The Challenge:

Make an interpretation of a Tourtiere along with a sauce or relish to go with

My Bake:

A vegetarian tourtiere with spicy tomato relish

What happened?

So this particular bake I practiced a lot. My family were subjected to 3 tourtieres one particular week. In the middle of summer! But I think it paid off. Although confident my tourtiere was a great vegetarian version I still had some nervousness that the vegetarian option might count against me. A lot of professional chefs are somewhat dismissive of vegetarian cooking and Bruno certainly raised an eyebrow when I told him there was going to be no meat!

The bake starts with a rye shortcrust. Rye is great to make shortcrust pastry with. Not only does it add a lovely slightly nutty flavor, but because it relatively low in gluten. Too much gluten formation ruins a shortcrust leading to tough dough and soggy bottoms. That’s why you work cold butter into the flour and use tiny amounts of very cold water, water also activates gluten production. In this pie I used just under 40% Rye. I also used cold vodka instead of some of the water. This is another good trick – it adds moisture to make the dough workable but does not promote gluten formation. The vodka evaporates off in the oven and leaves no flavor.

As I say, I was feeling pretty confident but things didn’t actually start all that well. To make the shortcrust I grate frozen butter with a box grater. Now a box grater is one of those kitchen tools that pretty much everyone has. If you’re like us it kicks around in a drawer, gets fairly heavily used. You’ve probably had it for ages. Can’t even remember where you got it. Probably you bought a super cheap one when you first started making grilled cheese sandwiches for yourself as a student. Maybe a relative gave you their crappy extra one when you moved into your first home. Most importantly – it is not sharp. It has never even occurred to you that it could be sharper than it is. Well in the tent we had brand-spanking new ones from show sponsor Cuisinart and they were SHARP! As I grated my butter, as often happens, the butter slipped and I ran my thumb-knuckle down this little wall of evil razor blades. There was a surprising amount of blood pretty much instantly and I stuck my hand in a nearby bowl of ice-water while the paramedic came to sort it out. For the rest of the show you’ll see I was wearing gloves a lot of the time. The cut (or rather multiple cuts one on top of the other) took weeks to heal and I still have a scar – suffering for my art I guess 🙂

Other than that everything went smoothly. The filling came together nicely while I blind baked the pie case. I must say the tent smelled fantastic on that challenge and we all appreciated baking something savory after all the sweets. I had got hold of some swim goggles for the pool at our hotel – I hate swimming without goggles – so I thought it would be totally hilarious to wear them while I chopped my onions. It’s an old gag but hey what the hell!

We had one last hicup. With about 20 minutes left on the clock a huge thunderstorm rolled in. Rain was battering the tent and some serious mopping needed doing. The for a short while they had to turn off some of the power including the ovens. We all stood around biting our nails and worrying about our bakes. As long as you don’t open the door a new oven should hold its heat pretty well and so they did. So it didn’t really make much of a difference to anyone other than adding a layer of stress!


I was very happy with my tourtiere – it looked pretty good and smelled pretty good but I was still nervous when Bruno and Rochelle got to my bench. I will never forget how surprised they both looked when they cut into the pie and took out a slice. I held it’s shape perfectly. It looked delicious. And both were very surprised by the taste. To be clear it does not actually taste of meat. But it has a texture which is very close to the texture of a ground meat filling and has a very strong rich flavor which somehow reminds you of meat. Someone said it tasted somewhat like stuffing. Whatever, Bruno and Rochelle were both very impressed.


As I said in my after-bake interview: “Mission accomplished”. I had been particularly worried about Bruno not liking the vegetarian angle. But I think in the end I pretty much knocked that one out of the park!

I have had some comments that my pie was not a tourtiere for the simple reason it was vegetarian. To which I say – meh.  This was a signature challenge not a technical so by definition there is going to be a wide range of interpretations. I think my tourtiere was actually closer in flavor to a traditional one than some of those that used meat. I tried to deliver a tourtiere-like experience without the meat and I think I succeeded. Can I call it a tourtiere? I can call it whatever I like – I made it. I’m not a great believer in tradition anyway – rules were made to be broken. Plus, I’ve been vegetarian for coming up to 28 years – I’m not about to make a meat pie now, baking show or no baking show!


This recipe is available on the CBC website at here.


The Challenge

Make a pavlova

My Bake

A grilled plum and chocolate pav with praline shards

What Happened?

Well pavlova is a popular dessert in our household and we’ve made quite a few so feeling good. Plus I am really happy with my recipe, it’s come out well in practice. The main star of the show here of course is the meraingue which should be crispy on the outside with a nice chewy center. Meraingue is very susceptable to the ambient climate so to get it just right you have to take into account the weather. Practicing in Richmond it had worked very well. But it had been a warm summer and not too humid. In the tent in Toronto the humidity was very high and i was very worried about the meraingue not drying out at all so I made a decision to leave it for longer in the oven. A decision I would regret!

For the plums I was grilling half and cooking down some other to make a sauce. Then there was a marscapone cream. Marscapone goes beautifully with grilled plums. In fact if you want a simple but yummy dessert just grill some halved plums with a little honey drizzled on, then whip some sugar into marscapone and dollop it on the plums – fantastic! For the sauce component I had been peeling the plums so I could get a nice smooth sauce but after a raised eyebrow from Bruno and Rochelle I switched to leaving the skins on – great idea – much more colorfull sauce!

