What a week! They say a week is a long time in politics but it’s been even longer in the world of Bake Off. I need a lie down, but first, there’s plenty of news to update you on…
The week started on a surreal note and got even stranger. Last week was my Bake Off friend Iain’s wedding, which I wrote about last Sunday. And boy do people love a wedding – my blog hits went through the roof! By Monday, his wedding had been written about in OK, Elle, Cosmopolitan, the Metro, the Radio Times, the Express – crazy! For Iain’s lovely wife Catriona, I’m not sure there’s many better compliments on your wedding day than Cosmo saying your dress was awesome and you were a total babe – they’re not wrong too. Who’d have thought his Baked Alaska wedding cake would have caused such a commotion.
But then by Monday evening, the news that the Great British Bake Off was moving to Channel 4 hit the headlines. In the UK it was such big news that David Cameron (the recently departed Prime Minister) announcing he was leaving British politics became an also-ran story.
Personally, I was really saddened by the news and even sadder when I found out Mel and Sue would be leaving the show. My fellow GBBO bakers and I had our phones ringing off the hook as this was headline news that we were all expert spokespeople on – having been the first series to move to BBC1 and having worked with Love Productions so closely. By Tuesday, I was on BBC London Radio, BBC Radio 5 Live, Sky News Radio and in the BBC News studios too. I didn’t get much work done that day, but as it was the hottest day of the year, air conditioned studios were far preferable to laying a path in the blazing sun! I’ve said a lot on the subject this week on Twitter, but I put my main thoughts down in an article for The Washington Post here, as the show has become just as popular in the US as in the UK. If you want to know how I feel about it, it’s all there in that article but I’m trying not to dwell on feeling sad about the Great British Bread-xit.
It was a strange episode of the Bake Off this week too, being the first ever ‘Batter Week’. Don’t get me wrong, I love batter – Yorkshire puds, toad-in-the-hole (my chorizo recipe pictured above), pancakes – but I’m not convinced it really fits comfortably into the baking category. I also felt really sad watching this week as while I know the format will continue and Channel 4 will work hard to nurture the show, to me it’s the warmth and silly humour from Mel and Sue that makes it so watchable and they’ll be so missed. I don’t think Kate deserved to go this week either and I really felt for her, as it must have been frustrating to leave on a week that’s not so much about baking when I think she still had a lot to give.
Next week is ‘Pastry Week’ on the Bake Off and it looks like they’ll be tackling lots of different types. I love making pastry, with the exception of filo. Life is too short to make filo pastry – just buy it ready-made. I recently made a video for BT.com with my shortcrust pastry tips, which you can watch here. The custard tart I make in this video is simply perfect and you can find the recipe for it in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, available here. The tart pictured above is also one of my all time favourites – rhubarb and ginger Bakewell tart. The recipe is here and my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I’ll be at the Thame Food Festival on Saturday demonstrating this tart so come along, say hi and learn how to nail it. I’m going to be a popular chap this week now that my mum and sisters know I’ll be practising the rhubarb tart – it’s a real family favourite.
We’re just back this evening from a fantastic trip to Wales in the glorious sunshine. It was the Abergavenny Food Festival this weekend, which is the biggest food event in Wales. I love being able to take my family along to these and the festival hosts put us all up in a beautiful 16th century bed and breakfast just outside Abergavenny – Pen-y-Dre Farm (pictured above). Our hosts Idris and Gwen were wonderful and we were so well looked after. We can’t wait to visit again, especially because Idris has the best science fiction / fantasy library I’ve ever seen! I particularly like that the girls spent this morning playing with donkeys, alpacas, goats, pigs and sheep and are now tucked up back in London tonight ready for school in the morning.
I had a really busy day at the festival yesterday, which started with teaching a masterclass in how to make the pear, walnut and goat’s cheese pinwheel from my book. I think this is the most fun I’ve ever had doing a demo – it was a great crowd with lots of questions and laughs followed by a B.I.Y. book signing.
After my book signing, I taught another bread class in the cookery school later in the afternoon – this time showing how to make the challah rolls in my book (recipe also available here). Where I live in North London, challah is available in every bakery and it’s one of my favourite breads. It’s an enriched dough that should be made without dairy products, as in kosher laws you shouldn’t mix milk and meat products. So if you keep a kosher home and avoid using dairy in the bread, you can fill the rolls with meat. I also demonstrated how to make a beetroot and horseradish chutney so we could enjoy the finished rolls with salt beef and my chutney. I was delighted to meet a lovely couple from my home town who had come along to this class and we also got a very special guest in the form of my good friend Martha. Martha, her boyfriend Michael and I enjoyed a great party at Abergavenny castle last night too, finishing with a spectacular fireworks display.
Today my family got to enjoy the festival as punters and Martha and I spent this morning with two of the bakers from this year’s series of the Great British Bake Off – Louise and Candice. Being involved in the show is such a unique experience that past contestants become a bit of an extended family. When it was first announced I was on the show, Frances and Kimberley (from the series before mine) gave me such warmth and advice that it’s good to be able to pay that forward a bit. Our daughters were so excited to meet Candice – she’s a real favourite in our house!
And just in case you were worrying I must be ill as I’d got all the way through a week baking things other than cake, don’t panic! In between all the madness this week I also made the cake above for our friends Mark and Liz, who were kind enough to lend us their canal boat for our holiday earlier this year. It was three layers of 8 inch red velvet cake on the bottom and four layers of 6 inch chocolate cake on the top. Thanks for the picture Liz and happy anniversary to you both. I’m about to hit 10K followers on my Instagram so if you don’t already follow me, you can find me at @richardpburr here for plenty more cake pictures and snaps from this weekend. You never know – you might be lucky number 10,000! I’m off for a lie down so until next week, Happy Baking!