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The Not-So-Great Defector Bake Off Grimly Marches Through Pâtisserie Week

A dramatic apple topping from the show.
Screenshot via Netflix

Welcome to a new series called The Not-So-Great Defector Bake Off, where Kelsey and Chris attempt to complete the technical challenges from the newest season of The Great British Bake Off in their own home kitchens, with the same time parameters as the professional-grade bakers competing on the show.

The ninth week of the 14th season of The Great British Bake Off aired last week. Fans of this show will know that the ninth week of a given season is always the semi-final, the trial that narrows the group of contestants down to the three that will compete for the fancy engraved cake stand that the show presents as a trophy to the champion. Fans of the show also will know that the semi-final challenges are almost always themed to French pâtisserie baking. And anyone who has ever been inside a French pâtisserie will tell you that the baked confections found within are always at least as visually impressive as they are delicious to eat. A pâtisserie is a showcase.

For the idiots of the Not-So-Great Defector Bake Off, this presents a particular challenge. For one thing, we do not always have access to all of the specific tools and ingredients that are used in a real-deal pâtisserie, which the show provides to its contestants. For another, we are bloggers. Most crucially, we are idiots, and prone to lapses in concentration and mood, to deficits of attention and energy and enthusiasm, to pointless acts of defiance and doomed leaps of utterly unearned bravado. These traits will not always doom a baker who is endeavoring to make a pizza, or a loaf of rustic sourdough, or a batch of oatmeal cookies, but will absolutely sink and destroy a baker who, for example, is attempting to make a batch of delicate and refined vertical tarts.

Which is why we were initially relieved to learn that the technical challenge for this episode was to make Prue Leith's Tarte Aux Pommes. A tarte aux pommes is an apple tart, a traditional French dessert that possibly you have even sampled yourself. It's a fancy open-faced apple pie. Of course, in order to be suitable for a French pâtisserie, it would need to be a glorious and perfect open-faced apple pie. But in order to redeem an hours-long cooking project and the destruction of a home kitchen, it would merely need to be edible. After the nightmare fiasco of Party Week, this tarte aux pommes could maybe even be a walk in the park. Certainly it could never fail to produce something better than Satan's caterpillars.

Kelsey McKinney: Good morning, Chris! Welcome to the first bake off after Thanksgiving! How was your week of food and merriment? 

Chris Thompson: Very merry. I ate a really shocking amount of bourbon walnut pie. You?

KM: Wow! That sounds magnificent! I ate a lot of confit turkey! But I also had a very enjoyable time making a vegan apple pie from scratch with all the time in the world. It was such an exciting experience to make a lattice without my hands shaking. Did you have any baking revelations during the week? 

CT: I did not. And to be honest I think I'm still recovering from the caterpillar abomination. I may never fully recover.

KM: God, me too. The emotional and mental toll of that failure will haunt me forever? 

CT: Did the pleasing apple pie experience in any way rejuvenate you for the making of Prue Leith’s Tarte Aux Pommes?

KM: I did feel in some ways very prepared for the tarte aux pommes. I have made hundreds of apple pies in my life, if not a thousand, and a tarte aux pommes is not so different. I am very good at slicing apples very thinly, so theoretically I should have felt confident. But even after my delicious many-coursed Thanksgiving dinner and my beautiful apple pie, the haunting face of the caterpillar lives inside my eyes and taunts me.

Ugly caterpillar cake, straight-on.
He is always watching.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/Defector

CT: It’s that dead-eyed smile. A smile from the bowels of hell. 

I was expecting a much more finicky bake for Pâtisserie Week. I wonder if Prue got into so much trouble for the steamed pudding debacle (which we skipped) that she decided she had to go easier on the bakers this time. Not that a tarte aux pommes is a hot pocket or anything, but it’s also not nearly as challenging a bake as, well, the damned caterpillar cake.

KM: Me too! I started this bake (stupidly) at 8:30 p.m. last night, and was prepared to meet an imminent death. I feel like Pâtisserie Week is usually some stupid triple-laminated dough with a very immense amount of like white chocolate work. This bake did not seem that hard to me! Even though I’m not sure if I did it correctly. But maybe everything in comparison with the haunted caterpillar seems easy.

