The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 5 Episode 2: Biscuits #BakeOffAU

In the words of Claire Hooper, “Get the kettle on, it’s biscuit week.” My friends know that biscuit week is my least favourite of the early episodes. The showstoppers are usually are variation on “make a building out of biscuits” and it gets tiring. I love eating biscuits, but they don’t make the best television. The good news is that we already know Ella’s good at biscuits because she made a biscuit bra for her boob cake, something I will never tire of typing. On with the recap!

Claire Hooper, Maggie Beer, Matt Moran and Mel Buttle

Signature: Slice and Bake Biscuits

There was some initial confusion with this one on twitter, as the description was “creating a pattern or design with biscuit dough, then roll, slice and bake. It’s a bunch of different coloured dough rolled in a log to make a design that you should should be able to see when you slice through the log and bake them. My initial image was the roll of cookie dough you get from the supermarket that you slice to bake biscuits and/or eat while you’re baking.

Haydn‘s design was conical flast biscuits, made with a chocolate and orange flavoured dough. He had a little btrouble in the rolling/assembly aspect of the challenge however, and they didn’t end up looking like conical flasks. Matt and Maggie also said they were a little bit soft in the middle. This is the beginning of this week’s theme of “Haydn tries to do too much”.

Hoda made Persian ta’arof biscuits, which had a heart in the middle. The outside dough was vanilla, and the inner heart had saffron and pistachio flavours. When the judges saw them, they said that they all looked amazing and Matt told Hoda, “You have a beautiful heart. Wait, that’s something you should be saying to Maggie.” Matt liked that he couldn’t smell the saffron, which meant it wasn’t overpowering, however they were a little strong for Maggie. Unfortunately they were slightly undercooked, otherwise Matt said they could’ve been perfect.

When I first saw Ashley‘s “dark slice of the moon” biscuits and she started talking about space, I thought maybe it was the Rebel Alliance symbol (that I had to look up because I knew it was Star Wars related, but I thought maybe it was a ship). Then she explained that she studied astrophysics at uni and this woman is brilliant, give her a show. I want to know everything about her. Her moons were black sesame and tahini flavoured. Maggie was excited because she loves black sesame. The biscuits looked fantastic and even and the flavour was good, but they were also a tad undercooked.

Aaron‘s “chill vibes” biscuits had a checkerboard design, which was really impressive. One check was lavender and the other was chamomile, and they had a honey glaze. The biscuits looked spot on, but were a little soft in the middle, possibly because of the honey glaze. There was a beautiful crispness and the lavender was in balance (which we know can be a problem).

Tom‘s almond, honey and lime biscuits were intended to look like playing cards, but the dough was too soft and they weren’t holding their shape. When Matt and Maggie went to taste them, they were still warm and said they could tell he was disappointed that it didn’t turn out like his original concept.

Blessing‘s “zesty bee” biscuits are a lavender and lemon shortbread. When Matt and Maggie come around, Maggie asks how Blessing’s doing being away from home and they bond over listening to music so they feel less alone. I love it when Maggie adops the contestants, Blessing is first this season. Maggie loved the bees and once again the lavender wasn’t overpowering. No lavender meringue situations in this shed!

Nurman‘s “coffee-right” biscuits were a pun that I didn’t get until I actually saw them baked. I’m from Melbourne, I just assume everyone has strong opinions about coffee. In a copyright symbol were his chocolate and coffee ‘C’ shape through the centre, surrounded by a cinnamon and cardamom biscuit. The flavours were creative (there’s mango in there somewhere according to my notes), but the presentation wasn’t great and some of the biscuits were undercooked.

Jawin made “Perfect Matcha” biscuits, which set off the matcha debate on Twitter. Is there such a thing as perfect matcha? You decide. In addition to the matcha shortbread, there was also pink shortbread with acai berries. Maggie said she was expecting a stronger flavour, and the presentation wasn’t great.

Reigning Star Baker/Queen Ella made chocolate and orange poo emoji biscuits. She presented them in a potty because she’s nothing if not thorough. I love it when someone commits to a theme. The judges said that they were perfectly baked, crisp and the orange flavour has really come through.

