I don’t know how September crept up on us so quickly but we might as well welcome it with open arms now it’s here. We’ve got the Back-to-School vibe in our house this week and loads of autumnal bakes in the pipeline.
I have to admit I love this time of year. My garden has been a bit neglected this year as I’ve barely had a chance to get out there. But the fruit and vegetable patch at the end of my garden is fairly low-maintenance and is overflowing with fruit at the moment. The kids and I have been enjoying picking blackberries for breakfast and we are about to start harvesting the apples and pears, so there’ll be pies-a-plenty soon. I was presenting prizes at the Mill Hill Garden & Allotment Society yesterday (in the church where I used to sing as a choir boy 30 years ago!) and it made me feel pretty guilty about the state of my own garden to be honest, compared to the fantastic stuff on display there. It was a real stroll down memory lane for me and I bumped into lots of familiar faces in the community I’ve grown up in, many of whom remembered the bakery I used to work in as a boy.
There’s been a bit of a chill in the air today, so for me that’s enough to say it’s pie season. We still can’t believe it’s only a few weeks since we were travelling through sunny France in our awesome Spaceships campervan. As a throwback to our holiday, I’ve made a beef bourguignon pie tonight (above), that I started stewing last night. It really tastes fantastic. I can’t share the recipe at the moment, but my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself (only £7.99 on Amazon here), has a whole chapter on savoury pies. Like the steak and ale pie in my book, tonight’s pie was made with hot water crust pastry, which is so easy to work with. If you’ve never made pastry before, give this one a go now that autumn’s here.
It’s been good to do some savoury baking today as I’ve been surrounded by the sweet stuff all week. I did a wedding cake tasting on Thursday evening for the bride- and groom-to-be and the bride’s parents. It was a really fun night with seven different types of cake, loads of different filling options, plenty of prosecco plus macarons too (by the way, as a few people have asked, I use these macaron sheets). The cake flavours they’re plumping for are a wedding day surprise but out of interest, it would be good to see the most popular among my blog readers:
I’m making three different cakes this week for a very special wedding that we’re going to on Friday so keep an eye on my Instagram…
It was Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off on Wednesday. The gingerbread house above is one I made three years ago and included in my own Bake Off application form. As a builder, I like to think of myself as an expert on biscuits, particularly when it comes to dunking them. If you’ve got builders working in your house, TRUST ME, a packet of dark chocolate Hobnobs with their tea break will make sure you’ll get the best out of them. Alternatively, there’s a whole biscuit chapter in my book – coconut macaroons, peanut butter cookies, chocolate orange biscotti, lavender shortbread – I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! There are also instructions on how to make a perfect gingerbread house, with a template included in the book. I won my first Star Baker award in our series’ Biscuit Week and I have to say, I thought Candice‘s showstopper was lovely and her Star Baker award well-earned. It brought back good memories of our year too.
It hard at this stage to see the potential of the different contestants but Bread Week usually sorts the wheat from the chaff (quite literally). If you’ve never made bread before and want to know where to start, check out the short video I made for BT.com here. I’m doing a few food festivals in September so if you’re coming along to the Abergavenny Food Festival on 17 and 18 September, you can book tickets for my Masterclass here, where I’ll be demonstrating my pinwheel bread recipe. Or if you want to get really hands-on, I’m also teaching how to make challah bread rolls at the Artisan Kitchen School, which you can book here. It looks like it’ll be a fantastic weekend, but this time my wife Sarah and I have vowed not to buy any more unusual liqueurs or more recipe books (as we end up doing at every food festival) as the kitchen is overflowing! Later this month I’m going to be appearing at the Thame Food Festival on Saturday 24 September demonstrating a sweet tart so come along to that if you’re free, as there’s a great line up on the Baking Stage.
The only night away from baking I’ve had this week was on Friday, when I went on a fantastic zombie experience with The Last Survivors. It was a 40th birthday present from my sisters (they know me so well) and so my best mate and I disappeared off to a nuclear bunker in Essex for the fright of our lives. I won’t say too much about it but if you’ve got a zombie fan in your life, I’d really recommend this as a gift experience. I’ve just noticed I’ve not tweeted since I was on my way there so to reassure you, I did survive! Anyway, I’ve got a great week to look forward to and can’t wait for Friday so until next Sunday, Happy Baking!