I’m an avid cooking show viewer. I watch whatever I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to baking and pastry. Anyone who knows me will attest to my neverending devotion to the genius that is Alton Brown, not to mention my immense admiration for the folks over at MasterChef Australia, but for pastry-specific competition shows, nothing beats the Great British Bake Off.

These amateurs can really bake their butts off! (now there’s a bizarre visual). And they’re all so likable to boot.

[I think there lies the difference between British or Australian shows, and their American counterparts. The former just seek nice people with cooking skills. The latter go for whatever passes for ‘good tv’ these days, and more often than not, it’s loud, obnoxious personalities.]

Anyway, Season 6 is almost coming to a close, and I’m looking forward to the Masterclasses with Paul and Mary. But given my undying love for anything chocolate, this week’s episode was the one I was waiting for all season, and it just so happened that it was the semifinal.

I have to say, it was mildly disappointing. I understand that each week, the bakers come prepared for 2 out of the three challenges they’re about to face all weekend. They know what the Signature challenge will be about, and they’re free to practice all week long. Same with the Showstopper: they have all the time in the world to work on it, perfect their timing and technique, make molds and whatever other paraphernalia they might be required to use. Most importantly, they’re free to experiment with flavor profiles and nail every aspect of their bake. So theoretically, those two should be no problem – yet, so often, they stumble.

The technical is where things get tricky: the information given on the recipe is minimal, and they have to rely on their instincts and baking skills to get by. Paul and Mary are usually quite sadistic with this challenge, and ask the bakers to create a baked good they probably haven’t heard of before, or at least never attempted to make at home.

But this week’s twist was rather expected: what’s more technical than a chocolate souffle? That’s exactly what our bakers had to do. The surprise and look of doom on their faces was inexplicable to me. Chances are, if you like chocolate and you’re an avid baker, you’ve made a souffle before. You know the technique, so even a sparse recipe shouldn’t be a problem. All you need to do is get the timing right, and you’re in for a home run.

If you’re able to temper chocolate and build those masterpieces of a Showstopper, you should be able to fly through the souffle challenge, no?

Ian's impressive chocolate well
Ian’s impressive chocolate well

Well, apparently not. But in the end it wasn’t the technical that did Flora in. It was her insistence on adding on so many elements and decorations that flavor ended up taking a backseat. It takes a very skilled, confident baker to pull off so much in such time constraints without losing something in the process. In Flora’s case, the loss was in flavor, so our sweet 19 year old baker had to bid the other three adieu.

Any bets for who’s going to win the final? A few weeks ago my money would have been on Ian, hands down, but it seems like Nadiya is making a mean comeback lately.

I guess we’ll see next week!

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