It’s week two in the tent and Noel and Sandi are building Jenga towers to kick off our theme: biscuits! For my fellow Yankee Americans, we’re not talking about the flakey buttery Southern breakfast staple, but rather everyone’s favorite afternoon coffee companion: cookies. Our bakers don’t seem super enthusiastic about the idea of biscuits, which leads me to think that maybe cookies are more of an American thing? Thankfully we learn right at the top that Phil’s wife is a “biscuit freak” who bosses him around, so she sounds really cool and I’d very much like to meet her.
Signature Challenge: 12 Decorated Chocolate Biscuit Bars
Must contain at least one baked biscuit element, be coated in chocolate, and beautifully decorated.
Pretty much everyone is baking a bar that consists of either a single biscuit base or double biscuit sandwich with a soft filling enrobed in various types of chocolate. Last week’s star baker Michelle goes for the tent classic Bakewell style but subs in raspberry for cherry. Prue eats two bites. Exceptional.
Henry wears a tie, which is charming, but then suggests that it makes him look like a prepubescent American schoolboy, which makes me think he’s likely never actually seen an American elementary school. For his biscuit bar he is stacking layers of chocolate, hazelnut, and popping candy all inside of a dark chocolate shell. Perhaps it was a few too many layers or perhaps the tightness of the four-in-hand is constricting his airways, but he winds up rushing to the finish and presenting a slightly underset filling. The judges are nevertheless impressed.
Steph employs semolina to make an extra crumbly coffee shortbread that she tops with caramel. The biscuit comes out a bit too crumbly for Paul, and with too strong a coffee flavor for Prue.
Michael has two bandaids on his fingers already. I’m concerned. Is he still recovering from the events of last week? Did he suffer new injuries while practicing at home? Has he already had a mishap on set this week that the producers have generously edited out? I’m holding my breath while we watch him prepare his Stratford Gin inspired lemon and rosemary marshmallow shortbread. They come out a bit chunky but the judges deem it a perfect blend of flavors.
Rosie also takes inspiration from her favorite cocktail and makes Mojito Biscuit Bars. Very distractingly, she tells Noel that she removed a worm from a horse’s eye this week. Hard pass. I’m no longer hungry. Luckily the judges don’t have to hear that story and she receives high marks for a beautiful biscuit bar with perfectly balanced flavors.
Jamie remains extremely jovial after a tough first week and still punctuates every single sentence with a hearty belly laugh. Good for him. He makes sour cherry caramel shortbread biscuit bars but the caramel goes in too hot and melts the chocolate. The results are a mess. He still laughs.
True-to-form, Goth Helena makes green matcha-flavored Wiccan Witch Fingers because of course she does. Unfortunately, Paul isn’t so much a fan of matcha and thinks they taste stale. Prue thinks they’re very original but then I guess maybe Prue hasn’t spent loads of time on Pinterest in October.
We learn that Alice used to live in New Zealand and she is going full Kiwi on us this week. She’s making marshmallow and salted peanut caramel on a honeycomb (that’s “hokeypokey” down under) flavored biscuit. They’re perfect and the judges adore them.
David is making a biscuit sandwiched around pistachio nougat with bitter dark chocolate and explains “It’s just nice to have toasted nuts.” Sure, David, I suppose that might be true. In the judging, David feels the need to tell the judges that the nougat “sloughed” out, like when you have a “sloughy” wound. Dan, please. You can’t just say everything that comes into your head. Please consider reading the room.
Amelia seems cool and I’d like to hang out with her and play foosball. She also makes nougat biscuits with pistachio but while her nougat is delicious, the biscuit is underdone.
Phil, an IRL Hagrid who carries cakes on the back of his motorbike, makes Orange, Cranberry, and White Chocolate Fudge bars. Prue declares that it is “certainly a sugar rush” but unfortunately they’re not quite pretty enough. At least he didn’t sit on it.
Priya introduces the judges to tangy ruby chocolate with her Ruby Barfi Cardamom Biscuit Bars but uses far too much to line her mold and drowns out the biscuits entirely.
Should You Make These At Home? If you decide to make these fancy treats, definitely spring for the silicone molds and leave them in the freezer to set for a long, long time before popping them out and decorating.
Technical Challenge: Fig Rolls
12 identical rolls made with soft biscuit dough filled with a lightly spiced fig filling.
Paul shares that these are his dad’s favorite. Mine too! Honestly, and feel free to @ me about this, Fig Newtons (as we know them in the stateside grocery stores) are absolutely freaking delicious and a perfect cookie.
