Thursday, July 4, 2013

American Baking Competition: The Semi-Finals

Had it been anyone but James, I don't think Brian would've helped a fellow baker. But, because he's out to prove that men can bake as well as women, he boasted "bromance" and took quite a bit of time to show James how to make cream puffs. It makes me wonder if I would have needed as much assistance... I mean, I've never made cream puffs, but I also have never thoughts about them being challenging... and certainly not as difficult as custards and souffles! It does make me a little sad, however, that I have no experience with French pastries, as I cannot say how I'd do in any of the challenges this episode. I don't believe that I had ever even heard of a "tarte tatin" before! That one didn't excite me too much, and neither did the napoleons, so be honest. And then I begin to wonder what sort of items will be featured in the finale... either the series will continue down the more obscure path with difficult items or it will go obvious to encourage viewers to attempt baking them at home. (some of the recipes are available on CBS, by the way!) Which do you think is more likely?

Remaining Contestants:
Brian, 43, advertising executive who works from home. He's a gym rat and was recently injured so he is currently using crutches.
Darlene, 51, project manager from Georgia.
Elaine, retired university administrator with a large family including great grandkids.
, 44, homemaker from Pickens, SC. Has kids ages 22 and 18. [they made her out to seem very ADD with that squirrel comment!]
James, 26, photographer from Morristown, IN.

The American Baking Competition "Patisserie" (S01E06): It's time for the semi-finals, and it's French pastry week!

The Signature Bake
: The bakers have 2 hours and 15 minutes to do a Tarte Tatin, which is like an upside-down pie, with the fruits (or vegetables) carmelized on the bottom before it was baked. [interesting!] It needs to be shiny and the fruits need to be placed well. [really? we watched ALL of the contestants flip them over??]
Brian goes the savory route with a French Onion Tarte Tatin with gruyere, and he knows it's a bit of a gamble. [he's really into onions, huh?] He uses sherry vinegar in his. [I didn't know that existed.] It looks great and has a nice taste.
Darlene adds oatmeal to her crust for her Apple, Pear, Cranberry Tarte Tatin. The color is good and the taste is nice, but the crust could have used more butter.
Elaine makes Barlett Pear Tarte Tatin with cinnamon and cognac, but forgot to flip her pears before she put the crust on. In trying to go under the crust to fix them, she ruins her crust and the end result is too raw. [awww.] 
Francine makes Peach Tarte Tatin, that also features berries. She worries that it'll be too much like a cobbler, but bakes hers for half an hour. She has way too much blueberry juice coming out, so it makes the pastry soggy. [and kinda gross.]
James makes an Asian Pear Tarte Tatin with crushed almonds and rum. It's gorgeous and symmetrical, but there's too much rum and the crust is salty. [salty? that's weird!]
The Technical Bake: Bake 4 perfect Napoleons, using Paul's recipe, in 2.5 hours. Time management is key here, otherwise the heat of the pastries will force the cream and ganache to melt. 
Brian has never made them before but is confident about his. They're great, light, and flaky. He also is the only one to finish with time to spare. [how?? I wish they would have looked more at this!]
Francine makes a great tasting Napoleon, even if it's ugly and not flaky.
Elaine has never made them before, and hers turn out melty and uneven, with thick icing. 
Darlene has trouble getting her pastries to puff up, so it's very soft. She does have a nice decoration and her cream is good.
James plans to bake the squares of puff pastry first and cut them into rectangles later, to help plan against uneven sizes. But, he runs out of time and the dough is still raw. 
The worst is James's, followed by Elaine's. Brian's was the best, then Francine's.

The Showstopper Bake: Make a Choux Tower, containing 80 show pastries, filled with baker's choice filling. [I would not have guessed you could spell a word that sounds like "shoe" c-h-o-u-x, LoL.] They're tons of cream puffs, basically, that need to be baked and browned, then held together with caramel. 
Brian doesn't use a mixer and fills them with Chocolate Mousse. He uses semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate to cover the outside of the tower, resulting in nice flavors.
Darlene does an Orange and Grand Marnier Cream Choux Tower. She tries to spin the sugar around the tower, but it doesn't work out. Her presentation is nice and the flavor is good, but a heavier crust would have been better. 
Elaine does Chocolate Espresso Cream, and because hers are small, her pyramid is short. Plus, the puffs are a little raw inside.
Francine did a Choux Tower for her wedding, so she's familiar with these. [I don't believe I've ever seen one...] She's making Vanilla Cream Choux Tower with caramel ribbons. She has 171 small puffs, which is not enough to cover her cone. [dang! that's SO MANY!]   
James has a runny batter, leading to flat pancake-like cream puffs. So, Brian helps him make a new batch, even piping a few for him. [showing him the batter technique is one thing, but demonstrating the piping??] His tower isn't bound together, as he ran out of time to use caramel. Plus, his mousse is terrible AND there isn't enough in the puffs. [lost all around there!]

The Final Results: Darlene and Brian are near the top going in, and Brian wins, making him very happy. The bakers sent home are James and Elaine. [double whammy! I thought it was weird though that James's parting comments addressed how he'll now be able to win dates with more recipes than just apple pie...]
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