Thursday, July 11, 2013

The American Baking Competition: The End of the Line

Brian winning the competition was a gutsy move, especially considering the way the episodes had been edited. Francine, a fan favorite, never received much acclaim for her desserts throughout the competition, even if her creativity was coveted. Arguably, Darlene "needed" the win the most, and had been steadily impressing the judges bit by bit. Brian came off cocky from the beginning, and his demand to be considered for "Star Baker" was very off-putting, though it may be that he really only excels at certain items, clenching his win. Had the final winner been determined over how the bakers did through all bakes, the outcome might have been different.
My sister and I have been having weekly conversations about the events transpiring on this show, as we both love baking. We dish about the desserts the bakers choose to make, the nitpicks Paul and Marcela point out, the personalities of the contestants, and tried to predict what other items might be coming up. Well, we had decided that doughnuts would be an interesting challenge, so it was nice to see those appear in the finale. I personally struggle with doughnuts, but after hearing the judges' advice, I bet it was a proofing issue. Similarly, I made a strawberries-and-chantilly-cream rolled cake for my last birthday and found it rather difficult to roll, so I was very impressed with Brian and Darlene's versions. Not with peanuts, though... blech! I'm actually intrigued that the show would have a nut in such a featured role, what with so many allergies in this day and age...

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. He won the first technical bake and got Star Baker last week.
Darlene, 51, project manager from Georgia. Recently divorced, recently lost her dad, and won Star Baker two weeks in a row
Francine, 44, homemaker (kids ages 22 and 18) from Pickens, SC. She doesn't have any big week wins, but her flavor combinations have been fascinating and she has the most experience in competitions. [though I doubted her phrasing of HUNDREDS of cooking competitions!]

The American Baking Competition "Finale" (S01E07):
The Signature Bake
: The bakers can make anything that includes peanuts, though it should be sophisticated. Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes. [I don't use nuts at all so I would have had no good ideas for this one!]
Brian makes a Peanut Vanilla Chiffon Roll with a peanut ganache mousse inside and peanut praline on top. [I would have appreciated more coverage of his topping.] Marcela doesn't like that he used a mint leaf for garnish. [me neither. I agree that garnishes should fit with the ingredients in the dish!] The mousse flavor is spectacular, and the overall flavor is great.
Darlene makes a Peanut Cake Roll with a peanut cream filling and a whipped cream topping. [the layer looked a little thick at first, but it didn't rise much when baked.] The appearance is too 70s classic. The taste is great, although it is a little dry and maybe too much peanut. 
Francine makes a Spiced Peanut, Peanut Butter Torte with a cookie shell, peanut butter cream cheese filling, and a truffle topping with candied peanuts. [that's a lot of flavors!] Great presentation, but the texture should have been thicker. [I think it would have worked...] The crust is a little overcooked, and the ganache is too thick. For Marcela, the flavors don't go well together, and for Paul, the peanuts aren't strong enough.
The Technical Bake: Make a dozen Boston Cream Pie Doughnuts in 2 hours, 45 minutes. The trick: the chocolate glaze directions are the missing bit, including how to apply the glaze so that they're glossy. Tips: If the doughnuts don't proof long enough, they won't puff up when fried; a properly proofed doughnut should float above the oil enough that a white ring forms around the center. And, they must cool completely in order to fill properly; use vegetable oil in the glaze for shine.
Brian's are dark and the ganache isn't smooth. He gets third place for being under-proofed. 
Francine's don't have a white ring, but her chocolate is shiny and the custard is nice. [what was with her comeback, "does a fat baby fart?" gross!] She earns second place, again for under-proofing. 
Darlene has never fried anything so she doesn't know when to take out the doughnuts, but she has a nice white ring, and they're good and uniform, even if there is too much cream and ganache. First place!

The Showstopper Bake: Make 72 miniature desserts inspired by America's flag. There must be 24 of three kinds: meringue, pastry (choux, shortcrust, or puff pastry), and cake. Time: five hours. 
Brian does raspberry white chocolate genoise mini-cakes topped with berries, mascarpone & berry tartlets, and mini-meringues topped with white chocolate-dipped popcorn.The tarts need to be sweeter, the popcorn was a bit soft, but the genoise is too thick for the filling.
Darlene does white chocolate mini-meringues with popping candy, almond mini-cakes with strawberry preserves, and peach & grit tartlets. [neat idea to imitate fireworks, but Paul had never had them!] The meringues were salty, the peach was overpowering and the dough was raw inside, the fondant is crystallized but the almond is lovely. [I would have liked to see her applying the fondant to the mini-cakes.]
Francine does coconut mini-cakes with cream cheese frosting and blueberry and raspberry flavoring, peaches & cream choux puffs, and blueberry cream meringues with mixed berries on top. The meringues have the wrong texture and the cream cheese is too heavy, the cream puffs are under-baked, and the mini-cakes are great. [her choux puffs were fine last time, I wonder what changed...]

The Final Results: While the results are being tallied, the bakers join their families and the eliminated contestants for a picnic. [I didn't like the timing of this at all. it just seemed weird for everyone.] Darlene had the lead going in, but each of her final items were flawed. Francine really has an "average" finish. Brian's items really fit the "American flag" theme, even if his other items were second-place. Brian wins, with the showstopper really separating him from the pack. Paul even offers him a job.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand, watching all the shows and reading your break down, Darlene only had one negative comment for the Showstopper. Both Brian and Francine had 3 or more negative comments. Darlene was most consistent, and won 2 of the 3 bakes on the last show. I never saw the judging rules anywhere. Seems more subjective to me. Darlene is still the winner to me and all my friends!