Bakeaway Camp With Martha Stewart review: Bee Happy Campers

Judges Carla Hall and Dan Langan with hosts Martha Stewart and Jesse Palmer, as seen on Bakeaway Camp, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Judges Carla Hall and Dan Langan with hosts Martha Stewart and Jesse Palmer, as seen on Bakeaway Camp, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Five bakers remain at Bakeaway Camp hoping to hone their skills, work with Martha Stewart, and earn the $25,000 prize. Who will be top crust and who will be on a bus back home?

Host Jesse Palmer welcomes our home bakers to their second week of Bakeaway Camp. He stands next to five little mailboxes shaped like farmhouses. He explains that being away at camp can make you a little homesick and mail call is one of the best cures. Their first challenge this week, the Camp Counselor Challenge devised by their counselors and judges, is the Mail Call challenge.

When time begins, the bakers will go to a mailbox and extract a postcard from home. The card will mention two ingredients, one sweet and one savory. The bakers will have sixty minutes to combine those into any dessert they can imagine. As an example, one postcard starts with the greeting, “Hey, Peanut!” It goes on to describe a trip to the county fair to see a record setting sweet potato, meaning the two ingredients are peanut and sweet potato.

When time begins, the bakers approach the mailbox directly in front of them and sedately take their postcard with no pushing or shoving. It’s nice. Nate gets honey and tomatoes, a weird sounding combo to be sure. But tomatoes are a fruit and he goes that route. He makes tomato jam from tomatoes, cloves, sugar and cinnamon. He has this in a pressure cooker so he can get a good jam consistency quickly. As he cooks, the Camp Counselors, Carla Hall and Dan Langan, stop by. They are pleased that his tomatoes will bring acidity, but Nate worries that he will cook the acidity right out and be left with only sweet. Carla wisely recommends vinegar which he adds to his pressure cooker.

Catherine has received the peanut and sweet potato combo which to me does not seem like a big stretch. Being from the South, to me these things just seem to have an affinity for each other. She is making a sweet potato whoopie pie with a sweet potato and peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Her biggest concern is not drowning the sweet potato flavor in peanut butter. She adds potato puree to her cake batter for an extra flavor boost.

Bryan’s combo is marshmallow and beets which to me sounds like the most unnatural pairing. But Bryan takes it in stride and recalls that people often use beets in red velvet. As the description of his dish flashes on screen, I get one of my favorite moments of the episode. His dish is described as beet red velvet cupcake with marshmallow cream frosting cheese. Put the other way around, marshmallow cream cheese frosting sounds delicious. Frosting cheese sounds horrifying and it amused me more than it probably should have.

Kela has also gotten what sounds like a weird pairing- carrots and pudding. She is happy with her selection, though, and cleverly decides to make a carrot muffin with a vanilla pudding filling. She is using instant pudding mix and Dan helpfully recommends that she adds fat such as heavy cream to make it more luxurious. She decides to go with mascarpone which I think is an even better idea for the texture and tang.

Jessica has the final combo-zucchini and pumpkin. She has decided to make a zucchini pumpkin crisp with whipped cream. The weirdest thing to me is when she is making her mix for under the crumble- what do you call that? Anyway, her mix is zucchini, pumpkin puree, lemon, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and then whole zucchini blossoms. It is the blossoms that throw me. That just seems like the oddest thing to find whole in your crumble. As Jessica works on her whipped cream, the counselors approach. She wants to stabilize it with gelatin and she’s just about to dump all her gelatin into her cream when they arrive. Dan recommends that she put some of her cream into the gelatin, like tempering, and then mix that into her cream. If she dumps all the gelatin in without lightening it with cream, it could clump.

As the bakers work, we hear thunder and see clouds roll in. Nate takes a spill behind Jessica’s station but hops right back up. Just one of the many dangers of working in an outdoor kitchen.

Time is rapidly ticking away and Nate is still working on getting his dish ready for the oven. He is making turnovers but had to wait for his jam to cook. He seems to be frantically stuffing and sealing them with fifteen minutes to go. He finally gets them in the oven and cranks up the heat. He leaves them in until the last possible second, plating just under the wire as the clock ticks the final seconds.

Carla and Dan are ready to sample the sweet and savory combos. Kela is up first. Her carrot muffin is made of dried cranberries steeped in apple juice, pineapple, fresh ginger and walnuts. Carla loves that each bite offers a different experience and thinks her steeped cranberries are a great idea. Dan really enjoys the moistness of her muffin and that it is both hardy and decadent.

