Fun With Friends, Cakes and An Extra Slice!

IMG_1543I’ve previously mentioned that I belong to a Twitter-based group called ‘The Sunday Baking Club’. During the week a baking theme is set for the following weekend and on the Sunday, people post photographs on Twitter of their creations. The top 10 are selected and put to a public vote. Whoever gains the most votes wins the big prize, namely a ‘virtual’ Golden Spoon Award. With an incentive like that, who wouldn’t want to take part?

Anyway, the BBC picked up that the group existed and Dominique the organiser was asked if any members would like to attend filming of ‘An Extra Slice’, which is the spin off to ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and airs on a Friday night. A robust group of individuals (me included) took up this exciting opportunity and on Sunday 20th September 2015 we found ourselves heading to Waterloo station to meet up before heading to the TV studio nearby. I didn’t have to travel too far as I live in Surrey / south London but I was astounded to see that other Bake Off loving Sunday Baking Club fans had travelled from the Midlands, Staffordshire, Norfolk and even Leeds to attend the filming. Now that is true dedication to the baking cause. Some of the attendees had met previously while others identified themselves by their Twitter names which was very amusing but put everyone at ease right away. It did feel a little weird though saying “I’m The Little PK. How do you do?”!

Of course, our group didn’t just consist of a number of bodies – there were large amounts of cake and patisserie items too – well it was ‘patisserie week’ after all. I’m in awe of those people who travelled great distances with large boxes while navigating trains, tubes and buses and managed to keep their bakes in one piece.

IMG_1545

We trooped of to the ITV studios and arrived at 1.15pm to be checked in. Here’s the group photograph taken in the reception area. What a fine, upstanding bunch of cakey bakey enthusiasts we are. Can you tell we were just a little bit excited?

We were given rather fetching lilac wristbands and then were escorted to a room where we had to sign a confidentiality agreement. This was because we would be seeing the following week’s episode and would know before the general population who was booted out. After that, we unveiled our cakes and bakes and a chap called Oliver walked round asking people for details of what they had made. The TV team were clearly going to highlight any unusual or interesting bakes that would be discussed during filming. image2 - Copy (15)

I’m afraid that I wasn’t able to bring anything spectacular. As I’d spent the day before viewing houses, I hadn’t had time to make a large cakey extravaganza so I’d kept it simple with lemon madeleines and cherry bakewell chocolate dipped Viennese whirls. They tasted rather good though so I was pleased with them. (I used Edd Kimber’s recipe for the Madeleine which was in his book “Patisserie Made Simple”.) At least I had something to display when the phrase “Show us your bakes” was announced later on.

However, some of the Sunday Baking Club devotees had come up with some great creations – more about those later.

All this took us to almost 2pm when we were told we wouldn’t be needed until 3.45pm so most of us toddled across to the pub and had lunch which involved varying degrees of sausages and mash, fish and chips and possibly someone had a salad. I’m not quite sure what that was about when the day was all about cake and indulgence. However, it does explain why some people are slim and I’m not! We knew it was going to be a long day so we needed to fuel up while we had the chance. Ahem. Let’s move on……

Back at the studio and after a bit of hanging around and a briefing from the Extra Slice producer, we were led into the area where filming would take place. Our group was fortunate that we were all seated in ‘First Class’ i.e. at the tables close to where Jo Brand and the celebrity guest panel would be sitting. Except that Jo Brand was not available that day and so the lovely Sarah Millican was standing in.

We watched the following week’s episode and therefore were aware of who got knocked out. As I’m posting this after this has become public knowledge and after the Extra Slice show has aired, I can now say that I was very disappointed that Paul the Prison Governor left this week. He’d had a few hairy moments earlier on in the series and it was sad to see that patisserie week got the better of him. I was hoping he would be in the final but it wasn’t to be.

After we’d seen the episode, the panel came in and filming started. The panel consisted, as usual, of three people and I’m embarrassed to say that I’d only heard of Gregg Wallace. The patisserie expert was a lady called Cherish Finden who is the Executive Pastry Chef at the Langham Hotel. It seems one of her finest moments was making doughnuts for Lady Gaga but from what she said, they were above average doughnuts. The other panellist was a (very) young comedian called Joe Lycett who was quite funny and had a style of delivery reminiscent of Julian Clary (who is more my age group). Sarah Millican introduced the proceedings and discussed the episode with the panel. I thought she did a good job of covering for Jo Brand (who I would have liked to see) but Sarah does talk remarkably quickly and I found it a bit of a challenge keeping up with her!