CT: I had a somewhat different experience of this bake, I think. I started it a few hours earlier, and was just completely emotionally flat from the jump. I tried but failed to work my way into an attitude of positivity. Eventually I just said screw it and started the timer. I didn't even bother putting on my trusty apron.

From that point on I was just grimly marching forward. The instructions are super bare and there were lots of steps and I often felt very confused, but for the most part I didn’t put a ton of effort into reasoning out sensible interpretations of the scant information. My attitude throughout was Fuck This.

KM: Oh yeah, I should admit that I remember thinking to myself that I needed an attitude adjustment like 15 minutes into the bake. I was so angry in a way I am very rarely angry. Perhaps I would have been less angry if the bake had been harder or stupider, but something about the vague confusion added to the simple steps filled me with a fiery fury. Usually, I am able to find some joy. 

CT: I think we need therapy. Specific therapy, to address the caterpillar trauma.

KM: Do you think they pay for therapy for the actual Bake Off contestants? Let’s send our bills to Paul Hollywood. The caterpillar is gonna cost me thousands of dollars in CBT.

Ingredients and Shopping

CT: Nothing super weird in the ingredients this time. The recipe calls for apricots, which are not in season, and it calls for Calvados, which in my household is always in season.

KM: Yes! I went to the grocery store yesterday evening to obtain some basic ingredients I was out of. I went to a different ACME because someone emailed me to tell me that it had golden caster sugar! Thank you to this ally. I was able to find some. But of course there were no apricots because it is fucking November. I bought pears instead. Pears are in season and they looked nice. I also went to the liquor store. Oh no! We had to expense some Calvados! Tragedy strikes the bakers!

CT: Oh wow, I also went with pears. It didn’t occur to me as I was shopping that part of the appeal of the apricots in this recipe might’ve been their specific acid or pectin content, or their color, or anything else. Just that they were fruit for a glaze for the very final step of the bake. So by this calculation, an in-season fruit would be a clean like-for-like substitute.

KM: Wow! We were in sync! The pears looked really nice! I also did not consider the science. I had the exact same mindset and I saw the nice pears and thought, those could be apricots! I’m excited to find out what you did with them. 

CT: I also purchased an apple corer for this bake. After our success with the pithivier bake, I went back two days later and made an apple pithivier (a pithivier aux pommes, perhaps), but it wound up being a pain in the ass because I had to core one billion apples using a chef’s knife. So when I saw that this recipe also required one billion apples, I swooped through the gadget aisle and bought a five-buck corer.

KM: Woah! OK, fancy! One thing about me is I’m so lazy, and I hate gadgets. I wish I were different. I peeled all my apples with a little knife just spinning the apple around in my hand and then I just cut off the sides around the cores. Knives are all I need. Knives are my friends. 

CT: What kind(s) of apples did you use for this bake? 

KM: So Prue wanted us to have two types of apples. The ACME I went to was not rich in apple choices. I ended up getting some nice Gala apples for the topping apples and then I went a little crazy and got some green Granny Smith apples for the inside. I like green apples in a pie because they are a little tarter! What did you use? 

CT: I hunted around for Cox apples (Prue recommended these for the purée) but when I couldn’t find any I just bought 10 or so Macintosh apples. These are enormously popular in the Thompson household. My child adores them.

KM: Wow she’s just like me for real. I also love Macintosh apples. They are delicious! The ACME did not have these. 

CT: Womp womp.

Beyond the apples, this recipe is just a lot of unsalted butter and caster sugar, plus almonds and flour.

KM: Something else interesting did happen to me at the ACME. Would you like to hear it? 

CT: Let’s hear it!

KM: I met a reader! I was checking out with my Defector tote and someone was like “I love Defector!” And I looked up and he was like,“Oh my god, sorry!” And then he was like, “Wait, are these the supplies for the bake?” because I was only buying literally 14 apples, caster sugar, and eggs. Hello to Casey! He said, “Prayers it is better than the caterpillar,” and for that I bless him. 

CT: Amazing! I think I am never more feral and dangerous than when I am doing the bake, but a close second is when I am shopping for ingredients. I might’ve bitten Casey’s hand off.