So we come to final assembly. All the components looked great. I had also made a sheet of almond brittle. Actually I’d made two sheets – one of which had come out far too thick so one of the cameramen had been nibbling it all through the bake! I was aware that we were getting close to time but I wasn’t sure how close. I had my meringue cream layers piled up along with the grilled plums and now I was carefully cutting up my brittle into artfull shards for the top when someone said “15 seconds left”. What???!!!! So I picked up the entire sheet and smashed it onto the bench. Then grabbing shards in both hands started ramming them into the top. Time’s up!!!

Adreneline rush but overall pretty happy


So the thing about pavlova – like so many baked goods – it might look fine on the outside but you really have no idea if it’s worked until someone cuts into it. So with my pav – the judges liked the look (for once!) but as they cut in we discovered it was dry through and through. I had overcompensated for the humidity. On the plus side they enjoyed the flavor so I think all in all I should be ok


I was still very happy with the bake. I delivered it on time and looking pretty good and tasting delish! Shame about the meringue but I felt it was an honest misjudgement which didn’t take too much away. Plus it was a meringue with incorporated chocolate which the judges acknowledged was trickier so all good. Feeling in the middle of the packish


Well us boys are not doing well! I was very sad to see Cory go he’s a star and had a lot of great baking experience. As the show progresses we are all bonding more and more and it gets harder and harder to say goodbye!

The Challenge:

Make N fondant fancies

What Happened?

When I was kid in the UK our parents used to buy fondant fancies fairly regularly. You got 8 in a box. There were 3 pink, 3 chocolate and 2 yellow (lemon? – who knows). Me and my 2 brothers were entitled to 2 each. Now because there were only 2 of the yellow ones they acquired that air of rare specialty. So between us we would fight as to who was getting the yellow ones this week and who was going to have to lump it with a chocolate one (we all got 1 pink). Frankly they probably all actually tasted pretty much the same but the chocolate one seemed so oridinary compared to the pink and yellow so they were allways the bottom of the pecking order.

The commercial ones consisted of a little square of sponge up on which sat a little dome of some sort of creme. The whole thing was then covered in a layer of colored fondant and a few parallel lines of icing. The ones we’ve been tasked with are going to be similar apart from a jam sandwich layer in the middle and no creme blob on top. There is also going to be thin buttercream layer on the outside and the fondant will be plain white. Specifically it is something called pate a glace which is something I’ve never heard of so another learning experience

First up we bake a cake. Then we make a french butter cream. Then, when the cake is done we do a bunch of careful measuring and cutting to assemble perfect little cubes. And yes, again, we used pre-made jam to sandwich the layers together. Once we’ve got all these buttercream covered cubes ready, it’s time to glaze. This is the trickiest bit. The temperature is absolutely critical here, the pate a glacer has to be heated to and held a fairly precise temperature for perfect pouring. In the recipe it only says “body temperature” so there’s a little inbuilt biology test here too! My first one looks absolutely perfect. I am ecstatic. I’m going to rock this challenge! So away I work, unfortunately I stop paying careful attention to my glace temperature and soon it is too thick to pour. Then I heat it up and it is too runny. So little by little my inherent scruffiness starts sneaking back in and although they look not bad I have moved from ecstatic to meh. Then as I look around at the others I start to realize mine are not the best. Man can’t these people screw up more often?!!!


Oh 6th? Well that was disappointing. I was sure I’d done better than that. Oh well, onwards and upwards.


Nope. Never making those again. Waaay too much work for what in the end is just a little cake cube with too much sweet icing on.

The Challenge:

An elegant pie or tart

My Bake:

Coffee and salted caramel custard tart

What happened?

Hmm, elegant you say? Weeell I’ll see what I can do. So this pie uses a beautiful French butter crust. Unlike a traditional shortcrust where you try to keep everything as cold as possible, here you heat butter and start to caramelize it before adding the flour. It makes a beautiful sweet, nutty flavored crust. That’s going to be baked separately because what I’m making here is a “composed pie” – filling and crust are made totally separately and then just put together.

So basically there are just 3 elements: the crust, the custard and the caramel. Crust goes fine, came together nicely, rolled out and into the oven. Custard also fine but I slipped behind a bit on the crust and the custard – a coffee infused cornstarch thickened custard – had to go into it hot which made me very worried about it setting. Unfortunately it had also thickened a bit too much before adding it to the pie which meant it had to go into the pie hot – not good for setting.

It was all a bit tight but the custard was more or less set and although I was rushed it was all going not too bad. Then came the caramel. So the idea here was to pipe a fairly elegant little design also incorporating the Greek letter pi – geddit?!  It was meant to be salted caramel but when I came to add the salt I discovered I only had coarse kosher type salt on the bench. I was getting a bit pressed for time so I quickly through it in rather than asking for fine. This was my downfall. I put the caramel in a paper cone I’d made and cut a very small tip so I could pipe fine lines. Unfortunately one of those big salt flakes got caught in the end and as I pressed to push it out the bag burst in my hand. Now my hand was completely covered in caramel. I had none spare and anyway the pie was now covered with splats of caramel. I hoped I’d be able to maybe just spread it all over but it just stuck all over my hand and was a total mess.

Overall it looked like a poop in a pie dish. I was pretty disappointed.


Bruno and Rochelle both noticed it did not look very appetizing. Bravely they went ahead and tasted it anyway – they are both pros. Bruno liked the crust and they both thought it tasted great. So may have scraped through that again. Not feeling confident though!


Bit disappointed. Made a silly mistake and I think it would otherwise have been pretty good.