I’m pretty much going to be baking non-stop between now and Christmas. This week has included a real highlight for me.
I’m not going to lie; sometimes I can be hard to live with. When I’m making sausage rolls every day to test different flavour combinations, that constant supply of hot, flaky pastry and pork can get a bit much after a while! I really love making pastry. I know it’s so much easier to use ready-made, and you won’t be arrested by the Baking Police for doing so, but I find the whole process of making rough puff pastry (as pictured above) really relaxing. There’s a very easy to follow recipe for this in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, and some more tips in this short clip. Before I went on the Great British Bake Off I’d never made it before. In fact, there was so much I’d never made before so don’t be intimidated by the application form and if you’re interested in being part of the new Channel 4 series, more info can be found here.
There’s still no word on whether there’ll be a new series of Bake Off next year, but if you’re still missing it, there are the two Christmas Specials to look forward to, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I’ll be tuning in to see my good friends Chetna and Norman do their stuff. Frustratingly they’ve both been really discreet about their respective episodes and haven’t breathed a word, so I’ve got no idea who’s going to win but I’ll be rooting for my fellow Class of 2014 Alumni!
I had a great day’s filming in the Saturday Kitchen studios on Thursday this week for Christmas Kitchen. My episode will be broadcast on Friday 16 December at 10am on BBC1, so I’ll have to rush back from Daughter 2’s Christmas concert that morning to watch it. I’m really looking forward to seeing it as we laughed so much during filming. The hosts, Matt Tebbutt and Andi Oliver have great chemistry and Rick Edwards was very funny too. I was really pleased to hear I’d be on it with Sabrina Ghayour, as we’ve met a few times now and in our house we use her recipe books all the time, particularly for her bulgur wheat salad from Persiana, which our daughters now request as their favourite dinner. They have much posher taste than I did as a kid – I thought I was doing alright if I got spaghetti hoops and fish fingers! Sabrina made a fantastic duck recipe from her second book Sirocco, which I’m going to make for the family on Christmas Eve this year. One of the highlights of the filming was getting to drink wine and cocktails at 10 o’clock in the morning and I’ll also be getting a few bottles of the red wine recommended by Jane Parkinson for Christmas Day.
I made my orange zest, sage and chilli sausage roll wreath, pictured above. This one is a real crowd-pleaser, and never lasts very long. The recipe will be up on the Christmas Kitchen website after my programme’s aired and I’ll tweet a link to it too as it’s perfect for Christmas Day or if you’ve got friends coming over for Christmas drinks. We spend most Christmasses with my parents, who live across the road from me. I’m usually in charge of ‘pork products’, so make the ham, sausage rolls, pigs in blankets and sausagemeat stuffings. Between me and my sisters, we have seven kids now so it’s always pandemonium but a lot of fun.
It was such a thrill to cook in the Saturday Kitchen studios. My wife Sarah got to come along to the recording with me and we were saying in the cab on the way home how surreal and fun the past few years have been since Bake Off. Before we had the kids, we used to eat breakfast in bed on Saturday mornings watching Saturday Kitchen together, deciding what to cook that evening. We’d head into town and wander round Borough Market to pick our ingredients and it was probably the programme that inspired our love of cooking more than any other. Sarah also reminded me that it was during an episode of Saturday Kitchen that she went into labour with our first daughter. My friend Stuart said to me this weekend, for me to get to cook there is equivalent to how a football fan would feel to get to play a match in their home team’s stadium. Us Bake Off alumni aren’t professional chefs; we’re food enthusiasts and ordinary people who happened to get really lucky. It’s still such a privilege to get to share my recipes and baking techniques with other people.
I’ve made a few Christmas cakes already this year, which are on the shelf and getting fed regularly with booze. But I had to ice the first one this week as it was being picked up for a charity raffle. Earlier this year I made this mandala birthday cake for one of Daughter 1’s best friends. It was pretty popular at the time, so I thought I’d make a festive version, as pictured at the top of the post. I pipe these freehand and find them really satisfying to do – plug myself into some Netflix and that’s my evening sorted. I’ve had so many lovely comments this weekend about the cake so I think I’m going to do a few more like this one over the next few weeks.
I have a ridiculous amount of baking to do this week, which I know from the 4kg of butter we added to our online shop this afternoon. I’m doing a wedding cake for Sarah’s best friend on Saturday and our elder daughters are going to be bridesmaids so there’s a lot of excitement building in this house. I’m also working on a fun construction project, pictured above, which I’ll be able to reveal soon. Finally, I was so chuffed with all the feedback about last week’s Christmas Gift Guide for bakers. It’s had loads of hits and I think that’s because with 21 items under £10, there’s something for everyone. Lots of Secret Santa ideas too. Anyway, no rest for the wicked so until next week, Happy Baking!