The eight remaining Spring Baking Championship bakers will pair up in a set of team challenges that celebrate outdoor adventures. Who will reach the summit, and who will have to go back home?
Spring has sprung here in Atlanta with flowering trees in pinks and whites and everything covered in a yellow-green layer of pollen. I have to limit my time outside due to allergies so I’m not going on any big hikes right now, but the Spring Baking Championship bakers are going to celebrate just that.
Host Clinton Kelly introduces the first Spring Baking Championship challenge while standing in front of a signboard straight out of a sweet dream land. I see signs for Tiramisu Trail, Macaron Mountain, Souffle Summit, and Strudel Stream. Clinton reminds everyone that spring is a perfect time to go hiking with a buddy, so everyone will run up and get a backpack. In the backpack they will find a fruit, and the person with that same fruit is their hiking buddy. Together, they will need to each make a handheld dessert that can go hiking with them and that dessert must highlight the fruit they got. Their desserts must be individual but also must complement each other.
After a mad dash for a pack, our teams are Tati and Sohrob (pineapple), Arin and Christine (peach), Val and Aris (blueberry), and Aisha and Molly (raspberry). They have ninety minutes to create their trail-worthy dessert.
All the teams are happy to work with each other. We see no tension, no egos, just collaboration. It’s refreshing. For the most part, things go well with the bakers joking around, tasting each other’s creations and having a good time. Molly has a minor disaster when she decides to put freeze dried raspberries into a mix and then bake it. Not surprisingly, the already dried out fruit burns in the oven so she and Aisha have to spend time picking through the mix to remove the raspberries before sticking it back in the oven. The only other snafu happens when Aris notes that his oven is on 450 degrees and his popovers emerge quite dark.
Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale emerge ready to try these tasty hiking treats. Molly and Aisha are up first. Molly has successfully corrected her raspberry fiasco and the judges are none the wiser. She has made a gorp bar. Basically it is a trail mix style granola bar. Normally, gorp stands for “good old raisins and peanuts” but her “r and p” are raspberries and pepitas. To get the raspberry flavor, she has dusted the tops of the bars with freeze dried raspberries.
Nancy loves the little wrapper they have made which Aisha decorated with little elk prints. Lorraine loves the pepitas and enjoys that it is not too sweet. Duff, however, says it feels too healthy and wants more sugar.
Aisha presents her Swedish raspberry bar which features a shortbread base, raspberry jam filling and a meringue topping mixed with coconut and almonds. With its meringue topping, Duff doubts it would really survive a hike. He would prefer the topping to be a firmer, more marshmallow consistency. Nancy loves the shortbread crust. Everyone agrees this is the sweeter dessert and Duff, who puts some of each dessert in his mouth at once, declares that, eaten together, they are perfect.
Arin and Christine are up next. They have plated very cutely with each dessert on one side of a plate and then a raw sugar and dried fruit trail down the middle. Nancy likes the trail. Duff has fun playing with Christine’s dessert, a pie on a stick. I can’t imagine why the pie would be on a stick for a hike. It seems that it would be more portable left as a little hand pie. In any case, Duff has fun pretending to be a chameleon, using the pies as eyes. He then mimics a certain owl famous for telling us how many licks it takes to get to the center of a pop. Lorraine is sad to not understand these American jokes.
Christine’s bourbon peach pie pop gets tasted first. Her pie crust is tender and flaky but Lorraine wants more filling. Nancy, of course, wants more bourbon. Arin is up next with his spicy peach jam popovers. Sadly, his oven was indeed too hot leading to a dense and gummy popover with an overdone outside. The judges love his jalapeno and peach jam but the rest doesn’t work, and the judges feel the two desserts don’t complement each other.
Val and Aris are next. Val’s blueberry ginger muffin with blueberry compote and vanilla glaze is a hit. Duff says it is “a lot more tender than a muffin but more burly than a cupcake” and perfect for the hiking trail. Aris also does well with his blueberry crumble bar with cinnamon streusel topping. Duff loves the streusel and Nancy says it is one of the best blueberry bars she has ever had.
Tati’s pineapple trail mix rice cereal treat is very unique. She has made a shortbread base and topped that with a pineapple caramel that she has mixed with blonde chocolate. On top of all of that is a rice cereal treat. In her rice cereal treat, she has used some unmelted mini marshmallows, which is exactly how I make mine. Her dessert gets nothing but high praise.
Sohrob’s dessert gets no less. His spiced pineapple hand pie is called awesome and he is told his pie crust is insane (in a good way). They are also praised for how well their desserts go together and how nicely they would transport on the hiking trail. Having hit the brief perfectly and been delicious, Tati and Sohrob win the preheat.
For the main challenge, the bakers will continue to work in teams, but Tati and Sohrob have won the advantage of mixing up the teams. They decide to switch up two teams. Val and Aris and Aisha and Molly are split up into new teams of Val and Aisha, and Aris and Molly. They leave Christine and Arin intact. Why they made these decisions is never explained. Certainly Christine and Arin did not win highest marks on the first heat, so perhaps they were not considered as big of a threat as a team.
The teams will have two hours to create a bicycling scene. The scene should feature a decorated backdrop that represents a particular bike path- country lane, desert canyon, city park, or vineyard trail. They also must create a bike. Each baker will make one tire in the style of a paris-brest. They also need to represent the frame of the bike in some way.