KM: Same! I was feeling VERY weird. I was also (inexplicably) eating a Blow Pop, so I was giving off very deranged and unhappy energy.

Stage One: Making Pâte Brisée, Blind Baking, Making Apple Purée

CT: This was another long bake. Two-and-a-half hours, with 10 steps and a temperature change. At least Prue gave us the temps this time. That removed some anxiety.

KM: I’m tired of marathons! Let me do a bake that’s one hour in length and makes me want to die! Theoretically the temperature information would have removed anxiety, if I had worked out the conversions, but I did not. I was so mad going into this bake that I immediately ignored everything Prue said. I was going my own way. 

CT: Ah, yeah, the temps were in Celsius, which required a little math. Those damned Brits. 

What was the first thing you did after starting your timer this time?

KM: Well, something bad happened before I started my timer, Chris, which was that despite buying a tart pan for one of our bakes last season, I could not find my tart pan to save my life. I tore apart my kitchen looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found (to whoever stole my tart pan, please bring it back). Then I got very upset, considered crying, considered quitting, and ended up deciding to use a weird cake pan that I stole from my mom when I went to college. 

CT: Have you considered the possibility that your mom stole your tart pan in retaliation?

KM: Wow! I had not! Tracy! Give me my tart pan back!

CT: The first step in the instructions is simply, “Make and blind bake a pâte brisée.” This is challenging for me because I have never heard of pâte brisée. But the ingredients (flour, salt, chilled butter, egg, cold water) give the impression that "pâte brisée" is just a fancy way of saying “pie crust.”

KM: This is so funny. I did not even consider that it could be different than pie dough. The only difference I saw was “an egg,” so I just proceeded to make pie dough. I crumbled up the butter in the flour with my fingers, Dropped the egg yolk in there, swirled it around, added ice water, and tossed it in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. 

CT: I did basically the same, minus the use of the freezer. I was initially freaked out because the instructions make a point of noting that the egg should be separated. I didn’t know which part of the egg—the yolk or the white—should go into the dough. I did settle on using the yolk, because I could not think of any reason why egg white would go into this raw dough, but of course I actually do not know anything.

I used the “rub in” method for the butter and flour, which is a thing I do not understand and which I hate doing, and which may in the end be the cooking process that I am worst at.

KM: Wait, why do you hate doing it? Is it because it is messy? 

CT: I don’t really understand what it is meant to accomplish! Like, my fingers are really not an efficient tool for making sand out of butter and flour, and they are heating the butter the entire time, which cannot be good because this is supposed to be a crumbly and short crust. So then why am I using my fingers? Why should I not instead use a food processor, which will take 10 seconds and will not heat the butter at all?

A bowl of flour with butter roughly mixed in.
The hell with this.Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

Anyway I used my fucking fingers for this because every time we have been asked to combine butter and flour it’s using this miserable, hateful method.

KM: You’re so smart. I love doing this with you because you’re thinking about things like this while I’m just touching the dough happily and getting my hands all messy like a baby. I like to touch it. But perhaps this is part of my anti-gadget agenda. 

CT: The recipe also calls for two to three tablespoons of cold water. I wound up using three, and even that felt ridiculous as I tried to form my dough into a cohesive lump. It was soooooo crumbly and loose. I was sure it was wrong.

A ball of crumbly pie dough.
Sure, fine, whatever.Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

KM: I don’t know how much water I used. I was just pouring it out of a cup. Why am I a piece of garbage? Why can’t I be normal? 

CT: Kelsey, you have the true heart of a baker. Baking, at its best and purest, is this ancient alchemical thing, which is done by honing and then following one's senses. People (like me) who try to tame it with measurements are kind of missing the point. I really sincerely believe that.

KM: Based on my … uh … failures in this series, that cannot be right. What did you do after you put your crumbly dough into the fridge? 

CT: Right, so, I wrapped my dough in plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge. This felt stupid because I was sure my dumb fingers had already melted all the butter. My next step was to begin coring and peeling and slicing apples for making a purée. Here I ran into my second little freakout: The instructions did not say whether the purée should be made raw or cooked. I cannot emphasize enough how this kind of lack of information takes the fight right out of me. I am such a wuss.

