Six bakers remain in contention for the Spring Baking Championship title. Today they face two challenges based on Spring cleaning. Who will clean up and who will get cleaned out?
In this Spring Baking Championship episode, we begin with host Clinton Kelly standing over a chest of drawers. He is going through them, deciding on what to discard. He explains to the bakers that their first challenge is based on the time-honored tradition of spring cleaning. This will be paired with the current movement toward minimalism, especially in home organization.
To feature the idea of minimalism, the bakers must make a dessert with a lot of complex flavor but a minimalist design. They also have to spring clean regular flour straight from their pantries and instead use a nut flour. They have ninety minutes to bake but start with a mad dash for their nut flour.
As they run up, Christine ends up on one end of the table where hazelnut flour rests. Tati is on the other end and initially grabs the jar closest to her. She then leans way over and attempts to grab the hazelnut flour from Christine but she fails to grasp it. As usual, poor sweet Aris gets the last pick of flours.
Back at their stations, everyone begins cooking. As soon as Clinton announced nut flour, I thought of dacquoise and it turns out half the bakers did too. Aris, Christine and Sohrob are all making a dacquoise, each with a different flour. Most of the bakers are using nut flours they have never worked with before or are using their nut flour in a new way, so there are a lot of bakers in the kitchen with crossed fingers, hoping for the best.
Val grabbed pecan flour. She has made a pecan macaron with pineapple filling. To be minimalist, she has left her macaron its natural off-white color. She has plated this on a tear drop shaped plate and added a single swoosh of pineapple filling as well as four drops of blueberry compote. Judges Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale are not fans of her pineapple swoosh with Lorraine mimicking a sneeze. However, it tastes good and they feel like her pecan macaron is a revelation. They call it flourless and flawless and Lorraine says she is using pecan flour in her macarons from now on.
Sohrob got almond flour and was one of the few who said he was really comfortable with his flour choice. He has made an almond dacquoise which he has hollowed out to leave room for a strawberry and rhubarb compote. This hides under a thin shard of crispy meringue and on top sit little caviar pearls made of juice. All the judges love the look of his dessert. Judge Nancy Fuller is not sure if all the flavors go together. Duff and Lorraine think what he really needs is a creamy element to tie everything together, but Duff appreciates that his almond flavor comes through.
Tati is grumpy throughout her bake due to not getting her preferred flour. She has gotten walnut flour instead of hazelnut. When Clinton points out her mood, she says that somebody got vicious and elbowed her away from the flour she wanted. She has made a walnut cake layered with candied walnuts, banana compote and a vanilla, white chocolate and passionfruit mousse.
To assemble her dessert, she layered it backwards in a cake tin with the idea of turning it out. However her walnut cake has come out much softer than expected so she decides she must put a circle of cardboard on top of the whole thing before turning it out. Once she does turn it out, though, the whole thing slumps over the edge of the cardboard circle. The cake is so soft that there is no way to remove the cardboard circle without destroying everything so she gives up and leaves it there. She goes ahead and decorates the top with a single small gum paste banana.
Lorraine notes that her cake is not flat and Tati admits that the cardboard underneath is making it uneven. Regardless, Nancy loves the look, especially her little minimal banana. Lorraine loves the flavor which she says is wholesome, sweet, salty and creamy.
Christine, who has the coveted hazelnut flour, has made a layered dessert out of hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate, crushed hazelnuts and freeze dried strawberries. She admits that minimalism is not her style and that she planned to wing it when it came to the decoration. Unfortunately, she struggles to rein herself in and ends up with a large chocolate block with nuts around the sides and strawberries on top. The judges tell her she has not lived up to the challenge of minimalism and Nancy tells her that her dessert is dry and that the chocolate is overpowering. Lorraine calls it heavy.