I have to wonder if the bakers are given a heads up on the challenge in advance. Both Aris and Arin are wearing shirts with bikes on them. If they aren’t given advanced notice, then I wonder if the show dresses them in a nod to the theme.
Partway through the bake, Clinton announces the twist. If they are going biking, they may as well have a picnic. He presents four ingredients for his picnic- grapes, goat cheese, figs and champagne. One person from each team has the chance to run up for an ingredient. Aisha, Val and Sohrob all voice a desire for the champagne but Arin, with his very long legs, gets to it first. Most disappointed are Sohrob and Tati who get the goat cheese.
Val and Aisha are the first to present their completed scene. They are actually lucky to have a completed scene as they had a blank, undecorated board with just twelve minutes left. Somehow they have managed their city park scene. They have painted a city skyline, grass, a little park bench, a tree. Their bike frame is piped in yellow with a fondant seat and handles. Their handlebars face the wrong way but no one comments. In general, no one seems to know what a bike looks like. The judges complement their background scene but note that their tires are a bit different in size and color.
Val has made a paris-brest with raspberry pastry cream. When they got grapes for their twist, she made a white grape jam with white wine. She has decorated her choux with slivered almonds. Lorraine enjoys the texture of the almonds on top which it apparently needs as Nancy feels her choux needs more crunch. Lorraine loves her raspberry flavor but her cream could be thicker. It squishes out the sides when eaten. Everyone likes her grape jam.
Aisha, her partner, has made a strawberry namelaka paris-brest. She too has made a grape jam but hers uses red grapes and red wine. Though her choux is darker, the judges are disappointed that it lacks crunch. It seems it is darker but softer than Val’s offering. Everyone agrees she needs more jam and that everything is just too soft.
Sohrob and Tati got a country lane theme. Tati is in charge of decoration and she really shows off her painting skills. She paints the board with food color to show a blue sky, green grass and painted bike frame. She has also piped a tree and added little white sprinkles that look like tiny blooms. The ground is covered in blooming flowers.
For their tires, both Sohrob and Tati went with a purple craquelin. Sadly, the longer bake for the large choux rings has turned the topping brown. Sohrob tries to paint it with food gel and it just gets worse so they decide to cover the tires in powdered sugar. The judges love their presentation except that Lorraine finds the craquelin uneven and Duff doesn’t like that their bike seat is a few pieces of manufactured chocolate.
Tati’s raspberry paris-brest now has a goat cheese whipped cream. It gets rave reviews. Duff says it has a lot of flavor and a nice texture. Nancy loves her balance of sweet and sour. Lorraine enjoys the crunch of the craquelin. Sohrob also does well with his blueberry jam, diplomat cream and goat cheese whipped cream creation. Nancy wants more goat cheese flavor but again his textures are praised.
Arin and Christine got the desert canyon theme. Christine has decorated the backdrop in buttercream colored in red, orange and yellow. She has added little fondant cacti with red flower blooms. Their bike has a fondant frame and two massive tires. Arin decided to go with a very elaborate, swirly piping design so Christine followed to match the tires. Both ended up with very fat, wide circles.
Lorraine loves their background colors but complains about the size of the choux rings, which really don’t look like bike tires. Duff agrees. Christine has made a chocolate mascarpone paris-brest. When given the champagne twist, she added it to blackberries and sugar. Unfortunately, this has made the champagne flavor disappear. Duff tells her she should have reduced the champagne to a syrup so it would stick to the berries. Also, Lorraine feels her choux is thin, doughy and not quite a choux.
Arin has made a passionfruit and coconut paris-brest with champagne gelee. The judges love the gelee and Duff is amazed that coconut and champagne go together really well. They find his cream firm and delicious, so he has avoided the loose runny issue that is plaguing others.
Molly and Aris got the vineyard trail. Aris has painted their background which features sky, leaves, and grapes. Some of their grape bunches are made of purple chocolates. Molly is the only one to make another baked element for the bike frame. She has baked bike parts out of hippenmasse, a crunchy thin cookie. Molly and Aris are also the only ones to put spokes in their tires, using pretzels for the spokes.
In a fun turn of events, when asked if they were upset about getting their teams switched, they tell Clinton that Aris actually served Molly dessert before they ever met on the baking championship. It turns out she was recently at his hotel and ate dessert there.
Anyway, the judges like their scene and are especially impressed that they have baked their bike frame. Molly has made a sage white chocolate and strawberry paris-brest. When given a fig twist, she decided to brulee the fresh figs. Duff was nervous about the sage but she has used it subtly. Her choux is nice and the judges like her use of figs.
Aris is last to serve his herb and lemon paris-brest with fig jam. Lorraine loves his fig jam and his lemon curd. Nancy can’t taste any herbs, though, and Duff finds the choux to be doughy and bready.
So, who is the “best of the brest”? Tati and Val have pedaled to the top and Tati takes the win, meaning she won both the preheat and the main challenge on this week’s Spring Baking Championship. At the bottom are Christine and Aisha. Aisha, sadly, is sent home for a non-crisp choux, loose and too lightly flavored namelake, and lack of grape jam.
Next week on Spring Baking Championship, it looks like the theme is Trolls, because that definitely reminds one of spring. Appropriately themed or not, it is still sure to be fun.