Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart review: Suddenly Stormy

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 /

Was this episode of Bakeaway Camp a washout?

Just four home bakers are still at Bakeaway Camp, vying for the final mentorship with Martha Stewart and a spot in next week’s finale. Who will float to the top and who will be washed away?

Host Jesse Palmer greets our four bakers in the early morning and tells them he has just returned from a morning hike. While out, he foraged for ingredients for an elegant camp breakfast. Martha must live in a truly magical woodland because he has found things like heaps of pale pine nuts, orange-yellow meyer lemons, lavender, rosemary, and jarred honey. It seems he has foraged at the local high-end grocery store, but the bakers are happy for the ingredients. They have sixty minutes to whip up a delicious breakfast that reaches beyond scrambled eggs and oatmeal.

For the most part, the bakers seem to have few problems, having adjusted to the challenges of cooking in an outdoor kitchen. Kela has the most noticeable difficulty. She is making a biscuit but takes them out of the oven to find they have leaked their butter into a puddle, leaving the bottoms fried and the tops dry. I’ve had that happen with croissant dough but never biscuits. With just sixteen minutes left, she has to frantically remake her biscuit dough and bake them again.

Our judges are “camp counselors” Carla Hall and Dan Langan and they are ready for some breakfast. They start at Catherine’s station. She has decided to make two scones. For one, she has glazed bacon in bourbon, brown sugar and honey and baked it before adding it to her cheddar and chive scone. For the other, she has been inspired by the mimosa and has given it a prosecco glaze. Carla appreciates that she didn’t bake the bacon to be too crispy before adding it to her dough. This has allowed the bacon to continue to render into her scone as it baked and given it more bacon flavor. Carla also really likes the combo of thyme and citrus in the sweet scone. Playing his usual bad cop, Dan mentions that her mimosa scone is overworked and tough.

Bryan is up next with his apple cider doughnut with apple cider caramel sauce. I covet his breakfast. The last time I had anything like that was at the local farm last fall when we spent a glorious day going through the corn maze and picking pumpkins. Bryan has brought a lot of flavor to his doughnut with the addition of lemon zest and apple butter to his batter. He has added texture with toasted pine nuts. He toasted them in oil and Carla warned him that they don’t need that and that he needs to be careful to not leave them oily. Taking her advice, he has carefully rubbed them with a paper towel so they aren’t oily, and the judges are really impressed with how moist his baked donut is.

Nate has gone for a similar flavor profile with his caramel apple biscuits. The biscuits are his Grandmother’s recipe and he finished them with a brush of rosemary butter. When the judges visited, he too was toasting pine nuts, but he was doing it in a big nob of butter. There was no mention of greasiness to him, but they did worry about his ability to get his biscuits baked properly. Last week, he underbaked both his challenge offerings. Testing his biscuits, he is pleased with the bake and says they are dense, but he likes them that way.  Carla notes that they can’t really critique Grandma’s recipe, but they really can because you have no idea if he executed them the way she would. Dan decides that they have good flavor but are heavy. Carla admits they are heavy but they are also tender and melt in your mouth so she doesn’t have a problem with it. Dan feels that there isn’t enough rosemary flavor.

Kela is last to present and she has gone all out. She presents a citrus roll, something she tried for the first time today. It is similar to a cinnamon roll but with citrus instead. She also has made a citrus biscuit, honey rosemary bacon and scrambled eggs. Carla awards her first “duuuude” of the day for the bacon, which Dan admits is really good. However, her second batch of biscuits is overworked and her butter has melted into the biscuit so she hasn’t achieved a light flaky texture. Carla recommends that she try cold grated butter in her biscuit to allow her to get the butter incorporated with minimal working of the dough.

Bryan’s yummy doughnut wins the advantage, giving him the last mentoring session with Martha Stewart. This also means that, of the final four, Nate is the only baker who has had no individual time with Martha. The main challenge is to make a woodland inspired dessert, decorated to represent items found in the woods. Bryan heads off to Martha’s farm kitchen to learn tricks that will help him with the woodland theme.

While Bryan attempts to remember how to breath like a normal person in the presence of Martha Stewart, she shows him how to make meringue mushrooms, marzipan hedgehogs, bright green Italian pistachio moss, and dirt made by using a potato peeler on a block of good chocolate.

When Bryan returns, it is time for the challenge that will decide the final three. Their two hours begins as Bryan notes that it is ninety degrees and horribly humid. He wishes for a summer storm to cool things off. Suddenly, he gets his wish as the clouds open and heavy rain pours down. The production crew scrambles to set up tents around the bakers and to follow the cameramen around with umbrellas. It is utter chaos for a few minutes but just as suddenly as it appeared, so it vanishes. With forty-six minutes remaining, the rain has stopped but everyone is disoriented, soaking wet, and in need of assessing their ingredients to see if things are too wet to use.

Not content with the downpour as a twist, with twenty minutes left, Jesse announces that they have yet another task. Each one has admitted to a woodland creature phobia in their application, and they must all represent that scary creature somewhere on their dessert.

