This week it’s all about that biscuit, ‘bout that biscuit, no treble. Biscuit is British for cookie, (but you already knew that, right?) and this week all three challenges are biscuits or biscuit adjacent. We are only two episodes into this season and so far the running pattern is, every week someone forgets to turn on their oven, and every week someone cries. But that’s the way the biscuit crumbles…
We start off with our bakers being assigned the task of baking Biscotti (which is Italian for ‘Mandelbrot’). Mary and Paul explained to us that the timing needs to be just right so that they are crispy, but not so crispy they induce a dental emergency. For this challenge everyone could bring their own recipes and because they knew this was coming, they could practice at home before they arrived. Ugne used goii berries and Alvin used jackfruit. Alvin is all about the big chunks of fruit. Flora tried to camouflage her biscotti not being all the same identical size by standing them up, but she couldn’t put one over on these judges. Of course Tamal’s looked gorgeous and perfect, dipped in chocolate and nuts.
The winner was Ian, who doesn’t just bring home the bacon, he fries it up in the pan. His biscotti was infused with rosemary that he grew himself in his own garden. Martha wept.
This technical challenge recipe for Arlettes came from sadistic Paul whose only advice to the befuddled bakers, who had never heard of this biscuit before, was, “don’t rush it.” OK. You’ve got two hours…GO! This looked like one of those complicated recipes that require a lot of hand eye coordination as well as the usual cooking. It also looked like the recipe was about half butter which, like chocolate, is a major food group on my food pyramid so I really leaned into the screen for this one! The goal of this challenge was to present a plate of eight of these delicately crispy, thin cinnamon and butter confections.
However there was a plot twist; the recipe had no picture which, with instructions that had as many origami folds and turns as this one, was like doing a treasure hunt with no map… and no ‘X’. Our poor bakers were uncertain as to which way to fold or roll to such a degree it led them to question their very existence. It was left to Mel & Sue to act as therapists, and they do seem to be quite good at it, running from baking station to baking station offering words of encouragement. Unfortunately, in the confusion, old pro Marie forgot to set her oven properly, leaving her not enough time to bake eight Arlettes. Nadiya was able to present a full eight, still they were chewy instead of crispy; and a few bakers’ Arlettes were misshapen or had less spiral definition than is optimum for the picky eater.
When all was said and baked, Dorret came in first! What a relief after last week’s mousse mishap! Marie’s oven debacle left her in last place with only four Arlettes to present. Though, quite frankly, I don’t think she had recovered from joking to Paul about him being nice to her and not giving her that ‘face’. Twice.
A box of biscuits, a box of mixed biscuit and a biscuit mixer:
This week’s Showstopper Challenge was brought to you by the letter ‘B’, because it was a bee-otch! Our bakers had a mere four hours to make an edible box filled with 36 biscuits, which left many of them having minor meltdowns. And who can blame them? It took me that long just to make the biscotti I baked this week, so I’m glad I didn’t attempt this one myself! Again in this challenge, there were some unique flavors in the biscuits and biscuit boxes. Two of our bakers infused theirs with tea and Nadia used cayenne pepper. Looking at the architectural drawings at the start, it seemed like they all had ambitious projects planned, and then life intervened, as it does.
Nadiya’s Faberge Egg-shaped box seemed to be channeling Dorret’s mousse from last week. It went pppfffffftht and she had to re-do it. Then her second attempt at a less ambitious box was broken by Mel (which kinda saved her because it meant she couldn’t be sent home for it, I’d think). Most everyone was having trouble with this and – wait, OH NO! Marie just said out loud that she was going to be alright! ARGH!!! Dorret was called out for using a commercial cookie cutter to make her box of frogs. Ugne seemed to forgo the edible box and instead make an edible ice dancing costume which the judges deemed, ‘garish’. Ian made some sort of Rube Goldberg template contraption that allowed him to make a cylindrical box (genius!), and Matt’s fire engine is very cute, and so is Matt (I mean, who doesn’t love a cute fire fighter? Hello! Seriously, who cares about the cookies?)
And then there was poor Alvin. Like Icarus before him, he tried to fly too close to the Sun with his ambitious gingerbread casket (casket?), and his gingerbread wings melted. His edible box, which he had no time to assemble, looked like it was an Allen Wrench short of a Billy Bookcase, which is where he missed the boat. He should have just acted like an MFA student and said it was supposed to be an Ode to IKEA and it would have all made sense (at least if he was in a gallery in Chelsea).
In my opinion it was Sandy who amazed in this challenge. She had a biscuit template of her own design that was worthy of Norm Abram, and she used it to make a perfect, simple savory biscuit box. Tamal the Dough Whisperer had a bit of a meltdown when his gingerbread slabs multiplied in the oven, but he was able to save his box with his superior decorating skills. He is a true artist.
Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow:
The big surprise this week was the fate of Marie. What a turnaround for her; last week she was Star Baker and this week she’s tossed out into the dumpster in back of the tent. She just never got off the ground this week. This week’s Star Baker was Ian, so I suppose he’d better tread lightly next week!
How the Biscotti Crumbles:
For my own bake this week, I toyed with the idea of trying Paul’s Arlette, but quite frankly, it scared me a little. It seemed to be way above my skill level, so I decided to tackle the biscotti. I’ve never made biscotti before, and truthfully, I don’t really eat them because I think of them as something to dunk in coffee (and I don’t drink coffee). I also prefer chewier cookies. Nevertheless, I figured I’d give them a shot. I was a little apprehensive about it because of Mary’s warning that if you don’t time the second bake just right, instead of getting crispy biscuits you’ll get rocks.
Then there was the question of what kind of biscotti to make (because each contestant got to use their own recipe). I gave it a lot of thought, and then it came to me in a vision: Red Velvet! I’ll attempt Red Velvet Biscotti. Suddenly I could hear a choir of angels as, for just a brief time there, I was pretty excited thinking I am a total genius; I just invented Red Velvet Biscotti! Then I went online and found that, unbeknownst to me, Red Velvet Biscotti is already a thing. Apparently, I need to get out more.
To convert the recipe to gluten free, all I needed to do was switch out the flour (I used a mix of half garbanzo bean flour and half regular One-to-One gluten free flour), and make sure the vanilla, food coloring and white chocolate were gluten free as well. It was very easy though possibly the messiest thing I’ve ever baked! Flour and bits of red dough flew everywhere. Like the contestants, I wanted to make my biscotti special, so I had the idea to dip them in melted white chocolate. Tamal made it look so easy, but apparently my own melting and dipping skills are not up to snuff (or maybe the temperature was wrong) because the white chocolate chips melted, but then got thicker. As a result, after a few clumsily dipped and broken biscotti, I had to resort to spreading the white chocolate on top with a knife. So instead of looking like biscotti elegantly dipped, they look like biscotti with a schmear. Oh well.
My judges weren’t so picky and didn’t care that I didn’t achieve the requisite crispiness. The biscottis went over really well at work and also at a gallery opening I took them to. Although after only two weeks at this I’m starting to wonder if my guest judges are truly raving over my baking, or just the free eats. Not sure. I may try to make Red Velvet biscotti again, maybe with the cocoa and vanilla flavors, and without the ‘red’ as I’m not sure what the red food dye actually adds to the end result. It’s really all about the cocoa and vanilla dancing together. Did you bake any biscuits? How did yours do with your ‘judging panel’?
On your marks, get ready…BAKE!!!:
If you’re brave enough, you can find Paul’s Arlette recipe here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/arlettes_17164
If you do bake along, please post pictures of your own baking creations using the hashtag #PBSBakingShow.