KM: I also did not consider this. I assumed it had to be cooked only because there was no blender or thing like it on the equipment list. In retrospect, that doesn’t make a lot of sense since there is also no “stand mixer” on the equipment list and we always have to use that.

CT: The only clue for me was the butter. I figured if we’re making a purée and the purée contains butter, the butter must be melted. And if we’re melting butter we’re probably cooking apples. So I cooked my apples. But I was sinking into in a pretty rotten mood, as potential points of failure came and went.

Chopped apples with butter and lemon juice in a sauté pan.
Is this correct? Who can say?Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

KM: Oh, that’s smart! I peeled my apples with the knife, sliced them off the core, chopped them into cubes, and threw them into the pan with the butter. At this point, I became unreasonably angry. I was looking at all these apples in the pan, and looking at the instructions, and becoming more and more angry. I cannot explain how much I hate the British palate and how boring I consider it to be. The purée only calls for a smidge of butter and nothing else. This, I decided, was not right. I added ginger and cinnamon and a little bit of nutmeg to my purée. My house, my fucking rules.

Spices I added to the bake illegally.
Spices I added to the bake illegally.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/ Defector

CT: Oh wow, good for you. Mind always open to inspiration. Whereas I was a zombie. If anything, I was annoyed that the ingredients kept asking us to add lemons to everything. Lemon juice in the purée, lemon syrup for the apple topping. Is this a damn apple dessert or what?

KM: This is one of my least favorite things about the Great British Bake Off, the only acid they have ever heard of is lemon. But lemon is not the only acid that exists. I also did not use lemon in the purée. I used apple cider vinegar. I’m the king of my own castle. I make whatever purée I want. 

CT: That’s great. For that you win Star Baker. This blog is over! 

KM: Bye!

But really, what happened next for you? 

CT: I considered different ways of puréeing my apples and decided that the use of the word “purée” entitled me to the use of my food processor. So when the apples were soft I dumped them in there and pulsed it a few times and then dumped the purée into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

A bowl of puréed apples.
Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

KM: God, I wish we could do these bakes in the same room. If I saw you using the food processor, I would have used it! Instead I stood stupidly by the pan, smashing my apples with a wooden spoon for 500 years. 

CT: Awful!

I considered this—I think under different circumstances I might even have preferred it—but I hate losing time early on to an inefficient manual process when the clock is ticking and there’s so much left to do. 

KM: The other thing about this bake that was weird is that all the steps took an annoying amount of time, but none of them were very frantic. Because of this, I did not get the adrenaline rush that I got with the terrible caterpillar, which allowed me to continue on. I just became very, very sleepy! 

Some purée in a glass bowl
Very brown purée.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/ Defector

CT: The next step in the instructions is to make the lemon syrup, but I felt like that was actually a long way off, since the only use for the syrup is to coat the apples for the topping. So I figured now was the time to begin the blind bake.

KM: Oh, interesting! By the time my purée finished, the 15-minute timer for my chilling dough went off. I then took it out of the freezer, and rolled it out, and put it in the cake pan. I then put the cake pan back into the freezer with the dough for 20 more minutes. Because of this, I had nothing to do, so I made the syrup.

Raw pie dough in a tin
My dough before baking. Photo by Kelsey McKinney/Defector

CT: Yes, so, obviously that is the right thing to do. But when I took my dough out of the fridge and began to roll it out, it immediately broke apart into four lumps and a bunch of tiny crumbles. I was so certain that I’d fucked it up. But under no circumstances was I going to start over. So I just mashed it around for a while with my rolling pin until I had this large fractured abstract amoeba-looking thing, and then I scraped that off the board and rested it inside my tart pan.

A beat-up and misshapen blob of dough inside a tart pan.
Looks like shit.Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

I then used a paring knife and some ingenuity to patch together the cracks and shape the crust.

KM: No! No!! This is so tragic. But the paring knife hack does seem extremely smart to me. You’re an artist! 

CT: Yeah! And within a few minutes I had a reasonably solid base lining my tart pan. I think I was so flustered by the whole process that I just laid parchment paper down in there, filled the parchment with beans, and socked it directly into the oven. If I’d had my wits about me I almost certainly would’ve thought to chill the dough again before baking. Alas!

KM: What kind of beans did you use? 

