My take on the Bake Off fiasco


Will there be empty chairs for viewing?


Well, we didn’t see this one coming! And it’s probably safe to say it looks like Love Productions didn’t either.

So, it was bad enough to find it moving to Channel 4. I think we’re all in the same place. It’s a BBC show through and through. I mean, we can’t have an advert interrupt the tension of a very tense dough rise. Imagine going to an ad break just as Louise’s gingerbread chapel collapsed?

But we could probably have coped with that. But no Mel and Sue?

Well, now it’s all crumbling quicker than that gingerbread chapel.

And the suggestion seems to be that Mary won’t move either. And without those three, then there is no show. Because whether he likes it or not, it was never really about Paul Hollywood. Before the show he was what? As far as I recall a patisserie chef at a very nice hotel in Cyprus.

But Mary has been a fixture in our homes for years, through books and television. She has more tried and tested recipes than Paul’s had floured baps.

Let’s face it, it didn’t exactly go well when he went to the US version, did it?

Maybe Paul will choose not to go either. In which case Channel 4 really have only bought an empty marquee, and possibly empty seats around television sets up and down the country. Why on earth all of this wasn’t worked through up front I’ve no idea. Or why the BBC hadn’t anticipated this day before now, perhaps when they made the big move to BBC1.

I don’t know why Love Productions thinks there’s a better home than the BBC, so that rather then leaves the question of money, which they claim it’s not about. But given the way the BBC has grown the show, allowing them to sell it overseas, not to mention lucrative spin-off licensing deals and a great many books, then you wonder how much more than want to make from it, how much more they think they can.

Not that it matters, but I think this is hugely misjudged, and only appears to be a question of commercial greed, which would appear to be backfiring quite spectacularly. The format change, the presenter change will all change what has been an incredibly successful, highly loved show.

I get that Channel 4 will recoup their investment even with less of us watching, because of what they can charge for advertising. But there must come a point where the people have dropped off so much that you can’t put up the advertising rates enough to compensate?

Who knows? Television is a weird old game, but I can’t help but feel that Love have killed their golden goose.

What do you think?


5 gifts for those contemplating Bake Off next year


Five gifts for bakers considering entering the Bake Off


If you’ve got a baker on your list to buy for, then maybe they’re contemplating entering Bake Off. Whether next year or just as an idea for the future, then help them out with your choice of gifts to enhance their baking skills.


Kenwood kmix Stand Mixer - great gift for a food lover with baking ambitions

A Stand Mixer

Buying my Kenwood Chef transformed my baking, if only for the speed it adds in. This year saw the tent move from KitchenAid to Kenwoods, so if you are feeling generous and want to let them get used to the equipment, then a K Mix is the current stand mixer of choice in the tent.


The Flavour Thesaurus - perfect gift for a food lover looking to explore flavour combinations


Inspiring Flavour Combinations

One of the things I think linked all three finalists this year was their incredible use of flavours, and in amazing combinations. The Flavour Thesaurus is one of my favourite books on food, and just has some incredible ideas for putting different ingredients together.


Anti Gravity Pouring Cake Mix Kit - a gift for a food lover looking to take cakes to new heights


Cakes that defy gravity

I don’t think any of us will forget Nadiya’s can of pop cake. There are a number of versions of cake supports available that can help them achieve something similar. I really like the anti gravity pouring cake kit from Lakeland, there’s some good tutorials on their site as well.


Ginger Apron from Hedley & Bennett - perfect gift for a stylish food lover


A great apron

Let’s face it, there’s going to be flour and icing sugar all over the place as they get seriously into practicing. Now, I really like this one, which Edd Kimber was wearing at his demo recently at Cake International. It comes from Hedley & Bennett in the US, and can be personalised. Sadly, the shipping is US$31 so not the cheapest, so worth checking Not On the High Street or Divertimenti for alternatives.


Essential baking kit from the Bertinet Kitchen - perfect gift for a food lover into bread


A gift they might knead

Dreadful pun, but bread week always interesting to me. Give them good kit to practice with, like the essential baking set from the master of baking, Richard Bertinet. From a mixing bowl to a proving basket, scraper to a lame, this will get them underway.

So, five ideas here, but I’ve written about lots of baking ideas over the years, select the baking category to the right for more ideas. Although you can probably skip the piece on 7 baking tins they really don’t need!


The 5 books to get you over Bake Off withdrawal


So, that’s it, all over for another year. We know Nadiya is queen of the kitchen, we know more about some more obscure pastries and cakes (anyone for tennis cake?) and we’re wondering what we’re going to do on a Wednesday night now.

To help ease the withdrawal symptoms, maybe a bit of baking of your own might help. Or at least some good reading about baking. Here’s my prescription of 5 books to ease the pain.