When time is called, it is apparent that this has been a rough round for the bakers. Nate is up first and has managed to overcome the obstacles better than most in terms of his decoration. He has made a carrot cake with a mascarpone cream cheese frosting. His carrot cake includes pineapple and toasted coconut and he has added almond extract to his frosting for an additional flavor. For his decoration, he has made a realistic tree stump. He has covered his round cake with molded modeling chocolate bark. Onto this, he has layered moss made of pistachios, green food coloring, and vanilla wafer cookies. He has added gum paste leaves and mushrooms. On the top of his cake sits coiled a black snake made of peanut butter and cocoa nib rice cereal treat.

The judges all love the realism of his decoration. Martha is a little disappointed that his moss is not the natural vibrant green of Italian pistachios but she is impressed with how much he has accomplished in two hours. Carla loves the textures in his cake from the pineapple, carrot and coconut and she finds it very moist. Martha finds the cake actively soggy in some places and feels that the almond extract is overpowering and not a good match with a carrot cake.

Bryan is up next and you can see that he has really struggled. He too has gone for a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting in the form of a tree stump. It is unfortunate that his décor will suffer direct comparison to Nate’s. Bryan wanted to decorate his stump with chocolate bark. His idea was to spread tempered chocolate onto waxed paper, roll it up, chill it, and then unroll it to get long, curved shards. As he is making this, Carla and Dan stop by and recommend he have more color in the bark, so he has added white chocolate. Unfortunately, he leaves his chocolate in the freezer too long and he struggles to get it to uncurl and unstick from the paper. Worse, as he picks at it with a knife, he cuts himself.

In the end, his long chocolate shards end up as little chocolate bits, and to me, the white chocolate marbling makes it look even less realistic. He has also tried to decorate with some of Martha’s Italian pistachio moss, a hedgehog, and some buttercream covered ice cream cone trees. To me, the hedgehog is large and clumsy and the trees seem out of proportion and childish. For his phobia, he has poured chocolate into round molds for a spider body, and then he has piped buttercream legs, but the legs are far too thick.

It is pretty apparent that Martha is disappointed that this was the result of her mentoring. “I think you did take a little but from our lesson together,” she tells him. But she finds the green color of his frosting on the trees to be too harsh and cartoony. Perhaps deciding that saying less was better in this case, she sums things up with “everything looks edible.”

Bryan has made a walnut praline topping for his cake which Martha really enjoys. Carla likes his blend of spices in the cake. Dan does too, but feels that the cake reads spice cake instead of carrot cake. Carla tries to eat the body of the spider but it is a large, solid piece of chocolate and she nearly breaks a tooth.

Kela is up next and it is clear she too has struggled. She is the only baker to make a rectangular cake. When she described her concept, I was immediately worried, and my worries have come true at presentation. Her concept is the idea of a swim hole that has dried up, so it is a mud hole. There is really nothing appetizing about a mud hole.

To convey this, she has made a chocolate espresso cake with a coffee liquor buttercream. This has resulted in a large brown rectangle. The heat has done a number on her layers and frosting, so her rectangle is wavy and uneven. She has added some hastily piped green grass as well as a huge, out-of-proportion cartoon frog (her phobia) and a very small brown tree. For the mud hole, she has scooped out a chunk of cake and filled it with chocolate ganache. I’m not even sure how one would properly serve that part of the cake as no one would want that much ganache.

Carla is amused by the frog and his big personality. Dan wishes for more color as the whole thing is brown with a few green touches. Even the grass and frog are the same color of green. Martha nicely says it probably tastes better than it looks. Dan does like the flavor, especially of her buttercream which tastes of freshly brewed espresso. Martha admits it is a very good chocolate cake. Dan would like a better buttercream to cake ratio, and Carla recommends that she bake more, shallower layers as they would bake faster, cool faster, and give her a better ratio.

Catherine is last to present and again, we have something of a comparison going on as she too has made a chocolate cake. Hers is a dark chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel buttercream. Unlike everyone else who has made a woodsy scene, she has made a character cake. Her cake is a fox, with a white fondant face, perky ears, and buttercream fur. For her phobia, she has sculpted a fondant yellow jacket. As she sculpted it, a real yellow jacket helpfully posed on the sculpture, leaving her to paint around it.

Dan appreciates that she has done something different by making a character cake. Martha says the fox is cute and that there are actual foxes in the area. When they try it, Carla finds it delicious and tender, Dan loves the buttercream, and Martha likes the cake to cream ratio. Dan just wishes for some texture.

In the end, Catherine’s little fox wins her the first place in the finale. Sadly, Kela is out for a cake that was “unsophisticated” and lacking in color variation. Though Kela leaves in tears, she leaves with her head held high and sure that she will still make her dreams come true. Baking has seen her through worse than this, and she intends to keep baking her way to the top.

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Next up, we have the finale. Who is your pick to win it all?