Just back from a long, Halloweeny weekend in the countryside for half term. It’s been a great week including Candice’s well deserved Bake Off win.
So Bake Off on the BBC is no more! Around 14 million of us tuned in on Wednesday night to see Candice crowned as the final champion of the Great British Bake Off as we know it. It was a cracking final, with the showstopper picnic a real challenge to test every element of the contestants’ baking repertoires. Some people assume all of us former contestants know who the winner is ahead of time but I assure you that’s not the case. I’d met Candice twice over the past few months and MI5 should be aware that she is GOOD at keeping secrets! She gave nothing away.
My middle daughter had been championing Candice from the start and was over the moon to see her win (my eldest daughter still wasn’t over Selasi leaving in the semi-finals)! It’s a funny old world post-Bake Off and completely different for all of us. Personally, I decided to say yes to everything for the first year and as a result I’ve been able to do so much fun stuff ever since. Like Nadiya, Candice will have so many opportunities open to her and will have a very exciting time ahead. For some people, like my friend Luis, Bake Off has meant that they’ve been able to fulfil lifelong dreams like Luis opening his bakery, The Hive. It was great to see The Hive featured on BBC Breakfast this week.
On Wednesday, STIHL revealed the cake I’d made for them last week with the accompanying film (below) shot in my kitchen and garden.
This was so much fun to do and I’ve really enjoyed working with companies relating to my work as a builder. Bake Off is a bit of a guilty pleasure for a lot of men. I’m approached regularly by blokes who say “I don’t watch the Bake Off but my wife does” and then proceed to talk at length about their views on technical challenges or Paul and Mary’s judging.
I had loads of fun replicating my own STIHL chainsaw in cake form. The tree stump was vanilla sponge sandwiched with buttercream and raspberry jam and then covered with dark chocolate ganache. The ganache was piped on with a star tip nozzle and then I used a fork to give it more of a bark effect. I topped the cake with homemade marzipan, with the tree rings drawn on with this edible pen. For the chainsaw, I wanted a sturdier cake so made a chocolate Madeira sponge for it and sandwiched it with chocolate buttercream before coating with fondant. I made the blade and the guard out of gingerbread, spray painting the guard black using my new favourite toy. The handle and throttle were made from fondant around a wire frame, which was the only non-edible material used, apart from a toothpick to support the blade.
I’ve been doing a lot of Halloween baking with kids and young people this week. In addition to Halloween cupcakes I’ve made more of my foughoulish fougasse this weekend (above, recipe here) and was delighted to see so many others had given them a go too, including Mr Fougasse himself, Tom from this year’s Bake Off and Mr Bread-sculpture, Paul Jagger from last year’s Bake Off! They’re a pretty quick bread so it’s not too late to make them for Halloween tomorrow, though I reckon any kids knocking at my house Trick or Treating would be a bit disappointed to receive bread instead of sweets!
I’ve been recipe developing this week so it’s meant I’ve got to spend lots of time with my kids while they’ve been on half term (this is one huge plus-point since Bake Off). We’re just back from a fantastic few days staying with my Mother-in-law in Lavenham. We visited Kentwell Hall on Friday for their “Halloweenies” event, which was awesome! Our friends from Lavenham Falconry were there with owls and ravens (see above), and the kids made potions, spells, magic wands and had broomstick races in the woods. If you’re a Harry Potter fan or have one in your life, an experience day with Lavenham Falconry is a great gift. According to the Pottermore website I’m a Ravenclaw, so it’s no surprise I like their birds so much! We’re looking forward to doing the Owl Experience there next year.
Saturday was a really special day for all of us as we took the kids to the Lavenham Children’s Literary Festival. My wife Sarah, my eldest daughter and I are all huge fans of Chris Riddell, the Children’s Laureate. We got to meet him yesterday and get all our daughters’ books signed by him before he did a fantastic talk, where children submitted questions for him and he illustrated the answers using an overhead projector for us all to see. I’m a school governor and love how really good books and illustrations can inspire children’s imaginations. I’ve been making ‘Choose Your Own Adventure‘ stories with my kids and since meeting Chris Riddell yesterday, my eldest daughter has been writing down all her ideas for more stories. He has really inspired us all. I particularly love his book “Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death” as it features a Bake Off at Ghastly-Gorm Hall! We got our youngest daughter “A Great Big Cuddle” by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Chris Riddell, which has given us another excuse to watch our favourite Michael Rosen clip a few times this weekend:
We spent today running around in the woods at Jimmy’s Farm before a monumental Sunday lunch at their award-winning restaurant. I’ve been lucky enough to demo at Jimmy’s Farm Festivals for the past two years so it was great to go along today and catch up with my friends there. If you’re in the Suffolk area, book for lunch or dinner there as it’s a great day out for the family and you can work up an appetite den-building in the woods beforehand. Chef Jon Gay and his team produce the most delicious food, which I’ll be thinking about all week (including the Marmalade Baked Alaska above). My Sister-in-law is keen for me to give their cheddar and Marmite cheese straws a go so I’ll be tapping Jon up for the recipe soon.
Anyway it’s back to the building work for me this week and back to school for the kids. If you’re having a big Bonfire Night party next weekend, I’d recommend making the chilli con carne pasties (above) from my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself (only £10.94 here). Sparkler in one hand, pasty in the other, perfect! Until next week, Happy Baking!