy makes Strawberry & Peanut Butter Macarons, which are great.
Kolette makes Candied Ginger and Meyer Lemon Macarons. Her cookies aren't uniform and they also crack. [she was SO upset. Perhaps she's not ready for this type of competition...]
makes Mocha and Chai Macarons. They're rough and could taste better.

Final Results: Elaine and Jeremy are in the lead, with Elaine winning Star Baker. Brian, Whitney, and Kolette are in the bottom, with Whitney going home.
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