Over the past three years my kitchen kit has more than doubled in size. If you’ve got a keen baker in your life, this week’s blog is full of great Christmas gift ideas.
It’s been another busy week for me and I’ve definitely got into the festive spirit. I have a lot of really fun baking commissions between now and Christmas so have a massive day-by-day ‘to do’ list taped on a kitchen cupboard, with the building work needing to fit around this. This week I baked a load of my favourite mincemeat cupcakes
for the Christmas market on my high street, to help to raise money for a local community hub. I was really honoured to get to turn the Christmas lights on too (with Father Christmas, above). I know it sounds a bit silly, but it was genuinely a post-Bake Off highlight as I’ve lived here in Mill Hill
most of my life. This is the same high street where I had my teenage Saturday job, doing the washing up in a bakery. A lot of people think of London life as being really unfriendly. Admittedly we’re quite suburban here, but Mill Hill feels very villagey. I know all my neighbours and I can’t walk ten metres down the high street without stopping for a chat with someone. I’ve always felt it’s the best of both worlds living here, particularly this week.
I also did my final demo and B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself
book signing of the year at the Didcot Food Festival
on Friday. I’ve lost count of the number of demos I’ve done this year but every single one has been a pleasure. Before Bake Off I was really nervous about public speaking and had no experience of it either (not much call for PowerPoint presentations on a building site). I still get a bit nervous beforehand but I enjoy demos and filming so much, particularly because people are always so pleased to see you. I’ve found you don’t get many angry Bake Off fans throwing rotten tomatoes! I have a few filming projects over the next two weeks to look forward to now. Follow me on Instagram
for some sneak peaks!
When I went to the Disney Store Christmas Party a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to win my dream prize in the raffle: a huge bundle of Star Wars toys. They arrived on Wednesday this week and the kids and I were beside ourselves (see above). My three daughters now have a cuddly Boba Fett, Stormtrooper and Darth Vader in their beds and I’ve managed to nestle the giant stuffed Jabba the Hutt among the sofa cushions without my wife noticing. It’s got me thinking about perfect Christmas presents so this week’s blog is packed full of ideas for the baker in your life.
Christmas Gift Guide for the baker in your life
(links correct as of 27 November 2016)
1.) B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, from £7.99
If someone you know is a big Bake Off fan but hasn’t made the jump to actually trying to bake yet, my book is genuinely the perfect start. It covers everything, with sweet and savoury chapters and loads of tips on how to adapt and develop every technique you’ll learn. The recipes are all graded levels 1, 2, or 3 so you can work your way through all the level 1 recipes in the book and move on as your confidence grows. All of the ingredients are easy to source and I talk you through exactly what kit you’ll need to make each recipe. The book has averaged five stars on the Amazon reviews
, which I’m really proud of. The cheapest place to buy it online is with The Book People here
2.) Apron, Labour & Wait £30
I am an apron kleptomaniac. I’ve nicked an apron from pretty much every photo shoot I’ve done and I think I’ve got three aprons from my time on Bake Off that I ‘accidentally’ wore home. They’re all little souvenirs of the things I’ve done. But this apron, from my book cover photo shoot, is my favourite. I wear it for every demo I do and when I’m filming, and it’s available from Labour and Wait here
3.) Ikea baking sheets, around £5 in store
Whenever I say to use a baking sheet in one of my recipes, I get questions on what I mean. I mean these, from Ikea. I have at least six of these Drömmar cookie sheets in my kitchen and use them for so much of my baking. They’re a great size – 35 x 40cm – which makes them ideal for centrepiece bakes, like some of the round, sweet and savoury breads in my book. They’re also excellent for macarons and gingerbread. They’re not on the Ikea website
at the moment but they’re available in store. Get two!
