I really appreciate that the Holiday Baking Championship hasn’t just limited itself to Christmas holiday traditions; we’ve also seen Thanksgiving and now Hanukkah classics, too.
This week, the bakers were given 75 minutes to put their own modern spin on Jewish traditions like coconut macaroons and rugelach. Rugelach usually has a combination of cinnamon, walnut, apricot, or chocolate, so naturally the bakers were not allowed to use any of those in their new creations.
Sweet, sweet Haley put a southern twist on the traditional cookie by making a honey, pecan and brown sugar rugelach, similar to a baklava. For her macaroon, she made these beautiful chocolate and pistachio coconut macaroons with the bottoms dipped in chocolate and chopped pistachio. Her desserts were clearly the most beautiful, and the judges seemed to love the flavors the most, too.
For her stellar work in the preheat challenge, Haley won 10 minutes of extra help in the main heat challenge, which was to create their own version of a French holiday tradition: the croquembouche.
Maeve is becoming my favorite baker in this competition. She always uses the most creative combinations of spices and flavors to her desserts that really, really sets her apart. For this challenge, she created a beautiful, rustic croquembouche with quince and prickly pear filling with vanilla bean whipped cream dunked in treacle maple syrup. It was visually stunning, and the judges seemed to like the unique combination of flavors.
Melody (aka Nervous Melly) made a cinnamon creme croquembouche to pay homage to the first thing she ever made for her husband when they first started dating. She jokingly named it the “Redneck Croquembouche,” which is pretty accurate. This thing was a mess: the judges said the dough was under-baked and the caramel was making their teeth stick together.
It seems to be a curse to win a pre-heat challenge; the winners almost always end up in the bottom – or sent home – after using the help. Haley was given 10 minutes of help, which you’d never have guessed. She made a vanilla cream croquembouche with berries and a honey glaze. The presentation wasn’t bad; I liked the berries. The judges thought it didn’t make sense, however, and several of her dough balls were empty of cream. Even I know that’s a big no-no and Nancy was pretty unhappy. I felt sure that was the end of the line of sweet Haley.
Maeve deservedly took home her first win this week, which was about dang time. I could see her winning this whole thing if she keeps up the creativity and execution. Melody and Haley found themselves in the bottom two and, in the end, Melody’s mess of a croquembouche got her the axe.