Aris, having gotten last pick of nut flours, has ended up with brazil nuts. The general consensus is that this is not a favored nut. I admit I am not a fan of the flavor. Knowing this, Aris has decided to pair his nuts with passionfruit. He has made a brazil nut dacquoise with a mascarpone cream and passionfruit gelee. To decorate, he has rolled the whole thing in brazil nut flour so it is a simple brown brick, and then he has pulled brightly colored sugar springs for the top. Nancy loves his sugar springs and plays with hers until it snaps. Lorraine admits to disliking brazil nuts but still calls his dessert flawless, so it seems he has sold the judges on his flavor combo.
Arin is one of the few who did not make a dacquoise. He has made a pistachio cake layered with whipped cream cheese and strawberry jam. When talking with Clinton about the challenge, Clinton guesses that he is no minimalist and instead is a maximalist. Arin admits it and says for décor he is going to just throw fresh strawberries on top. When he presents his dessert, it indeed has a ton of strawberries on top and Lorraine notes they seem to have no pattern or reason. Lorraine is disappointed as Arin’s dessert last week was the epitome of minimalism, so she knows he can do it. Though he did not nail the minimalism, all the judges love the flavor. We see that Nancy and Lorraine have eaten their whole serving and Lorraine rarely takes more than one or two small bites so this is a huge compliment.
Despite his cleaned plates, Arin does not win this preheat. That honor goes to Val and her macaron. She wins an advantage for the main challenge. To introduce that challenge, Clinton tells us that 165,000 yard sales are held every week in America from April through June. To celebrate that, the bakers will need to select a yard sale item and use it as inspiration for their dessert. Val’s advantage is to pick her item without having to fight for it. She selects a table runner embroidered with flowers.
Everyone else dashes up. Tati and Aris struggle briefly over the same item. I’m not sure who wins but I’m going to guess Aris because Tati seems less than thrilled with her item. Later in the challenge, Clinton announces the twist. In honor of making the old new again (like a garage sale item finding a new owner), everyone must use a discarded food item in their dessert. The choices are coffee grounds, orange peels and used tea bags. Tati grabs orange peels and Christine tries to take them away, but she manages to keep hold of them so she at least gets something she wanted in the mad dash.
Christine gets coffee grounds in the twist. She also gets a floral candle cover for her sale item. She decides to put around 3 tablespoons of coffee grounds into her chocolate brownie batter. Her goal is to layer brownie, mango gelee and chocolate hazelnut mousse and then to top the whole thing with a fondant piece piped with buttercream in the same pattern as her candle cover. After baking her brownie, Clinton comes to check in and questions her use of grounds. Christine notes that Aris is brewing his grounds with simple syrup and she wonders why she never thought of that. She tastes her brownie and finds it has a strong coffee flavor and a gritty texture.
The judges love her fondant topper and feel she has perfectly represented her sale item. Duff doesn’t like hazelnut and mango together. Lorraine doesn’t like coffee and mango together. Things aren’t looking good but then Lorraine tells her the gelee is really good and Nancy loves the texture of her brownie. There is no mention of grittiness and poor Christine tears up in relief.
Arin gets a wooden heart-shaped sign that says “home sweet home” and features country colors. It definitely does not seem to suit his taste. When Clinton visits him, he explains that he is making a shortbread base. On top of this will be a passionfruit and white chocolate mousse with an almond mousse insert. He plans to cover the whole thing in a pink mirror glaze.
Looking at his blue country sign, Clinton questions the relationship. Arin points out a single small pink flower on the sign. In the end, he sticks with his plan and ends up plating his pink dome along with a stem piped in mint gel with some tiny pink and blue flowers in fondant on the stem. It isn’t quite enough. The judges point out that the colors and design do not match his sign.
However, the judges love his flavors. He got tea for his twist and emptied the leaves directly into his cookie batter. The judges get the tea flavor. They love his flawless pink glaze and the textures in his dessert. They all give him excellent reviews until Duff tastes the mint gel. Duff doesn’t like it but Nancy and Lorraine do.