4.) Mastrad Macaron Sheets, from £12.19
If you make macarons a lot, or if you want to start, one or two of these are a huge help. They fit really neatly on the Ikea baking sheets above and give you perfectly uniform macaron shells every time. I got mine from Amazon here
5.) Kenwood kMix Hand Mixer, from £49.99
Before I went on the Great British Bake Off, I had a cheap, Argos hand mixer and no stand mixer. It’s perfectly possible to bake well without fancy gadgets and equipment. However, just after I found out I’d been accepted on the show, my wife Sarah bought me a yellow Kenwood kMix stand mixer
as a birthday present. If you’re a serious baker then a stand mixer is a good idea. But if it’s too big an investment, get yourself a decent hand mixer, like the Kenwood kMix one above (that I also have). It’s currently reduced to £49.99 at Lakeland here
6.) Joseph Joseph Adjustable Rolling Pin, from £17.60
An adjustable rolling pin is something I never thought I’d need, but it comes in really handy – especially for making gingerbread, shortbread, and shortcrust pastry of uniform depths. I have the black Heston Blumenthal one but I can’t find it online and this one is a bit nicer looking anyway. It’s available from John Lewis here
7.) Icing nozzles, from £11.99
I bought a fairly cheap set of nozzles from Amazon years ago, like the ones above, and they come in so useful. Over the years, it’s been really fun figuring out what the different nozzles are for and they’ve started off a bit of a nozzle collection for me. They’re available from Amazon here
8.) Nordic Ware Bundt Pan, from £35.95
I really love Nordic Ware pans – they’re worth making space in the cupboard for. They turn ordinary cakes into extraordinary cakes, which is really handy if you’ve got to make a last minute birthday cake. There are so many different designs. I have the ‘Jubilee’ pictured above, but I’ve also got my eye on the ‘Heritage’. They’re available from Divertimenti here
9.) Wilton Colours, from £9.63
I go on about these a lot, but that’s because they’re the best food colours I’ve used: potent and last for ages. I’ve recently treated myself to an icing airbrush kit
for my cakes, but only because I’m making so many. Airbrushes are NOT a necessity, but if you’re into cake making and decorating (or even rainbow bagels
), these colours are. Available from Amazon here
10.) Loads of stocking filler ideas for under £10 each on Amazon
- Dough scraper, £4.29. This might be the baking utensil I use the most in my kitchen.
- Stackable 3-tiered cooling racks, £8.49. These are so useful and space-saving for batch baking.
- Cake turntable, £7.68. This is cheap and cheerful but it’s the one I use and it does the job.
- Offset palette knife, £3.30. In my top three most-used kitchen utensils. Useful for every cake and tart I make.
- Silicone spatula, £4.99. If you’ve tried any of my recipes you’ll notice I use silicone spatulas for all my folding-in. My kitchen is a wooden-spoon-free zone!
- Cake smoother, £3.99. A necessity if you’re working with marzipan and/or fondant on a cake.
- Icing smoother, £9.55. Before you marzipan or fondant a cake, get a super smooth buttercream / ganache layer with this tool.
- Measuring spoons, £1.86. These are the ones I have and the different colours make them really easy to find when I’m rummaging around my utensil drawers.
- Star cutters, £2.81; Heart cutters, £3.75; Round cutters, £1.89; Leaf cutters, £6.70. I have all of these and use them all the time – for doughnuts, biscuits, fondant, scones, decorating pies, etc. They don’t take up much space either as they stack together.
- Cake wire, £4.50. For making cake layers of uniform heights.
- Cake lifter, £8.49. For transferring cakes onto their cake boards without the fear of dropping them.
- Sugarcraft modelling tool kit, £1.38. Pretty useful for cake decorating.
- Cooking thermometer, £6.23. This is the one I use at home for sugar work.
- Pastry brush, £1.68. I prefer one like this with actual bristles.
- Tape measure, £4.50. If you have my book already or have been to any of my demos, you’ll notice I use my tape measure for a lot of my bakes. Comes in really handy (as does a pencil behind the ear of course!)
I could go on forever with this, but I reckon there’s enough inspiration here for even the hardest-to-buy-for people. My list is quite Amazon-heavy as I have Amazon Prime and am a bit disorganised, so their next day delivery has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. Most of my cake and tart tins are from Amazon too. Just think, for under £20 you can get someone a copy of my book, a few of the items above, and get them started on their baking journey. You never know, you’ll probably be in line for the first cake they make! Until next week, Happy Baking!