Jessica is next to present her zucchini pumpkin crisp with whipped cream. Carla feels like she has a great balance of flavors- sweet, salty, sour. She and Dan both like her textures- crisp and creamy. Dan wishes for more crumble.

Nate, though he scrambled with his sweet tomato turnovers with honey glaze, has not managed to bake them through. His pastry is nearly raw. His jam has a good texture but is still too sweet, even with the vinegar. He probably needed to add a bit more vinegar off the heat, once his jam was cooked.

Bryan has plated his beet red velvet cupcake still in a silver foil liner. He has also placed this on top of a swoosh of marshmallow cream, to highlight his second flavor of marshmallow. Dan tells him he needs to remove the liner for plating and Carla can’t see the point of the sticky marshmallow cream. You can’t eat it unless you plan to literally lick the plate. Other than the plating comments, they don’t say much about his cupcake. It sounds like it was a decent but not remarkable showing.

Catherine is last to present her whoopie pie. As Carla takes a bite, we hear an audible crunch. Carla looks horrified and cries, “what was that? Oh my god!” Given their location outside, I can only imagine that she was imagining a bee in her dessert. Catherine reassures her that it is only peanut brittle that she added to the pie for texture. Dan says her whoopie pie is springy and well baked and there is a nice peanut butter flavor, but sweet potato has disappeared. Carla says nothing, perhaps still feeling weirded out by crunchy things in her soft whoopie pie.

Kela and her innovative stuffed muffin win the round and the advantage of a private lesson with Martha Stewart. Martha is an idol for Kela, a role model for her life and career, and she spends much of her time before and after seeing Martha in tears. During her time with Martha, she focuses hard on not being creepy with her adoration. It’s all very endearing. In fact, their entire interaction is the best thing about this episode.

The main challenge will involve pie so Kela’s lessons will focus on that. As the other bakers practice archery, Kela enters Martha’s home kitchen for tips and tricks related to pie. Martha’s first tip is “make it cold and bake it hot.” She tells Kela that pie crust needs to remain cold until baking. She also gives her decorating tips such as building your lattice off the pie onto waxed paper and then slipping it onto the pie fully formed for a more uniform and perfect look. She introduces Kela to some molds and cutters that she can use to make perfect braids and shapes.

As she works with her crust, Martha reminisces. She tells Kela about a time that she was making about twelve bastilla for a luncheon at Paul Newman’s house. As pretentious as that could sound, the story is absolutely endearing and one of the reasons I love Martha. She set her perfect pies out on a stone wall to cool only to find that her puppy has come along and taken a bite out of each one.

Kela asks her what she did next. “I had a heart attack. I’m not really Martha. Martha’s dead. She died a long time ago.” After a moment, she reveals the truth in a whisper. “I patched them. Don’t tell Paul.”

Kela, probably having a heart attack of her own to hear a Martha secret whispered like this, asks Martha about her favorite pie. Martha tells her she loves rhubarb, but not with strawberries like you usually see. In fact, she tells her if she uses strawberries, she will vote against Kela. No, she likes hers with raspberries and orange. She recommends letting the rhubarb sit first in a sugar water solution and then draining them off. This should help the rhubarb to be less soupy and also less bitter. As they finish their lesson, she asks Kela if she wants to borrow her rubber braid mold and Kela is only too happy to take it along.

Back at camp, everyone is ready to get going. The challenge is pie arts and crafts. Inspired by the crafts one does at camp, the bakers will take on the current trend of beautiful, intricately decorated pies. They will need to first dash up and get one of five fruits- peach, plum, blackberry, strawberry, or rhubarb. Kela, knowing Martha’s love of a rhubarb pie, is determined to get it and we see everyone pushing for a chance to get what they want. Nate wants peaches and they go tumbling to the floor, leaving him to relocate them before he can start baking.

Marth’s first tip with pie crust was make it cold, but the bakers are struggling with that in the outdoor kitchen. The sun is beating down and everyone is working frantically to get their crust made without it melting in the heat. Heat isn’t the only problem, though, as the kitchen swarms with bees who are very interested in the fruits and sugars. They cover the cutting boards and fly in the bakers’ faces. It is not an ideal situation.

