We’ve been in Manchester this weekend for our annual Bake Off Christmas dinner. A long drive back but time for a quick blog update.
This time of year gets pretty busy on the baking front so it makes for long days: building by day and baking by night. I’ve been making quite a few Christmas cakes and as each one cooks for about four hours, it takes over the oven for most of the evening. One of my priorities in the new year is to extend my kitchen. I’ve got a really nice kitchen and it’s only five years old. But since the Bake Off I’ve outgrown it and I need two full-size fan ovens for the amount of baking I now do and a much bigger fridge-freezer. I’m excited about planning and building the perfect (well, my perfect) baker’s kitchen (top tip: you don’t need a proving drawer!) It’ll be a fairly big project so I’m looking forward to sharing progress and pictures on my blog. Luckily I live across the road from my parents so I’ll still be able to borrow their oven while our kitchen is out of action.
More festive baking for me this week as I’m demoing at the Didcot Food Festival on Friday, where I’ll be showing how to make my delicious, fruity Swedish wreath from my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself. The festival is full of Bake Off alumni as it’s organised by the lovely Christine from Bake Off 2013, who I last saw a few months ago at the ChildLine Ball. I’m also baking up a whole batch of my mincemeat cupcakes this week (pictured above), which are my favourite cupcakes bar none. There’s a three-day festive market on my high street starting on Thursday and along with the Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum we’ll be selling the cupcakes to raise funds for a local community hub. I’ll also be selling and signing copies of my B.I.Y. book so if you’re local, come along and stock up on Christmas / Hanukkah / Winter Solstice presents!
Friday night, my wife Sarah and I went out for a great night to raise money for the Zoological Society of London. It’s their annual “Roar With Laughter” stand up show at Hammersmith Apollo to raise money for ZSL’s international conservation work. We laughed til it hurt, particularly at Alan Davies, Dara O’Briain, Seann Walsh – whose skit on food fads had us in tears – and the excellent compere, Rob Deering. After the show I caught up with Professor David Field, who is the ZSL Director of Zoology . A few years ago I did a part-time degree in Biodiversity & Conservation and I’m really keen to carry on my studies as a postgraduate in the next few years. When I meet someone like Professor Field I get a bit awestruck; people who have dedicated their whole lives to animal conservation. He also told us all about ZSL’s One Less campaign to reduce the number of single use plastic water bottles in London, due to their terrible environmental impact. I’m signing up to take the #OneLess pledge too and I think it’s brilliant that ZSL is leading the charge on this in London.
This weekend was our annual Bake Off Christmas Dinner. As I’m self employed, I’ve gone most of my life without a work Christmas party so having a Bake Off one for three years now has been such a treat for me, Secret Santas and all! For the past couple of years, Sarah has booked the parties in London for us, but as only half of us are Southerners, this year we ventured up north for our festivities. We went out last night to Yang Sing in Manchester’s Chinatown. The whole gang were there except for Norman, Diana and Enwezor, who couldn’t make it this year. It had only been a short while since we’d all seen each other at Iain’s wedding and it was wonderful seeing the gang again. We were talking about trying to arrange a visit to Nancy’s place in France together next summer, which would be awesome if we can coordinate it. My family, Chetna’s family and Iain all stayed with Claire and her husband Carl, and we spent most of today wandering round Manchester’s beautiful Christmas markets. We get to go to Manchester often when we’re doing shows and media stuff but always as flying visits, so this time we really got the chance to enjoy the city.
My Bake Off mates are by far the best thing to have come out of being on the show and it’s always a real treat to get together. Anyway, I’ve been driving for hours today (and have been nursing a hangover all afternoon!) so it’s time for an early(ish) night. See you next week and Happy Baking!