Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2: Dessert duos downfall


The holiday season has taken over the kitchen on Holiday Baking Championship, but team challenges can dampen the holiday festivities.

During the holidays, everyone usually enjoys a pie at least once. From the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie to the Christmas apple pies, a good pie is always a favorite dessert. But, on Holiday Baking Championship, a regular pie isn’t a big enough challenge.

In the pre-heat, teams of two bakers had to make a dozen hand pies. A hand pie is a small, individual pie that doesn’t need a fork to eat. The crust surrounds all the pie filling. Think of a pop tart, but more elevated.

Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2, photo from Food Network

The pre-heat challenge had mostly successful hand pies. Everyone’s hand pies succeeded in flavor. From maple pecan apple pies to pumpkin pies, each one was quite tasty. The top teams excelled with the decoration. While the pumpkin patch pies had an exquisite decorative look, the turkey hand pies were slightly more abstract.

The winning hand pie team was the pumpkin patch hand pie team. Their pumpkin patch hand pies were tasty but also visually stunning. The plate looked like a pumpkin patch.

Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2, photo from Food Network

Their advantage was the ability to pick their teammate for the main heat challenge. Being able to choose their team mate is a huge advantage. No one wants to work with a baker who has been at the bottom.

For the main challenge, the bakers needed to create a dessert duo based on a classic holiday flavor pairing. The flavors included chocolate and peppermint, maple and pecan, cranberry and ginger and chocolate and orange. The dessert duo had each baker create one of the desserts.

Overall, the pairings seemed to be even. Even though the main heat was a team challenge, the bakers needed to look out for themselves. Two bakers weren’t going home, just one. While the teams want to win, the goal is to be better than your teammate. If the team’s dessert duo was on the bottom, you didn’t want to be the worst dessert on the plate.

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If the team challenge issue wasn’t enough, the bakers had an additional main heat twist. Midway through the challenge, the bakers learned that they had to incorporate eggnog into each of the desserts. For some bakers, the eggnog twist was an easy addition. But, other bakers struggled to incorporate the eggnog.

Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2, photo from Food Network

For the dessert duo main heat challenge, the judges seemed to weigh flavor over presentation. Some bakers didn’t include eggnog effectively. The twist proved more difficult than anyone had imagined. Who would have thought that the classic holiday eggnog would cause such problems?

Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2, photo from Food Network

Looking at some of the dessert duos, the least pretty desserts had the best flavor. Aristo’s dessert wasn’t picture perfect. His cranberry and ginger flavors were a huge hit. It seems odd that an executive chef has plating issues. If Aristo can match flavor and plating, he should do well.

If I was choosing one dessert duo, it would be Jennifer and Joshua’s play on milk and cookies. The plate looked picture perfect and clearly displayed a theme. Jennifer’s layered pudding balanced all the flavors, chocolate, orange and eggnog, quite well. Joshua’s French macaron may have lacked flavor, but it played off the pudding.

Even though the dessert duo challenge was a team challenge, only one baker was a winner. Jennifer, with her layered pudding, won. She was the baker to effectively balance all the flavors and a delightful holiday presentation. While the dessert may not have been my favorite, it was a great dessert, and a better dessert duo.

Overall, the middle bakers were just that, in the middle. The desserts weren’t spectacular but they won’t horrible either. Since this dessert duo was just episode two, these bakers don’t have to stand out, they just need to move onto the next challenge.

Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2, photo from Food Network

Still, the bottom bakers are quite noticeable. Like last week, the major mistakes stick out in the crowd. Pablo and Andra were the bottom two bakers. Both desserts had major flaws.

Pablo’s dessert suffered from flavor issues. The judges felt that Pablo didn’t have enough ginger flavor in his dessert. Since Pablo didn’t use various types of ginger, the ginger flavor wasn’t present. To get good ginger flavor, a baker needs to use crystalized ginger, regular ginger and even grated ginger. Just steeping ginger in a sauce isn’t enough.

Also, Pablo’s dessert suffered from a texture issue. In any dessert, or dish for that matter, there needs to be various textures. No one wants to eat a dessert that is all one note. Crunchy, creamy, or even moist is important to have a successful dessert.

Holiday Baking Championship, season 4, episode 2, photo from Food Network

Andra’s dessert suffered from technique. While she called her dessert a faux pot de crème, the dessert had a funky texture. It was somewhat gritty. She would have been better served if she made a traditional pot de crème. Plus, her dessert lacked a lot of peppermint flavor.

Even though Andra was in the bottom last week, Pablo was sent home. His dessert had one too many mistakes for this Holiday Baking Championship episode. Both of his desserts, the pre-heat and main heat, were faulty on this episode.

So far in this season, Holiday Baking Championship hasn’t had any big hiccups. Also, the themes have been relatively easy. While it is still early, something big could make the show a little more festive. What about a flaming dessert? Hopefully, we won’t have to wait till the finale for a big surprise.

As we wait for next week’s Holiday Baking Championship recap, we want what’s your favorite holiday dessert duo or duo flavor? Share your thoughts with us.