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Tears and triumphs in the final of the 'Great British Bake Off'

17 OCTOBER 2012

A contest worth baking for. This year's final of the Great British Bake Off had culinary enthusiasts up and down the nation on the edge of their seats as John Whaite was crowned this year's winner.

The race began with a signature bake off, where each contestant was asked to create a French savoury pastry dish called a Pithivier. Simply a large pastry with a dome of flavoursome filling inside, the task of creating this modest looking pie is more trying than it sounds.

 

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The key to making puff pastry successfully involves skillfully layering butter between sheets of dough to create a flaky finish once baked.

And with medical student, James Morton having only practiced this challenging dish a couple times before, his delicious Spanish-inspired chicken and chorizo filling didn't quite make up for the young Scot's soggy bottom.

Mary Berry loved the look of Brendan Lynch's golden crust filled with potato, red pepper, spinach and spices whilst John's Italian sausage and roasted vegetable Pithivier was a winning combination.

 

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Judging blind, Paul and Mary left the contestants the trying task of baking 25 delicate fondant fancies. And it's no wonder that all three of the fabulous finalists struggled with the last technical challenge of the series.

Unsure of the exact method involved in coating each individual sponge with the fondant icing, Brendan, James and John performed some excellent decorative slapstick that no doubt entertained the six million viewers who had tuned in for Tuesday's final.

With buttercream spread too thin, icing that had run everywhere and pungent rosewater overpowering the flavour of sponge, the judges were keen to see something more impressive from the men in their final showstopper challenge.

 

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Although each baker was allowed to decorate their chiffon-cake centrepiece in any way that highlighted their year in 2012, each was expected to keep their sponges delicately fluffy. The trick is to replace butter with oil and use a meringue egg-white base to give the cake its light texture.

But disaster struck again when James dropped one of his five 'United Kingdom' cake mixtures and was forced to start again. The dry result was a heartbreaking moment for the innovative baker who had charmed the nation with his 'hearthrob' status.

 

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The flavours of Brendan's raspberry and almond 'Family Reunion Cake' complemented each other as much as its theme. He was applauded for the cake's classic appearance as Paul Hollywood remarked that the 63-year old's finish was "elegant, as always".

But from tears to triumphs, the winning ingredient turned out to be John's passion for perfecting techniques.

The 23-year old law graduate admitted that he had practised this piece several times just after his exams and, as a result, his chocolate 'Heaven and Hell' showstopper was flawless. The judges were more than impressed with the individual stack of decorative lemon curd and coconut chiffons that sat on top of the cake's glistening ganache finish, and commended John for its exquisite taste and cloud-like texture.

 

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