LIMERICK could be taking home the cookery crown, as two local women battle for the title of Great Irish Bake-Off champion this Sunday night.
After weeks stirring, whipping and beating, Fedamore teacher Clare Ryan and South Circular Road financial advisor Emer Hough have made it to the grand finale of the reality TV show. But only one can be declared Ireland’s best amateur baker.
The five semi-finalists had to bake their own signature soufflé, running with the theme of Sweet Soufflé Week. Ms Ryan, who is a teacher at Thomond Primary School, earned Star Baker for her raspberry and amaretto soufflé, while Emer was “delighted” with her toffee and apple soufflé.
It is the third time that Ms Ryan has earned this accolade throughout the series.
Speaking to the Leader this week, Emer said that soufflés can be “tricky” if you are not familiar with your oven and its hotspots.
“It is very easy to over-whip your egg white, make your mixture too thick, and anything can go wrong. It is quite easy for it to go badly,” she said.
Luckily, the judges immediately “really, really liked it”. However, it wasn’t a completely easy episode for Emer. When she was presented with the task of preparing the technical challenge, the Gateau St Honoré, she mixed up her ingredients.
This consisted of two circles of choux pastry on top of rough puff pastry, with choux buns placed on top. These are then “coated with caramel”. In the middle of the tart is creme patisserie and whipped cream, with fresh strawberries. The final touch was a “caramel nest with mint leaves” on top.
She admitted that it was a “horrible” experience.
“I had heard of this maybe once in my previous 30 years of existence, and I didn’t have a clue what was in it, or what it was meant to look like.
“When we are getting our ingredients, we get them in black bowls, so there is no labels on anything. And I obviously accidently grabbed salt and put in the measurements for sugar, and put in the measurement of sugar for salt. And straight away, it was far, far, far too salty. so it was unfortunately not very tasty,” she explained.
Emer was “hugely proud” to be put through to the final showdown, despite believing that she was going to be packing her utensils for the long journey home.
This Sunday, two of the three finalists will face the final challenge of the third series of the Great Irish Bake-Off. For the technical challenge, which comes first, they will be told to deliver a deconstructed apple crumble.
Emer said that, according to the judges, “this is something that would be expected in a Michelin-star restaurant. So it’s amateur bakers making a Michelin-star quality dessert. It’s quite a challenge”.
The show-stopper will be the challenge of baking a three-tier wedding cake that is 20 inches in height. She said that it is going to be “nail-biting”.
She added that her local counterpart, Clare, is a “really, really lovely person” and that with every single task, she has been able “to pull it out of the bag”.
“Anna would say ‘Ready, steady, bake!’ and then three hours later, there’s Clare with something amazing.”
The season finale airs on TV3, this Sunday, at 10pm.