Carmel made Italian spumoni biscuits with sugar dough that was flavoured with pistachio, chocolate and cherry respectively. Maggie loved the pistachio and Matt liked the cherry flavour but said that the chunks of fruit made it softer than it should’ve been.

Nav madce Afghani flag sable biscuits, flavoured with cardamom, almond and saffron to make the colours of the flag, then piped with royal icing. This is the first instance this episode of Nav’s excellent piping skills. The judges said that the biscuits looked fantastic and the biscuits were short and crisp.

Technical: Alfajores

Nurman was the only person who seemed to have heard of Alfajores when they were announced as the technical challenge. It turns out he has an Argentinian friend so he knows a little about how to make them. My mum texted me at one point saying, “These biscuits are ridiculous. They need to make cream puffs!” I told her that maybe there’d be a choux week.

Anyway, Matt’s hints to the bakers were: use your time wisely, know your limits, sandwich not doorstop and just chill. So alfajores are sandwich shortbread biscuits filled with dulce de leche, dipped in chocolate and decorated with coconut. Matt also puts in a zing of lemon just for Maggie. The bakers have 2 hours for the whole challenge, which was terrifying because my dulce de leche recipe takes 4 hours.

Hoda looks at the recipe and says it “sounds easy,” but it never is. The bakers make their dulce de leche by making a caramel and adding milk, which is not how I do it. Jawin tells Mel and Claire that he makes it by boiling a tin of condensed milk in a pot of water. Mel says yes, “you go and eat it in your treehouse then you vomit up your dinner and you tell your mum you don’t know why.” Blessing burnt her first lot of caramel, which Claire accurately says “Maggie Beer would turn that into an absolute money tree.”

I’m a bit concerned about Haydn’s leather caramel, which is not how that’s supposed to work. Nav forgot his baking powder, so we’re 2 out of 2 weeks for someone forgetting an ingredient in the technical. When Ella’s decorating her perfect looking alfajores, she says they look a bit messy. We clearly have different standards.

The judging was really interesting this week. At the end, Matt says they’re all very good biscuits. From last to first we have Nav, Tom, Haydn, Jawin, Aaron, Blessing, Hoda, Nurman, Carmel, Ashley and Ella. At this point my notes say “seriously, Ella is running away with this.”

It’s the next day and it’s time for tea, and the discussion on how the bakers are going. Nav, Tom and Haydn are in trouble. Tom has to make a really good showstopper to stay in the competition, and Haydn tries to do too much. Nav had issues in the technical, but he had a better signature than the other two. Meanwhile, Ella is still amazing, and Matt jokes that Maggie’s been sending her poo emojis for weeks. Maggie also thinks Nurman could do really well.

Showstopper: Biscuit Chandelier

If this was The Great Pottery Throwdown, the chandelier would have to work, which is something I love about that show. Although Matt made his opinions known last week regarding non-edible elements of the dish. I like this showstopper, I’m glad this isn’t a variation on “make a box/building/etc” we’ve seen so many times. The chandelier must hang independently and be eyecatching. Mel also requests 240 volts, so we’re on the same page when it comes to functional chandeliers.

Haydn decided to bake his entire structure, so Maggie asked the question that he should be asking himself – “have you taken on too much?” The chandelier structure is chocolate cream cheese discs, with strands of chocolate diamond biscuits and pulled sugar panels. I got really worried when Haydn said he didn’t know you couldn’t cook different sized biscuits for the same amount of time. Then he left the burnt ones on the chandelier! I already thought he was going home at the start of this challenge. He also used a drill to construct his chandelier, which is something I’ve never seen in Bake Off. Matt and Maggie said that the small ones were burnt and that the chocolate and cream cheese flavours weren’t coming through.

Hoda‘s moon and stars were flavoured with vanilla, orange zest and cloves. They had candy centres and were decorated with fondant and royal icing. Hoda also gave us fairy lights at the top of her chandelier, which is what I like to see. There was good orange flavour and crispness, however the vanilla biscuits were slightly soft.

