Twelve bakers are still in Spring Baking Championship contention and will face two sky-themed baking challenges. Who will rise to the occasion, and whose chances will set with the sun?
After a few seasons, I think the minds behind Spring Baking Championship challenges might be stretched for ideas. The first challenge set for the bakers is in honor of the Spring equinox, a time when daytime and nighttime are of approximately equal duration. This year, it will happen on March 19, so the episode is quite timely. The starting day of the year in some calendars, it has been a time of celebration.
In honor of that, the Spring Baking Championship bakers will make a dozen donuts with either a sunrise or sunset theme. They must also include “celestial bling,” using gold leaf, silver leaf, shimmer powders, sprinkles, etc. They will have ninety minutes for their challenge, which starts with a dash for either a sunrise or sunset theme. Why this matters, I have no idea. Sunrise and sunset have similar looks with perhaps the sunset being more purple and the sunrise being more pink or orange. But in terms of challenge, it would seem to make little difference.
Molly gets sunrise and makes an orange passionfruit donut with white chocolate ganache. Molly also wants to feature the sun so she bakes off all her extra batter to make donut pops for the middle of her donut. Unfortunately, as she goes to retrieve her baked but undecorated donuts from the blast chiller, one falls to the floor. She has no leftover batter and no time. So, she takes some of her cake crumbs and icing and molds a donut into her donut pan. She lets it set in the blast chiller and then decorates it like a regular donut.
To decorate, she colors her white chocolate in vivid purple, yellow and pink. I think her chocolate coating is a little thick and a little Easter looking. She too worries that the colors are too intense. She puts her little donut pops in the middle of her donuts, adds a yellow and red flame of chocolate and hopes for the best.
The judges, Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman, and Lorraine Pascal, are presented with her plate of donuts and she just prays no one picks up her crumble donut. No one does, and the judges seem none the wiser. Duff teases her for her psychedelic colors. Nancy likes the donut pop and Lorraine likes the acidity and texture.
Christine, who got sunset, wants to stand out so she decides to make a chocolate orange blossom mochi donut. She is taking a risk with the mochi, using glutinous rice flour in her batter. Her donut comes out looking a lot like a volcano. It has sloped sides and she has not helped things by displaying her donuts on orange and red sugar. Duff tells her they look like they are melting. She immediately asks, “erupting? Lava?” So she clearly has seen the same thing I do. On the plus side, Duff loves the chocolate flavor and crazy texture. Lorraine loves her subtle frosting.
Franck got sunrise and is inspired by Spain, where some of his family is from. He makes a saffron, almond and peach donut. His donut is half golden, half blue. Nancy tells him she gets beach rather than sunrise. Lorraine likes the texture and flavor. Nancy can’t taste the saffron.
This prompts Duff to tell us that, had he been born a girl, his name would have been Saffron. Fun fact, Duff was born Jeffrey Adam Goldman and he attended University of Maryland, Baltimore County. There, he met my first husband. When I first saw Duff on Food Network, my then-husband recognized him but would not introduce me. That man is now my ex.
Arin got sunset and has made an orange-scented donut with basil pastry cream and vanilla glaze. He has presented his donut in a unique way, slicing it in half and filling it with the cream. He has decorated with a blue and orange glaze, white chocolate star, and parts of stars to represent solar flares. Nancy doesn’t feel that his gold leaf is enough bling. Duff thinks it looks more like a plated pastry than a donut. Nancy loves his cream but Duff thinks the basil is pretty strong. He wants more orange flavor so it tastes less like pesto.
Sandra got sunset and has made a coconut blueberry donut with toasted pecan crunch. Hers too is half blue and half orange but she is the only one to have done this with a shiny mirror glaze. The judges pronounce it delicious. Nancy isn’t sure she can taste the coconut but Duff tells her, “it sneaks up on you. Like a ninja.” Nancy replies, “tequila does that to me.”
Tati got sunrise and presents a vanilla donut with rose and lychee buttermilk glaze. To allow her subtle lychee and rose flavors to shine, she uses glucose for sweetener as it has no flavor of its own other than sweet. She has purposely gone with very pastel colors, but the judges find it less spring-like. The judges like the taste but Nancy wants more moisture.
Val has gone with a really fun technique for her donut. She has made a blackberry donut with lemon glaze. She colored her glaze in red, peach and yellow, and layered these colors next to each other in a bowl. She then dipped her donuts in this for a cool ombre effect. Duff notes that her bold colors and the two black palm tree outlines she has decorated with have given her a very 80’s feel, but he likes it. Her lemon is very forward, but the blackberry needs to come through more.
