A bit bleary-eyed today after a fantastic Christmas dinner with my baker buddies last night.
We’re starting to feel really Christmassy in Casa Burr this week. I’ve had Christmas cakes dotted all around my kitchen getting fed with booze – it’s still not too late to start yours and the recipe in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, works a treat! I made the one in the picture above this week for a friend of mine to auction for Cancer Research UK. I iced this one in fondant and royal icing, but my own family Christmas cake will be more like the one in my book, pictured below, as I love a thick layer of crunchy royal icing!I’ve also been doing a lot of baking for my daughters’ school Christmas bake sale – I can’t really get out of it these days, especially as I’m a parent governor! Whenever people buy a copy of my book and ask “what one recipe would you suggest I make from it?” I usually say my mincemeat cupcakes, pictured below. They’ve not got the sexiest name but they’re off the hook! I adapted them a little for the school bake sale this week as my recipe uses brandy butter cream but I wasn’t sure that would be appreciated by the infants! If you do make these, I reckon it’s the brandy butter cream that makes them though so don’t hold back. I really can’t explain how delicious these are – you’ll just have to make them yourself to find out. This week, I judged an ‘International Master Chef’ event for the junior school too. There are 46 different languages spoken in the junior school so the international food influences are so diverse. I’m hoping to do more food-based work with the school over the next year as it’s really rewarding. The finalists had been whittled-down over the past few weeks and so on Thursday morning I got to judge the final results, choosing a dish from Sri Lanka as the ultimate winner. All of the kids had gone to so much effort – I think there are a few future Junior Bake Off candidates there for sure! I’ve also made quite a few of the mince pies from my book this week (pictured above), which have been flying out of the kitchen. A friend of ours, Emma Whiteman (who captains my wife’s cricket team) made them for the East Finchley Christmas Festival’s Mince Pie Bake Off yesterday and won! So they’re officially award-winning mince pies (pictured below) thanks to Emma.
I’m always more than happy to overdose on mince pies once December starts. I get a bit nervous without a regular supply to hand! My book has a recipe for making your own mincemeat, including a substitution if you don’t want to use suet.
As regular blog readers will know, we’re expecting our third child pretty soon. I don’t know what we’re having but my wife Sarah has known for nearly five months and kept it a secret. We’ve always done our babies’ rooms in greens so no clues there! This week my job was to decorate the baby’s nursery as Sarah’s nesting instinct has gone into overdrive.
Anyway, the nursery is now all ready, the muslin cloths all folded, the tiny sleepsuits all clean, the hospital bags packed… not long to wait!
So last night was the night I’d been looking forward to for ages – our Bake Off Christmas dinner! It had a lot to live up to after last year’s, and the pressure was on a bit as with everyone coming to London for it, I wanted to make sure I’m showing my city off to its best! After a lot of research (and largely on the strength of this Jay Rayner review) we went for the amazing Otto’s Restaurant in Bloomsbury. Their private room was incredible, the food delicious, the wine flowing, the service impeccable. It was a really fantastic night. All of the Class of 2014 were able to make it except for Norman and Luis, who were both sorely missed.
The hardcore of us in the picture above stayed out pretty late. I had Martha, Jordan and Enwezor back to mine to stay over, and Diana stayed across the road from me at my parents’ house, so this morning was an enormous fry-up with us all. Enwezor and I called it a night after a few whiskies at about 4.30 this morning so I’m beginning to wilt now! The friends I made from being on the Bake Off last year mean so much to me. We still Whatsapp every day. Meeting them has been the best reward from being on the show and I can’t wait for our next catch-up.
Finally, I’m totally gutted to see what Storm Desmond has done to Cumbria this weekend, as I love the Lake District so much. It’s only ten weeks ago that we were up in Cockermouth for the Taste Cumbria Food Festival. Seeing the picture above on Twitter of the wonderful New Bookshop was so sad. You can donate to the Cumbria 2015 flood appeal here, or with the message ‘FLUD15’ and a monetary amount (for example, FLUD15 £10). We will be back to the Lake District to visit in 2016 and remember they’ll need your tourism more than ever next year.
See you next week…