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard  – this is by far my favourite baking book, and the one I turn to when I fancy trying something out just for the heck of it. Also has my go-to pizza dough recipe, never failed me yet. I love this book so much I buy it for those I love too.


Dough by Richard Bertinet - French boy done good on the bread front


Dough by Richard Bertinet – when it’s all about the bread and other things dough based, then Richard Bertinet is the man for me. It has nothing to do with the French accent. Lots to do with fabulous recipes for all kinds of bread deliciousness.


Bread Cake Doughnut Pudding by Justin Gellatly - worth it just for the doughnuts


Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding by Justin Gellatly – this is new on my shelves here, but I cannot tell you just how delicious the recipes sound. Or how very tempting all the doughnut flavours sound. But I’m seriously considering acquiring a deep fat fryer just to try them out.


Adventures in Chocolate with Paul A Young - yes please!


Adventures in Chocolate by Paul A. YoungI’ve got a soft spot for Paul A Young, ever since seeing him make the most divine brownie ever. If ever there was someone you’d want on your side for chocolate week, Paul would be my choice. Amazing recipes, get chocolate in the house before you order this book.


BIY Bake It Yourself by Richard Burr - still a winner in our eyes


BIY: Bake It Yourself by Richard Burrwe were team Richard last year, he was definitely the winner in our eyes. I am so thrilled to see he has a book out and good things are coming his way. Still thinking these chocolate trees might make a good alternative Christmas cake.

So, working through these five might help with the withdrawal symptoms. Just be careful that they don’t give you supreme confidence in your abilities, and you suddenly find yourself filling in the application form for series 7…!


No surprise that Lakeland are on the Bake Off bandwagon


But you know what? There’s some lovely things in here, and a bit different. I mean, who doesn’t want bunting cookie cutters?


Bake Off Bunting


And slightly less frivolous, I really love this enamel jug too.

Enamel jug

There are lots of stencils and cake wrappers and things, so plenty to help get your baking to star baker level for whoever your judges are.

Ready. Steady. Bake!


Ten things I’ve learnt from the Great British Bake Off


Ten things I've learnt from the Great


Definitely an appointment to view tomorrow with the start of the new series of Great British Bake Off, though it’s hard to believe this is series 6. Which made me think about the things that the first five series have taught me:

1. Apparently you can make your own filo pastry from scratch.

But why would you? I cannot believe Paul Hollywood made his own when he worked in Cyprus. And life is too short to make it. Likewise puff pastry.


Kitchenaid Pink


2. A KitchenAid is a treacherous piece of kit

I don’t care how lovely it looks, my dull by comparison Kenwood Chef has never covered me in flour. I wonder how many episodes in we’ll get before it happens.


Glenn Cosby on tour in Edinburgh


3. It’s not always the winner who does best

I seem to hear more of some of the non-winners than some winners. Or maybe it’s just that I read the Guardian so see Ruby’s recipes on a regular basis. Or hear of Brendan’s classes. Or was in Edinburgh for the festival when Glenn was on tour.



4. It’s best, but not essential, to know your sugar from your salt

Didn’t do John Whaite any harm to mix them up. Although others have not been so lucky, even celebrities.I suggest very big labels in the kitchen. We did nearly have a nasty salt in tea incident here, so not learnt lesson very well.

5. Always check you’ve switched the oven on

Grilling cake tends to be limited to Schichttorte, otherwise it’s best to turn the oven on. And check it feels warm when you put a cake in. Otherwise there may be panic at some point.

6. Plaiting an eight strand loaf requires a lot of concentration

About the same as learning to French plait hair. I’ve given up on both.


Oh dear, she didn't like that


7. If you’re up in front of Mary Berry, make your own fondant

Who can forget that look? But if it’s not Mary coming round, then I’d cheat. Though not with the Sainsbury’s own brand stuff. Horrid in my view.

8. About episode 2 I’ll be really glad again that I didn’t enter

Every year throughout the series someone nags me about entering. I vaguely consider it given that I love baking, and people, generally, seem to like my baking. And then they do something spectacularly over the top, and I think “thank god I’m not there!”

9. I’ll still want one of those ovens

It’s all about those slideaway doors.

10. I will forget every week to get some baked goods in the house

It’s not the same watching it with just a cup of tea. Must get organised and get baking in preparation to settling down to enjoy the hour.

So here’s to enjoying the trials and tribulations ahead of the bakers and seeing what challenges lie ahead, of cakes we’ve never heard of, and those we long to try.


Well, that was some Bake Off final!


Bake off


I love Bake Off, it’s one of the few things that are an appointment to view in this house. It also gets me shouting at the TV a lot, when I have to remember it’s only about making good telly.