Aisha’s sunset is an orange donut with three glazes- blueberry, raspberry and orange. She has also added turmeric to her dough for the yellow tinge it provides. Host Clinton Kelly questions the turmeric. “Sounds good for inflammation.” She tries to tell him that it has a similar flavor profile to ginger. While ginger and turmeric look similar in their root form, to me they taste nothing alike. Turmeric has a very earthy flavor.
Clinton gamely sticks his finger into the turmeric powder and has a taste and clearly does not like it. He asks if she plans to add a ton of sugar. Lorraine likes the turmeric, praising the unusual flavor. As she tells Aisha this, Aisha shoots Clinton an “I told you so” look.
Sohrob’s sunrise is a blueberry cake donut with strawberry and orange glazes. His glazes are a light orange color and blue, and Lorraine feels it hasn’t quite made it to sunrise. Nancy likes the spring flavors and Duff likes the soft and tender texture of his cake.
Aris, sadly, can claim nothing soft and tender in his offering. He is the only baker who tried to make a yeasted donut. With just twenty minutes left, Aris checks on his dough and sees it has not risen. Once baked, they are still woefully flat. He cuts them in half to fill with a blueberry compote, but now they look like giant macarons and the compote oozes out. Duff tells him they look like clams. Lorraine likes his filling but tells him that is no donut. It’s a cookie. Nancy gives him credit for trying something daring, but Duff points out that his risk did not pay off.
Sandra, with her coconut donut, wins the round and earns an advantage for the next challenge. The challenge continues with the sky theme, this time seeming even further from anything Spring. The bakers will have three hours to make a Spring starry night dessert with a particular theme such as shooting star, meteor shower, or super moon.
Again, the Spring Baking Championship bakers race up for their theme but I don’t see that it makes any real difference what they get. Sandra, our preheat winner, gets the advantage of a booklet of pictures from NASA. She ends up with super moon as her theme, which amuses me because I feel like the one thing I would not need pictures of to replicate is the moon.
Almost everyone decides to make an entremets with a mirror glaze. These layered desserts allow the bakers to really show off flavor and technique, and mirror glaze is a perfect way to show off a night sky. It is exactly what I would have done. Interestingly, Sandra, the only one to do a mirror glaze in the first round and who won in part for that, chooses not to do that for round two.
Not only that, but Sandra goes with what seems to me a simpler dessert than anyone else. She makes a mixed berry cheesecake. On top of that, she wants to put a chocolate cake with a dulce de leche buttercream. She is baking her cake in a dome pan so she can get a semi-circle for her moon. I am worried about the dome cooking through. I am also worried about her setting a large cake on top of a delicate cheesecake.
Sandra encounters even more difficulties when the top of her cheesecake burns. She peels off the top, literally lifting the burned part off like an orange rind. This leaves her with a gap in her cheesecake so she decides to make a no-bake cheesecake to cover that. Just as she begins to make that, Clinton announces the twist. In honor of daylight saving time, the bakers will spring forward and lose ten minutes of bake time. They now have thirty minutes left.
It wouldn’t seem that ten minutes could be that big of a deal, but this really messes up some of the bakers. Franck feels his entremets has not set enough and his glaze isn’t quite ready, but he has to go with it anyway. Others struggle with their mirror glazes too. Tati’s goes on too thick. Sohrob, who is trying to show a super moon theme, decides to pour a white glaze over a black glaze. He pours his white mirror glaze inside of a ring over the black, hoping it will stay in a circle. Instead, it spreads out “like an egg white cooking in a pan.”
Franck is up first for judging. He presents a brownie cake, hazelnut crunch and Bavarian cream. His mirror glaze has slumped down the sides a bit. Being blue and purple for the night sky, Nancy complains it isn’t Spring enough. I feel like that is an unfair complaint given they were made to create nighttime scenes. Duff loves his soft Bavarian cream but he and Nancy find his hazelnuts not just toasted but burned.
Sohrob presents his representation of the super moon. If I were him, I would have done the dark mirror glaze and then placed a large marzipan moon over that, covering nearly all the glaze on the top. I would have added some little bitty tree outlines to the base of the moon to help convey the large size of the super moon.