Sometimes it’s the simpler recipes that trip people up the most in the technical challenge and that is true for a few of our bakers today. Helena makes her dough with the icing sugar. Jamie goes in for an egg wash. Michael almost makes six fig loaves but risks the knife work and divides them up into twelve individual biscuits at the last minute. There is no blood. In the blind judging, Paul and Prue assess that Helena’s mistake in the dough ingredients render them “not a fig roll”, landing her in last place. Jamie’s egg wash puts him in second to last. A lot of these look amazing and I, too, could eat a whole packet of them, but Alice nails the look and flavor and texture and ends the day with first place.
Should You Make These At Home? Yes, please send me a tin of these at your earliest convenience.
Show Stopper: Edible Masterpiece
A 3D Biscuit sculpture with different shapes, textures, and thicknesses of biscuit.
After undesirable results in the first two challenges, Jamie and Helena are both baking for their lives today. Helena, true to form, is creating an earl grey-flavored spider coming out of an egg covered in sugar-spun cobweb. Jamie opts for a guitar sculpture but is reprising his lemon shortbread from the signature, so let’s hope he learned a thing or two overnight.
After the spider, the barnyard just keeps filling up. Veterinarian Rosie crafts 212 individual tuile and gingerbread biscuits to build Legs the chicken. Steph introduces us to Ginge, the very gingery ginger cat. Phil recreates his childhood pet Tina the Tortoise with sugar biscuits and brandy snaps. Michael pays homage to Scotland with Hamish the Highland Cow made from chili packed biscuits. Alice smartly sticks with her winning New Zealand theme and creates a chocolate and coconut lamb covered in macaron fleece and a coconut lime shortbread fence. Representing the more whimsical side of zoology, Michelle and Priya both make dragons. 10/10 I definitely would pre-order this modern-day Animal Farm adaptation!
Henry, who enjoys performing music at his church back home, makes an organ. Paul, needing desperately to hit his weekly innuendo quota jumps in with a “How big’s your organ going to be, Henry?” Okay, Paul, we get it, you’re so super-duper edgy. The edgiest.
David is making a delightfully restrained spray of wedding flowers with the focus on his favorite flavors: fennel and lime, grapefruit and caraway, and cardamom and lemon. Typing out this sentence genuinely made my mouth water.
Amelia is a true visionary and uses tiny letter stamps to label the biscuit pieces for her under the sea spectacle, but it all comes out a tad more Aquaman than Ariel and the judges are decidedly unimpressed.
David’s decorative restraint and focus on flavor earn him kind words from the judges. Henry’s organ is found lacking. Steph’s cat looks and tastes perfectly acceptable despite being a touch over baked. Phil’s slightly underdone florentine turtle inspires Prue to impersonate a tortoise. (Worth it!) Rosie’s chicken is “incredible” and “stunning” and “very, very, clever” despite having slightly soft gingerbread. Priya’s “astonishing” and “exquisite” “work of art” dragon impresses the judges until they taste it and find the langues du chat biscuits too tough. Conversely, Steph’s dragon looks a bit of a mess but is “packed” with flavor and is one of “the most interesting biscuits” Prue has ever tasted.
In a rather precarious position, Jamie manages to pull the flavors together all right but his guitar sculpture is clumsy and the judges are dismissive. Helena, however, course corrected from the day one danger zone with a spider sculpture that is “superb” and with flavors that are spot on. Paul calls it “magical.” Let this be a lesson that we should always follow our internal compass, even when our internal compass points us in the direction of bloody green fingers and gigantic webby spider eggs.
Technical winner and Kiwi-file Alice’s fat sheep in a little pen is declared a “fine piece of work”. The macarons make for perfect looking fleece and the sharp citrus notes hit the judges’ pallets just right. What pushes the whole thing over the top is that the scene captures the elusive sixth flavor, which everyone knows is a good hearty chuckle.
Should You Make These At Home? If you’ve ever made a gingerbread house, you already have!
Coming as no surprise to anyone at all, Alice wins star baker. She earned top marks in every single challenge this week and it is clear that the New Zealand lifestyle suits her.
Also not surprising at all, Jamie is sent home. After making it through the first week by the very skin of his teeth, this lad got a second chance to show that he has what it takes and he just couldn’t pull it through. But, in displaying his trademark ability to make a quick emotional rebound, he’s proud of what he’s done in the tent and he’s mostly just sad that he’ll miss hanging out with all of his new friends. He still refuses to cry in front of the camera. We’re all gutted.