Ashley made a hippie chandelier, with malt vanilla biscuits decorated with pink, orange and yellow chocolate in an ombre pattern. Ashley said she felt like she took too much on last week (I thought the book was amazing, but she knows herself), so she kept it simple this time. Matt and Maggie said that it was extravagant, had lots of bling and great colours. They loved the flavour, but the biscuits were a little soft in the middle.

Aaron‘s flower power showstopper was my favourite bake of the week. His Swedish gingerbread (with a hint of cayenne pepper we didn’t hear about until judging) were decorated with orange candy windowpanes and royal icing. The design was inspired by his nan’s kitchen. Matt and Maggie said that they loved the glasswork and it looked fantastic. However the cayenne pepper was a bit too much for Maggie.

Tom decided to take on the cursed bake this week by making, raspberry, fig and orange jam drops. He said that there’s a history of jam drops in the Torres Strait, so they have memories of home. When Matt and Maggie see the final product, they say it’s a little messy and wonder what Tom did with his time, and also the biscuits were a bit soft.

Blessing made a Cookie Africa chandelier, with spiced biscuits and chocolate mint. Each biscuit was individually decorated with brightly coloured royal icing. The spiced biscuit was warm of the tongue. Maggie said tshe preferred the crisper chocolate and mint biscuit, but Matt liked them both.

Nurman made a pocky stick chandelier. There were some questions on twitter that Maggie loves Japanese flavours yet somehow doesn’t know pocky, but it’s a snack food. We all have gaps. The vanilla sugar cookies had three diferent flavours: strawberry and sumac, matcha and black sesame, and dark chocolate with mango and passionfruit. Matcha is still a controversial flavour, but green tea pocky is a thing, so you can’t really argue with it. Matt and Maggie loved the Japanese aesthetic. It looked amazing, the flavours are incredible and the biscuit was really good. Nurman started crying when Matt said he’d done exceptionally well and Ella went to hug him, it was a lovely moment.

The bees are back with Jawin‘s Hive Five chandelier. His beehive was made from gingerbread and the bees were yuzu and honey sable biscuits. There was an issue with some burnt ingerbread in the process, but it ended up looking great. The biscuits melted in the mouth, and the concept and flavours were a great idea.

Ella won my heart by making an owl as part of her Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star mobile. The owl was made of gingerbread with a chocolate ganache filling, and the stars were lemon buttercream. There was also a moon biscuit made from tuile, but it didn’t work. The judges said that the flavour and texture were great, but the tuile was disappointing. Sometimes it’s important to know when to leave something off.

Carmel is our resident Christmas lover in the shed, she made a Christmas tree out of fruit cake flavoured reathes and honey cinnamon snowflakes. The fruit cake biscuit was a bit soft – there was no snap – but the judges got the Christmas flavours. Matt asked if she may have played it a bit safe structurally, because the tree shape meant that the biscuits weren’t hanging in quite the same way.

Nav made a floral biscuit chandelier in honour of his daughters – his wife makes flower crowns for them. The lime and mint biscuits were decorated with buttercream flowers in graduating shades of pink to create a floral ombre spiral. We’ve reached the point in the show where I had my first disagreement with the judges. Matt questioned if it was extravagant enough. It is. The biscuits were crisp and the flavour was great! Those are some serious piping skills!

It’s tea time again, and the judges have plenty of biscuits this week. They were very impressed overall – Nurman was fantastic, and they were waiting for him to show them something amazing. Ella’s was really good, but the tuille was a problem. Aaron also got an honourable mention as the glasswork was beautiful. They said that Haydn, Tom and Nav were in trouble. I don’t agree with their Nav criticisms, but he did have a horror technical. Meanwhile Haydn tried to do too much and his biscuits didn’t have much flavour, while the judges questioned what Tom did with his time. Nurman wins Star Baker and Tom is going home. Bye Tom, we’ll miss you!

Other thoughts

  • If for some reason you watch the show and read these recaps, but don’t listen to The Washing Up podcast, go and do that. They had an excellent interview with Lidia, where she revealed that her specialty is biscuits! A missed opportunity.
  • It doesn’t look like any recipes have been uploaded this week, but I’ll keep an eye out.
  • Depending on what happens the next few weeks, these might be out later on the weekend. We’ll see.