Sohrob has tried to add a mirror glaze on a mirror glaze and it hasn’t quite made it. Nancy again complains about missing spring colors. His entremets features an almond and cookie crumble on the bottom. He also has made a berry layer and he has roasted his strawberries to really intensify their flavor. Lorraine loves the crumble base which is sweet and salty. Nancy calls his strawberry voluptuous.
Aisha can’t catch a break from Clinton today. First, he makes comments about her turmeric. Then, when she mentions that she used to love astronomy, Clinton replies, “maybe that was your calling.” Catching himself he cries, “No! I mean you’re doing a great job here.” Aisha presents a cherry, pistachio entremets with chocolate mousse and mirror glaze. She has used vivid greens to represent the Northern Lights, and Nancy loves the color. Duff loves the chocolate flavor but Nancy and Lorraine want more pistachio.
Arin has made a pistachio sable, grapefruit gelee, white chocolate and strawberry mousse entremets. He has used a mirror glaze and silver luster dust to represent shooting stars. I think it is lovely but the judges want more decoration. However, his flavors seem to be perfection. They are especially in love with the grapefruit gelee which lacks any bitterness.
Christine’s entremets is beautiful. She has basically made a painting with mountains, trees, a moon, and more. She has also done this basically all in buttercream. Nancy calls it the epitome of a Spring starry night and Duff is really impressed with what she has done with buttercream. Her dark chocolate cake with toasted macadamia nut ganache and strawberry buttercream gets good reviews. It is moist and tender and the strawberry is really good, but Duff and Nancy want more sugar.
Aris has gone completely different than anyone else. To represent a meteor shower, he first layered a dark chocolate brownie. On this, he applied chocolate mousse and then he added truffles that he made out of toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut spread and pretzel bits. On top of that, he layered fresh raspberries and sharp pieces of chocolate.
His idea is that the truffles are the meteors, and the chocolate shards are the tails. But he has to explain it to the judges and Nancy doesn’t see the night sky. Nancy thinks he has missed the brief but Lorraine finds it to be a modern interpretation.
Aris’ presentation includes an unplanned, interactive meteor shower. Just as Nancy complains that the truffles are hard to eat, Duff attempts to cut one with knife and fork and it flies off. Nancy then has the same thing happen. Despite this, the flavors are very good. It just doesn’t quite meet their expectations for spring or night sky.
Val has decided to use fondant to decorate. She wants to separate herself from the other bakers and stand out by not doing a mirror glaze. Unfortunately, I think it looks pretty bad. She has covered the whole thing in colored fondant. Then on the bottom is a fondant strip which, inexplicably, has two holes in it. In the holes, she has painted a rather poor tree shape and some other blob that I can’t identify.
The judges are disappointed too. Nancy tells her she is surprised and knows she is capable of so much more. Duff and Lorraine lament that the fondant is just highlighting all the errors. Luckily, her chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse and strawberry jam is plate-licking good. The judges love it.
Tati’s representation of Northern Lights is beautiful. Duff says it looks like a picture from the Hubble telescope. She has made a s’mores entremets. She has a layer of graham cracker, dark chocolate and sea salt. She also has a chocolate mousse layer as well as a marshmallow layer. For the marshmallows, she burned some and then smoked the whole batch so she could really get that campfire flavor.Duff loves the smokiness but Lorraine and Duff both agree that it is a very rich cake. They could only eat a little.
Sandra, our preheat winner, presents her super moon in cake and cheesecake. As I suspected, her cake has caused her cheesecake base to bulge out a bit. Her chocolate cake is delicious but her cheesecake it too liquidy and everyone agrees that the two desserts don’t really go together.
Molly is last to present her beautiful landscape and Milky Way. The judges feel that she nailed the look. Her almond sponge, port fig jam, diplomat cream entremets is enrobed in a honey cardamom mousse. Nancy loves the jam and Duff really likes the cardamom and honey, but feels the flavors aren’t very spring like.
Out of everyone, Christine is singled out for appearance and Arin for flavor. Arin wins. At the bottom are Franck and Sandra and, with surprisingly little fanfare or suspense, they announce that Sandra is going home. After winning the preheat, I think she is a bit shocked. Franck does his best dance to celebrate making it through.
Next week, the Spring Baking Championship bakers will be making something called kittyclairs (kitty eclairs) and I am very excited for that as I am an avid animal fan. It does sound a little Kid’s Baking Championship to me, but I am sure these bakers can elevate it. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and maybe bake something comforting.