Sohrob gets a patchwork pillow for his sale item and for his twist gets tea as well. He makes a take on a napoleon but instead of puff pastry, he is using a sort of pie dough. He has layered that with amaretto diplomat cream, poached apricots and apricot jam. To decorate, he has made patches of diplomat cream, apricots, and candied almonds on the top.
Sohrob tells us that he used to like yard sales until his parents sold all his action figures in one. He was just nine. Later Val tells us she likes yard sales as she can get rid of her kids’ old stuff. Cut to Sohrob giving her a very disapproving look.
Sadly yard sales are not going to be improving in his estimation any time soon. He has overbaked his pate brisee (pie dough) and has no time to remake it. Nancy complains that his patchwork reads as Thanksgiving and not Spring as it features orange, brown and white. His pillow is purple, blue and red so it isn’t a good match. Nancy notes that his pie crust is charred. Lorraine and Duff note that his apricots are unpleasant. For his twist, he steeped his tea bags with his apricots but all it has done is make the apricots unpleasantly astringent.
Val has made a roulade cake filled with whipped cream, toasted almonds and berries. For the twist, she snags orange peel which she candies. Her idea is to put the candied peel in her whipped cream but when she puts the hot peels in, her cream deflates. When she then tries to roll her roulade, the cream starts to pour out so she ends up not rolling it tightly, resulting in a lumpy and wide roll. She’s just got to go with it so she carefully pipes on a replica of the flowers from her table runner. She also pipes a two dollar price tag on her plate for whimsy.
Nancy feels she has nailed the look of her table runner and no one complains about it being misshapen. Nancy likes her light and feathery sponge and her silky soft cream. Lorraine wants more orange flavor and Duff thinks everything is nice but too safe.
Aris gets a cross stitch depicting an inn. He decides that he will use an old technique, perhaps inspired by the idea of old item becoming new at a yard sale. He uses pate a cigarette, a batter often used for stenciling. He colors this green and pipes it in a lattice pattern. On top of this, he pours cake batter so that his cake will have the pattern on the outside.
To assemble his dessert, Aris uses acetate collars inside metal rings. Into those, he slips a ring of his cake. He soaks the bottom of the cake in coffee simple syrup, the coffee being his twist ingredient. On top of that goes raspberry jam and then whipped cream. Sadly, his cake and cream are too soft. When he unmolds his cakes, the lattice sticks to the acetate and gets marred. On top of his cream, he pipes raspberry sauce but it just dribbles off the side.
Lorraine admires his use of an old technique but the green lattice and red raspberry say Christmas. Nancy complains that the desserts look sloppy. However, Lorraine loves the flavors and is surprised that coffee and raspberry go together.
Tati is last to present. In the tussle for a yard sale item, she got a butterfly placemat. She has made a trifle layered with cookie, honey mascarpone, pastry cream, and plum compote. She has plated it in a blue bowl to mimic the blue edge of the placemat. She has also piped flowers on top of the trifle to represent the flowers on her mat.
Lorraine is impressed by her piped flowers and Nancy loves her blue dish. Duff loves the two different textures of her mascarpone and her cream and says they are really good together. Lorraine does a little dance and tells her it is yummy. Nancy doesn’t get oranges, which were Tati’s twist. But her dish must have been pretty spectacular because Lorraine waves that complaint away with “oranges schmoranges.”
At the top are Arin and Tati. Given that Arin did not really replicate his yard sale item, I am not surprised when Tati wins. Safe are Christine and Val but that leaves Aris and Sohrob at the bottom. I am expecting Sohrob to go home for overbaked dough and astringent apricots. It is a baking championship after all and his baking was subpar. But instead, they send home Aris for his sloppy plating.
So, do you feel the right person went home in this Spring Baking Championship episode? How do you feel about the little fights over ingredients, themes, etc that we are seeing happen nearly every episode? Personally, I prefer a spirit of camaraderie to competition. Anyway, next time the bakers are inspired by flower crowns. This is a weird season, y’all.