CT: Well, I am not the kind of FREAK who has baking beads in their house, so I used dried pinto beans.

Trimmed dough lined with parchment and filled with dried beans.
Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

KM: Little rude to me, someone who has some weird metal ball chain thing that functions as a pie weight, but I accept this drag. 

CT: Hmm, present company excepted.

KM: OK, thank you. The good thing about my extra 20-minute chill time is that by the time the timer went off, I had made the lemon syrup, the purée, and I had thinly sliced all my apples and put them into a water bath with some apple cider vinegar so that they wouldn’t brown.

CT: Dang! You were motoring! 

Stage Two: Making Frangipane, Prepping Apples, Making Lemon Syrup

CT: Once my pan was in the oven, I started making frangipane. This was another big-time headache, because I have never made frangipane before and have basically no idea what it is supposed to look or feel or taste like. The ingredients, other than the Calvados, are just normal baking shit: butter, eggs, sugar, ground almonds.

Calvados in a fancy decanter.
An excuse to show off this fancy decanter that I bought for myself and which today holds Calvados.Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

But how to mix them? How did you approach this challenge?

KM: Yeah, I have to admit, I have no idea what frangipane is. I made it the way that made sense to me: in the stand mixer. I mixed the sugar and butter, then the egg, then I added the almonds and Calvados.

Some frangipane in a silver bowl.
I do not like how the frangipane looks.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/ Defector

I had a little Calvados in a cup as a reward as well. This was nice. The only nice part of this bake, really. But then I read the instructions and it said, “Bake the frangipane,” and I was like … what?

CT: I did basically the same thing. Eggs and softened butter and sugar in the stand mixer. But I sincerely hate my stand mixer, and it did such an indefensibly terrible job of mixing these things that I abandoned it after a few minutes and just used a rubber spatula the rest of the way. Since I still do not know what frangipane is supposed to be, I assume I got this 100 percent wrong.

I was also thrown off by the pre-baking of the frangipane. Is it supposed to be like a custard or something? 

KM: I don’t know! I was also ahead on everything except that my crust wasn’t baked, so I had to put the beads in there. Let it bake for 20 minutes, remove the beads.

A pie dough that is par-baked
My kind of ugly tart.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/Defector

Then, since I had separated the egg, I put that on there to bake for the last 10 minutes. All the time, I was just cleaning the kitchen and whining. 

CT: So you used the egg whites as a wash? Or like a sealant? I wasn’t sure what the hell to do with the egg whites. I kept staring at the little bowl on the counter and feeling lost. I remembered that we used eggs to glaze up the pastry on the pithivier, but that was a whole egg, with yolk. But like the recipe obviously would’ve said “egg yolk” if we were meant to throw away the egg white. Clearly it had some intended purpose.

KM: Yes? I didn’t know what to do with it? Mostly, I wanted to put the little bowl into the dishwasher, so I brushed the egg white onto the crust.

CT: So, yeah, I also did an egg wash thing on the crust. I’m looking at the website now and, hey, we were right! Look at us.

The blind bake took probably 25 minutes, for me, plus another few minutes after the egg white went on there. At this point I had cooling apple purée in the fridge, a little puddle of quote-unquote “frangipane” in a bowl on the counter, and a very hot and shiny tart crust, which I also threw into the refrigerator, for lack of a better idea. I used the next five or 10 minutes to scarf down some lamb vindaloo.

KM: This is exactly where I ended up. I did not put the crust in the fridge. I was tired, and I wanted to go to bed, so I just poured the frangipane puddle into the crust, and put this back in the oven. I checked it every 5 minutes, having no clue what I was looking for. But eventually, it looked less molten, and I removed it from the oven. 

CT: I eventually also just scooped the frangipane down into the tart crust, smoothed it around with a rubber spatula, and put it back into the oven. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but after a few minutes it had gotten very flat and had some tiny bubbles on the surface, and I decided that was enough.

A pool of cooked frangipane inside a tart crust.
Looks like coarse mud.Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

Stage Three: Filling the Pastry, Final Bake

CT: This is when I cored and sliced a bunch more apples. But first I made the lemon syrup, so that I could mandolin-slice the apples directly into the saucepan. Frankly, all of my mixing bowls were in the dishwasher from a stupid cooking project so I didn’t have the full spread of implements.