I mean, who the heck ever, ever makes their own filo? I swear even Paul Hollywood never made his own filo when he was in Cyprus. Why would you? So I’m not really sure what it proves. And I’ve never made my own  fondant. But have done my own marzipan just for the hell of it. Yes, it did taste better, but not that much better that it makes it worthwhile every single time.

I couldn’t pick in advance which finalist was our favourite here, as I think all three have been fantastic. I love that there were two guys in the final, and hope it encourages more men and boys to bake. To be fair, when I judged a bake off at work a couple of weeks ago then we had quite a lot of men enter (and one of the finance guys came second).

I hope lots of us are inspired by Nancy, that you can always have a go at stuff. Age is just a number, you can always decide to go for it and give it a go. And anyone who calls Paul Hollywood the male judge is ok by me.

Luis has produed some stunning bakes, although I still believe life is too short to gild an olive. Nancy’s a bit of a rebel, and I love that. And Richard has been consistent, and surely only a last minute melt down would stop him being crowned champ…oh no, wait…that didn’t happen.

Anyway, our congrats to all three, I am sure we will hear more from them all, and really big congrats to Nancy!


Photo courtesy of the BBC


Wondering how you’re going to get through a week without Bake Off?


I know, we’ll miss it here too. So how about a bit of shopping and award yourself, or the best baker in your house, star baker with this lovely apron.


Star baker apron for helping you to get over your Bake Off withdrawal


If they’re a keen baker, then I would think they are going to be pretty darn chuffed with this.

Unless their name is Kimberley.


The Friday Five – Getting ready for Bake Off 2013


I don’t care, I’m just very happy that we are a few days away from this year’s Great British Bake Off. Yes, even with the cliché of Paul Hollywood’s offscreen behaviour, I can’t wait for this to start again. So, to celebrate all things bake off, here’s 5 to celebrate the judges, favourite cakes and favourite contestants from what we’ve seen before:


GBBO Everyday

Great British Bake Off Everyday – probably would like this, but do read the small print, this is only a forward from Paul and Mary. That said it does cover their signature bakes, technical challenges and showstoppers, so you could create your own episode in your own kitchen!


How to Bake

How to Bake – I own this one already and have baked from it a few times. It’s not very delicate baking but so far everything I’ve baked has been gutsy and tasty. I’ve particularly liked the seeded breadsticks, they went down very well at a lunch recently.


Mary Berry's Baking Bible

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible – I’m definitely thinking I should have this one. Classic, old school, but surely delicious. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat that sponge on the front cover?


Say It With Cake


Say It With Cake – I have Edd’s book from when he first won the first series, and it is well thumbed, and with marks on many pages. The double chocolate sour cherry cookies turn up in my oven on a regular basis. So I’ve no doubt that this book would get just as much use with just as delicious results.


The Pink Whisk

Cake Making – I really liked Ruth, really down to earth but great looking baking. I’ve really liked Ruth’s writing style as well, so might well give one of her books a go.

It’s funny that it’s characters of the first series that still stay with me. Well, those and James and his tank tops from last year. Still think he was robbed at the last minute. Can’t wait to see what this year has in store. And just for my team, no, I’m still not entering! Though I still have some practicing to do in order to defend my culinary cup triumph of last year!


The Friday Five – What are the most wished for books this season?


I was looking at a new feature on Amazon this week on Most Wished For books. I’m not sure there are many surprises in the list, so I’ve also given some options around a good alternative on a theme as well

River Cottage Veg Everyday


Top of the list overall is River Cottage Veg Every Day! Their exclamation mark, not mine. Part of Hugh’s test conversion to vegetarianism, it’s a great book for veggies and non-veggies alike, and particularly useful standby if you have a veg box each week. As an alternative, although with some meat too, I would go for Everyday and Sunday from Riverford Farm.


Jamie's Great Britain


Probably no surprise to see Jamie’s Great Britain on the list, with the usual high visibility TV series and marketing campaign to support it. For something a little less geezer like, try the second book from Great British Food Revival, for twists on great British classics.


Lorraine Pascale Home Cooking Made Easy


Lorraine Pascale appears twice on the list with Home Cooking Made Easy the higher of the two. I’ve not watched her series on TV, nor cooked any of her recipes, but seems a lot of positive noises about her. If you want a different model turned cook book writer, then I’d opt for Sophie Dahl’s From Season to Season. I liked this a lot more than I expected to.


The Great British Bake Off How To Bake


For the keen bakers then there’s the Great British Bake Off: How to Bake. From a straightforward Victoria sponge to brandy snaps and no doubt Mary Berry’s roulade, this will give you everything you need to be ready for your audition for the next round. Alternatively, go straight to the winner’s enclosure and buy The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber. My copy already has quite a lot of chocolate, floury smudges on the pages.