Kela wants to show Martha that she is a good student so she follows her advice to the letter. She uses a sugar water soak for her rhubarb. She pairs her rhubarb with raspberries and orange. She uses the braid mold that Martha loaned to her. Her rhubarb raspberry pie includes orange zest, orange juice and ginger. For her décor, she makes a homage to bakeaway camp that features a tent and campfire as well as a braided border and cut-out leaves.

Bryan grabbed the blackberries and is making a blackberry-blueberry pie with candied ginger. He wants a lot of color for his pie so he adds freeze-dried strawberry powder to some of his dough. For his decoration, he braids strands of white and pink dough and also adds leaves to his border.

Nate wanted peaches as that is his favorite pie. He normally cooks his peaches on the stove first but feels he doesn’t have time, especially as his first offering was under-baked. His decoration is an elaborate lattice with some braided pieces and some straight pieces as well as a border of leaves and flowers.

Catherine is making a plum, apple, ginger pie. She starts by roasting her fruit in the oven and then adds allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Her decoration is the starry night sky. To make it, she cuts circles and stars out of a top crust so that her filling shows through. She then adds the cut-out stars to the top of her crust for additional dimension.

Jessica has gotten strawberries and is making a three-berry pie. She wants strawberries to be the standout flavor so she uses more of them, but she also includes raspberries and blueberries. Her decoration is inspired by plaid and features both thick and thin stripes of dough. Dan recommends that she clean up her border and Carla cautions her to really stick down her lattice or it will pull away as she bakes.

As the final minutes tick down, Nate knows that, yet again, his pastry is not cooked. He is feeling defeated and sure he will go home. Bryan realizes that much of his décor is very crumbly and is falling off. Catherine can be seen scraping at her crust and tells us, “it’s like a piece of toast, guys. It’s still good. Just get the burned bits off.”

Kela is up first for judging. When she announces her rhubarb raspberry pie with orange zest and juice, Martha smiles like a proud parent. She tells Kela that it’s so nice that she listened. Martha likes her little bakeaway camp scene, enjoys her crust, and says her filling is delicious. Carla has never had rhubarb and raspberry and really likes it. Martha tells her she was a good student and Kela floats away, taking her out of the competition. Just kidding, but she really is clearly on cloud 9.

Next up is Bryan with his blueberry blackberry pie with candied ginger. When he cuts his dramatic blue pie, it holds its shape perfectly and the judges are clearly wowed. Martha tells him it is very tasty, that his bottom crust holds up nicely, and that she is really impressed with the idea of strawberry powder in the crust. She does tell him he needs to work a bit on his crimping and braiding. Dan notes that his decoration crumbled and fell apart when cut so the slice does not look as good on the plate. Carla awards him with a “duuuuude.” She loves the pie. Bryan is so happy at the positive feedback that he tears up a bit.

Nate is next with his peach pie which he undersells, probably due to knowing it isn’t up to his standards. He calls it a simple peach pie with a ginger whipped cream and a simple lattice top. Actually, his top is one of the most beautiful, I think, with a complex lattice of braided and straight pieces and a heap of flowers and leaves at the border. Dan admires the look of the pie, especially the height he has achieved. Sadly, when Nate cuts into the pie, it is soup. The fruit sits in a ton of liquid and the slice does not hold its shape. He needed to cook them on the stove as he normally would. Martha says the peaches taste good but are nearly raw. His bottom crust is not cooked through, but Carla notes that pieces of his top crust are cooked, flaky and delicious.

Catherine delivers her plum, apple, ginger pie with amaretto whipped cream. Carla really likes her night sky decoration as well as the pairing of fruit. Dan indicates that her bottom crust is under-baked. Martha feels her piece has too much ginger in it so that it has become medicinal, but her top crust and fruit are nicely cooked.

Jessica is last to present her three-berry pie with whipped cream and strawberry puree. Carla likes her unique plaid-inspired lattice but she wishes she had not put her largest stripe right in the center. It would look more artistic off to one side. Martha can taste all three berries but is disappointed to not see the berries. She finds little fruit in her piece. It is mostly jelly. Dan notes that her crust is not evenly baked and Martha seconds this, stating that her bottom crust is not cooked at all.

In the end, Bryan’s black and blue pie wins top marks. Safe are Catherine and Kela. Surprisingly, Nate and Jessica, the top from last week, are on the bottom. I am sure Nate will go home for his soup but Jessica is announced as the baker out this week.

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What did you think of this week’s Bakeaway Camp pies? Did you pick up any pie tips during this episode?