So apparently 17 January is ‘Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions‘ day. Don’t beat yourself up about it if you’ve joined this club. When it’s cold outside and you’re skint after Christmas you need to cut yourself some slack!
Last year I took quite a bit of time off from my day job as a builder to write my recipe book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, and then promote it after it was published in August. I’m the fourth generation in our family building company, R.H. & P.R. Burr. It’s a bit too early to tell if any of my daughters will want to join the firm but they’re pretty capable and even the new one has a good grip on her so you never know! My Dad (who I work with) had a new hip put in a few weeks ago, so I’ve been back doing building work since the start of January to stay ahead of our ever-increasing workload. It’s great getting stuck in again and then spending weekends as ‘Baker Richard’, knocking up cakes like the one at the top of this post for my Grandfather-in-law Joe and at B.I.Y. book signings like yesterday’s in Bury St Edmunds (pictured above).
One of the advantages of being a tradesman is that I’m usually burning off quite a few calories during the day so I rarely worry about what I eat or feel the urge to do New Year’s diets. It’s no wonder so many chefs are runners as you do need a way of balancing a love of food with keeping fit. I’ve run the London and Paris marathons myself, a few years ago now, and I’d love to do another at some point. In a few months I’ll be running the final stage of the North London half marathon schools challenge with my eldest daughter at Wembley Stadium. Ever since we did the Great Ormond Street Hospital 5km Race for the Kids run in June my daughter’s had the running bug so it’s brilliant to get the chance to do this with her. When you love baking and bake regularly you have to ensure you’re eating a balanced diet, but flour, sugar and butter are not poisonous (unless you’re actually allergic) and I don’t want my daughters to get faddy, fussy or paranoid about food. If every time I made a cake I scoffed the lot myself, it’d soon catch up on me but a slice of cake every now and again is a pleasure that you shouldn’t feel guilty about, especially when the cake is shared with people around you. It makes people happy, therefore, cake is good for you!
Everything in moderation goes out of the window when you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off though. I’ve said in this blog before, when you get the contract through to be on the show it warns you “you will put on weight”! That’s due to the sheer volume of baked goods passing through your kitchen! This weekend two years ago was the first stage for me of being on Bake Off. I had to bring a sweet and a savoury bake in to central London for the home economists to taste. I made savoury pesto and roasted vegetable Chelsea buns and chocolate and hazelnut petit fours, rocked up with no expectations, and it snowballed from there. If it’s running to the same schedule (which I assume it is as the applications closed last weekend), there may be dozens of people all over the UK keeping big secrets at the moment. If you’re one of them and reading this blog, good luck and enjoy it! It’s probably only about a month to wait for our next Bake Off fix with the Sport Relief Bake Off coming soon, featuring the likes of Geri Halliwell, Victoria Coren-Mitchell and Ade Edmondson. Can’t wait!
In my own baking year, January usually features hearty, warming savoury pies and lots of different breads to have with vegetable soups. I bake a bit more soda bread (see picture above) and quick bakes like toad in the hole in January as they take no time at all to make after work. The wholemeal seeded rolls in my recipe book have featured quite a bit recently too. February gets a bit more chocolatey after a quite savoury start to the year, especially coming up to Valentine’s Day. By spring, I’m starting to think about Mother’s Day cakes and Easter bakes, like hot cross buns and the delicious Simnel cake recipe in my book. The summer sees light meringues, pork pies, burger buns and the like. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
The best thing about writing a recipe book has been people sending me their own versions of my bakes, like in the picture above (by my best mate Ross). Since B.I.Y. was published in August, I’ve had lots of people making my breads, pies and chocolate cakes through the autumn and mince pies, Christmas cake and mincemeat cupcakes in the winter (so far). This weekend, my double glazed ring doughnuts have proven popular home bakes with a few people and I can’t wait to see which recipes people make as the year goes on. Don’t forget, Bake It Yourself is a perfect Valentine’s or Mother’s Day present too!
Even though I live in London, it’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve spent more time in Central London for meetings. It’s still a treat to wander round Chinatown (see picture above) or Soho or Covent Garden. I’ve been looking ahead to what I’ve got planned for 2016 and I had a good meeting this week in town with my agent, Rosemary Scoular. In addition to promoting B.I.Y. and booking more food shows and demos this year, I’ve got a long list of further recipes I’m developing and I’m also looking at different ways to make building and D.I.Y. more accessible. I’m having lots of fun gathering food inspiration at the moment and I’ve got a bit hooked on Instagram videos (follow me at @richardpburr). I’ll get the hang of making these myself and post some soon. Feedback is so helpful with recipe developing so if there are any bakes you’d love to have a perfect go-to version of, send me your requests. Likewise, if there are any D.I.Y. jobs around the house you’ve always wanted to do, let me know.
Anyway, with all this talk of January and resolutions I really should go round the corner to my new 24 hour gym for a quick work out this evening. I’ll leave it half an hour and let the poll below decide whether or not I go. See you next week!