Heston Blumenthal at home


Finally in this five is Heston Blumenthal at Home. I have to be honest, I’m not sure about this one. I mean, I can’t see Heston getting home from work and knocking up a sausage pasta bake like lots of us. But I would imagine this is great for those who see themselves as a real technical whiz in the kitchen, and fancy a bit of spherification before breakfast. Maybe try Ad Hoc at Home: Family Style Recipes by Thomas Keller, of French Laundry fame, which I have heard good recommendations for.

So, you can go down the most wished for route, and I would think that most of these will be well received by most people. Or you can slightly more off piste, and give them something a bit different without going completely bizarre! I mean, I’m the person with Merry Kitschmas on her wish list! What cookbooks are on your wishlist?


My food people of 2010

Some shining stars of 2010

This has been my first full year of writing the blog, and one of the things I’ve loved about it most is the great people I’ve got to meet through it. Passionate about food and drink, they are the people that make the renaissance in British food real. Not to mention provided some great eating and a few laughs along the way. These are just some of the people I’ve come to admire over the year:

* Kate Jenkins of Gower Cottage Brownies – I first came across Kate last year when she sent me a box of brownies to try. Which I did, quite happily! All through this year I’ve been amazed at the sheer energy that Kate puts into promoting her business, and it’s down to sheer graft, not mammoth budgets. I think we came across each other on Twitter and she’s still very active there, not just about the brownies but pretty much every subject under the sun. Particularly if there’s a Welsh slant. And it’s felt like she’s been at every major food show too, and made the most of every opportunity. Felt inordinately chuffed for her when opened the Evening Standard to find Charles Campion writing about the brownies. Do check the brownies out, great gift, and there are dairy and gluten free versions to go at. Oh, and she’s quite partial to Pimms too!

* Jules of the Butcher Baker blog – I can’t honestly remember which came first, reading the blog or chatting on Twitter, but Jules has always had great recipes, great stories and great chat. And this year she not only had a dream but made it happen and is now working as a freelance kid’s cookery teacher. And loving it! I really hope 2011 brings lots of success and happy kids faces!

* Edd Kimber – a bit like with Jules, not sure which came first but I’ve been reading Edd’s blog for a long time, and knew it was always a good place to stop by for cake inspiration or a bit of drooling. I blame him entirely for me having bought a copy of Sky High. I remember having a Twitter conversation about the first round of “auditions” for Great British Bake Off, where I wasn’t able to go to mine, and Edd hadn’t been invited for one. Well, that soon all changed! And having seen just how brilliantly he and the others baked, I’m pretty pleased I didn’t go for mine. Success couldn’t have come to a nicer person, and I hope that 2011 brings some fantastic opportunities to fruition for him. It’s also good to see television doing something good for a good person. Especially one who makes such good cake!

* Matthew Wright – Matt is the founder and editor of Great Food Leicester and Rutland, a great new local food magazine. In spite of my early misgivings, it really is turning into a great magazine, and issue 4 is just going to the printers. It would be worth buying just for the beautiful artwork alone, but then the food and drink producers of these two counties produce great stuff worth writing about. Matt and Philippa work really hard doing just about everything to get the mag out and on sale, and Rocco the dog seems to enjoy the benefits of being taken around great pubs of the county. Here’s hoping the magazine goes from strength to strength. Whether deciding to offer me a regular column turns out to be a good decision we’ll have to wait and see.

* Janet Mohapi-Banks – I’ve never tried one of Janet’s beautiful looking cakes, which are truly works of art. I wanted to feature Janet more for organising Cakes for Haiti, something us home bakers could get involved in to support a really worthwhile cause. Haiti has disappeared from the news but I’m sure the problems continue. If more people were like Janet and mobilised action then perhaps more things would get done. It’s also worth giving a big mention here to English Mum and the other Bloggers for Haiti, who also raised a huge amount of cash for ShelterBox to provide really needed supplies. In a year where things are no doubt going to feel tough here, we’ll all need moments, and reminders, that there are still those with a lot less than us.

* Wendy Staples of Quirky Cookies– I definitely only knew Wendy through Twitter, and those who dismiss Twitter as a fad miss its ability to connect people who may never meet, or those who might not have met. It was fantastic to meet Wendy and her husband at the Derbyshire Food Festival at Keddleston Hall, and get to taste her beautiful cookies. She also went on to make stunning individual cookies for each of the guests at BFF’s wedding last summer, which I know they were all charmed and surprised by. And then made short work of. Great to see Wendy getting recognition throughout the year, and getting some great TV coverage too. Another case of good things happening to good people.

So half a dozen people all joined together by amazing passion for great food, and I would also say for following through on a dream or vision, and very decent people to boot. They all made me laugh, and some of them cry, during 2010, and to them, and everyone else, I wish more good things for 2011.

Star photo by ff137 on Flickr.