I feel like I had a lot of time left? Maybe almost 40 minutes?

KM: Oh! That was smart! All my apples were already sliced and inside the bowl with the apple cider vinegar. So at this point, I was just waiting. When I decided the frangipane was “done” (after 15 minutes), I had 45 minutes left. This was absurd to me. So, I dumped the purée in there, and arranged my apples very carefully inside the tart to be a beautiful rose. Unfortunately, this only took five minutes. 

CT: I guess I’m not surprised this was a breeze for you, as I consider you to be a True Baker. It took me a solid 25 minutes to lay down a decorative topping of apple slices and to make something that could reasonably be described as a rose. 

KM: I think the reason it was a breeze is that I have made more apple pies in my life than probably anyone should make, and the rose is the most attractive way to make an apple pie. Also when I worked at a bakery in high school, I also had to make apple roses on top of some little tarts that the bakery sold. My whole life is making apple flowers, I guess. But this is also part of why I put my apples into the water! So they would be more amenable to being bent. 

CT: But what a life! To make apple roses as a vocation: Heaven.

KM: Yeah, you’re right! I should quit blogging and ONLY make apple roses. The real key, I think, to the apple rose is to overlap the apples the whole way. Instead of making like a single row and then another inside of it, you have to think about it like a fan. Did you figure this out? 

CT: No, alas, not really. I went concentric circles mode, with a rose at the center. The rose I just kind of winged. I would like to note here that I am becoming a somewhat serious grower of actual roses, and so I do feel qualified to construct a rose out of, uhh, fruit slices.

KM: Yes! Your real roses are one of my favorite things. I love hearing about them! I love learning about your new roses! It’s unfair that you were forced to make a fake rose when you can make real roses. 

CT: When I finally quit the blog game I’m gonna just grow and tend roses all the time. I shall be The Roseman.

After finishing up the topping we just had to brush it with melted butter and heave it, once again, into the oven. How much time did you have left when it went back in there?

KM: Forty minutes! Too much time. I decided it would only take 30. I had no reasoning for this, but 30 felt like a nice round number and also (as stated) it was 10:30 p.m. and I was sleepy. How much time did you have? 

CT: Wow, Kelsey, I have to divert here to say that you really kicked the shit out of this bake. Readers who were hoping for another catastrophe will be hopping off the train here. Couldn’t you have thrown a handful of firecrackers into the oven or something?

KM: You’re right, I should have thought of that. I have to admit that I felt absolutely no joy. Unlike the caterpillar bake, during which I was maniacally cackling because all of it was so absurd, this bake was boring and uninteresting and not really that fun to do! When I was putting all the pieces together, all I could think was “brown.” Every element was so brown! 

CT: I think had we been able to procure apricots we might’ve mitigated the brownness somewhat, with a lovely yellow-hued glaze. It wasn’t meant to be this time.

To circle back and answer your question, I had 19 minutes left in my bake when my tart went back into the oven. I had the sense that this was not enough time, so I bumped up the heat to 375 and also turned on the dreaded High Bake setting, which in the past has been a method of ensuring that whatever I am baking will be burned to a cinder. I felt my hand was forced.

KM: Not the high bake! I gotta admit, my oven was at 375 this whole time. I don’t think I read the part where we were supposed to turn the oven down until just now. I’m illiterate. 

Stage Four: Making and Applying Glaze

CT: Speaking of the glaze, how did you approach the making of a pear glaze? The ingredients called for the dreaded “jam sugar,” which is not something we are able to buy at the grocery store on this side of the pond.

KM: Well, I did not care for this. What I did was chop up the pears, and dump them into a saucepan with some water and some sugar, I then fully ignored them while I cleaned my kitchen. At some point, I smelled that they were caramelizing, so I stirred them and turned down the heat. At that point, based on vibes, I also added some vanilla. How did you approach it? 

CT: To my eternal shame, I actually purchased powdered pectin for this bake. But when the time came to use it I of course realized that I have no idea how to use it in cooking. What is the right ratio of pectin to fruit to sugar? No fucking clue. And by this time I was feeling pretty worn out and defeated. So I threw some chopped up pears and some unmeasured quantity of sugar into a saucepan, and then I just dumped a teaspoon of pectin on top and stirred it all around. As far as I can tell, the pectin accomplished not one single thing.

