This showstopper challenge was to make a filled loaf. It could be stuffed, rolled, twisted, braided—you name it. But it had to look good as a centerpiece, too. I settled on a tear-and-share featuring the Mediterranean flavors of my favorite pizza — pesto, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers — with a side of roasted tomatoes, feta cheese and balsamic reduction.
Two different types of sweet European buns. That was the brief for this technical challenge. I chose saffron-infused St. Lucia buns and poppy seed snails, known as Mohnschnecken.
I really wanted to capture the essence of a treasure box with this biscuit (i.e., cookie) tower, or the delight a young child gets upon opening her mother’s jewelry box — all those glittering beads and sparkly jewels! And now that it’s done, I just can’t get enough of it!
The challenge seemed simple enough: Bake a chiffon cake. My plan was to create a yin-yang cake, contrasting the traditional flavors of a black forest gâteau (dark chocolate and cherries) with a lighter version featuring amaretto and almond flavors: a black-and-white forest gâteau. This is a cautionary tale of the cake that almost wasn't.
Only the French would name a pastry after a bicycle race, but I messed with their tradition a bit. Originally, the Paris-Brest was filled with praline cream. I decided to mix it up and make a fruity variation, with mango curd as the base layer, followed by mascarpone cream and blueberries.
Free template! I made this gingerbread Eiffel Tower as part of my challenge to bake through the Great British Bake Off. This was my gingerbread structure for the showstopper challenge in series 3 (The Beginnings on Netflix, season 5 on PBS in the U.S.).
For my “enriched celebratory loaf,” I chose to make a king cake. I used a babka-like dough, and my filling was inspired by the colors traditionally found on top of a king cake: green for faith, purple for justice and gold for power. Combining lemon, lavender and pistachios with a poppyseed filling gave it an almost Middle Eastern quality.
When I think of the thin, flaky pastry surrounding a strudel filling, it reminds me of one of my favorite hors d’oeuvres served at fancy cocktail parties: spanakopita triangles! So I decided to make a strudel with a very similar filling—the fresh flavors of sautéed spinach, leeks and onions seasoned with lemon zest, nutmeg, fresh basil, thyme and a little bit of dill. I also used a combination of feta, parmesan and ricotta cheese.
Wanting to impress the Paul and Mary in my head, I sought to produce the “subtlety of flavors” that Paul was looking for and a pie that would achieve what Mary wanted—that “every single slice will look beautiful on the plate.” I decided to create a sweet crust pastry shell with crushed lavender, fill it with coconut cream, top that with a thin layer of lime curd and garnish it with lavender-infused mascarpone whipped cream.
This was a complicated challenge. The brief was to create a four-layer meringue dessert with “exciting fillings,” in the words of Mary Berry, “that will complement the meringue.” Once I had decided on the elements of my dessert, I laid out my plan: Two layers of dacquoise alternating with two layers of chocolate French meringue separated by coffee buttercream and fresh, whole raspberries.