KM: I didn’t even consider pectin, so you were far ahead of me. I was just planning to make essentially pear flavored simple syrup and dump it on top, which is basically what ended up happening. 

CT: Yeah, that’s where I wound up, because the pectin didn’t do anything. I had this cloudy beige syrup, which I cooled in the fridge, hoping that it would become more of a gel. When it did not, and when tasting it revealed that it was just pear juice, I actually put it back into the saucepan and warmed it up and added more sugar. Fuck it, man. Might as well be sweet. I used the rest of the baking time to start cleaning up the kitchen, which was in bad shape.

So you had a few minutes left when you pulled your tart out of the oven?

KM: Damn. I love that we had both the same problem (pears not being apricots) and the same solution (whatever add sugar!) My tarte came out with 10 minutes left. I did not feel like waiting to put the glaze on it, so I just dumped the glaze on top and went to bed. On account of it not being a tart pan, I did not remove my tart from the pan until this morning. How much time did you have left? 

CT: I had one minute left, which might seem like not a lot but I was confident that I could spread glaze over apples in less than 60 seconds. I also was past the point of giving a rip whether my tart was sufficiently cooled, especially since my glaze had zero gel properties. But I did run into a problem here: My long-suffering silicone brush fell apart, so I had to hold the brush head in my fingers to apply the glaze.

The red head of a destroyed silicone brush.
Rest in peace, my friend.Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

This was not a big deal, except that I was heartbroken about the loss of a reliable and beloved kitchen tool.

KM: Oh no! What! Terrible timing! I’m sorry for your loss. My silicone brush was in the dishwasher, so I literally just dumped the bowl of glaze on top of the tart and went to bed. I was so uninterested in this that it didn’t even feel like a loss. Nothing will ever feel as bad as last week. 

CT: Yeah, I think you’ve hit on what was going on with my emotions, as well: After the hell of caterpillar week, I am basically hollowed out. I am untouchable, in a way, but also still too shell-shocked for any real baking exhilaration. I have become Joker at the end of Full Metal Jacket

The Finished Product

CT: So, Kelsey, how’d your tarte aux pommes turn out, by the light of day?

KM: It’s very beautiful and very brown. How did your tarte aux pommes turn out? 

CT: It’s no showstopper, that’s for sure. It’s rustic and slightly slumped, but I would not feel ashamed to bring it to a potluck. Show tart?

KM: Here my tart: 

A finished apple tart!
She's beautiful.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/Defector
Pie with a single slice removed
Here is the tart with a slice removed.Photo by Kelsey McKinney/Defector

Show tart?

CT: Wow, Kelsey, that’s a really beautiful tart. I can’t believe your crust looks like that and it was baked in a damn cake tin. You’ve got the touch.

Here is my tart:

A finished tarte aux pommes.
Photo by Chris Thompson/Defector

KM: Omg I think your rose turned out really lovely!!! You were being so hard on yourself!!

CT: Well, as you can see, the crust is cracked in two places and extremely uneven. But also, yeah, I feel better about it this morning than I did last night. I was totally indifferent toward it in the hours after I’d made it. 

KM: I think I’ve realized that, in some ways, I am more mentally ill than previously thought, because I think I liked doing the caterpillar more even though it was a complete and abject failure and didn’t even taste good.

CT: You’ve become a baking masochist.

KM: I guess so! But guess what, Chris? 

CT: Uh oh, what?

KM: Yet again, for the second year in a row, we have made it to the final! Congratulations! 

CT: Wow! Although I cannot say I’m surprised. If we learned anything from last season, it’s that we are absolutely incredible bakers.

KM: Yes, that is the only thing we’ve learned! After almost two seasons in the tent, maybe this year we will win the cake plate! 

CT: Last season they never got around to publishing the ingredients or recipe for the final technical challenge. If that holds this time I am afraid this may have been our final bake of the season. A sad day.

KM: That’s true! And tragic!  But Chris … aren’t you forgetting something? 

CT: ... Panettone time?

KM: Panettone time. :)

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