The filming then moved to showing bakes – both good and bad – that had been sent in via social media. The less successful bakes did elicit a few sniggers but they were very funny. I think it’s great that people can make fun of themselves and are such good sports.

And then, the moment I’d been looking forward to – some of the Sunday Baking Club members were picked out to discuss their bakes which was great fun. Rebecca talked about her ‘drunken Mary Berry’ cake

image1 - Copy (20)

image2 - Copy (16)

and John spoke about his elegant looking ‘chocolate and Marmite macarons’ which clearly intrigued the panel, who insisted on tasting them. Now I’d tasted one of these earlier in the afternoon and John didn’t mention Marmite to me at the time. I found it to be delicious but either my taste buds are lacking or I have got used to Marmite but I could only sense a rich chocolatey flavour, certainly no hint of the savoury yeastiness that you either love or hate.

One or two other bakes were picked out for discussion but I wasn’t close enough to see them properly. And then hilarity ensued when a lady was asked to show what she had brought along and it was – apparently – a hedgehog made of choux pastry with a few chocolate fingers added. Well, the studio dissolved into laughter as quite frankly, it looked like a hedgehog that had been run over. It looked like roadkill. To paraphrase the Monty Python dead parrot sketch (yes, I am that old….), “The hedgehog is no more. It has ceased to be. This is a late hedgehog. It’s a stiff.” You get my drift.

And then came the big moment when poor evicted Paul was interviewed about his performance during patisserie week and his thoughts on the whole Bake Off experience. I thought he was a lovely chap even when he was ribbed about his flat Genoise cake and his banana disasters. Given the amount of time that was spent filming the panel discussions which was then going to be edited down to fit the half hour time slot for the programme, I felt that not much time was spent on Paul and his story but that’s life I suppose. The filming concluded with Sarah Millican recording the trailers for the programme and redoing a couple of earlier talky bits.

We, the audience, didn’t leave the TV studio until almost 8.30pm so it turned out to be a very long day although it was good fun (bar the various times spent hanging around). I love meeting up with fellow baking enthusiasts and the members of the Sunday Baking Club are a great group of people. I went home tired but happy with a warm, fuzzy glow after meeting up with the cakey crowd. The fact that I was also clutching a box of marvellous macarons given to me by SBC member Joyce rounded off the day nicely.

Having now viewed the programme, I was a bit disappointed that I’d blended into the background so well that the cameras completely missed me (apart from one fleeting glimpse at the beginning) thus depriving me of even 15 seconds of fame. BUT it was lovely that my baking friend John had his Marmite macarons tasted and discussed by the panel and to see bakes by other friends getting some screen time. Sadly Rebecca’s cake (pictured above) didn’t make the final cut.

I leave you with a final cake made by Clare that was fabulous but perhaps a little too risqué for the BBC!

Hollywood cake SBC

Advertisements

A Review of ‘Number 28’, Holt, Norfolk

Number 28 cafe

I had the good fortune to have lunch at the Number 28 café when I met some friends in Holt, Norfolk, earlier this year. There are quite a few eateries in Holt with a range of offerings and prices – some more reasonable than others although I have to say that Holt isn’t the sort of place you are likely to get a dodgy meal. Number 28 was appealing as it offered food made on the premises, the seating area was light and airy and the owners were very friendly.

The story behind the meet up is an interesting one. I belong to a Twitter based baking group called ‘The Sunday Baking Club’. During the week, a baking theme is announced and anyone who wants to take part bakes something the following weekend and posts a photo on Twitter. The ten best, most impressive bakes are then put up for a public vote, with the weekly winner being awarded a (virtual) Golden Spoon. The people who take part in this each week are a very friendly bunch from all over the UK and beyond. Not everyone is an experienced baker while some people are extremely talented and could easily outdo the professionals. I’ve made a lot of online friends through The Sunday Baking Club and last year some of us met up at Cake Shows in London and elsewhere and I also attended a ‘celebration cake making day’ at Konditor & Cook next to Borough Market in London with some of these new friends.

The meet up in Holt was just for three of us. I was on holiday visiting my parents who live nearby, while Cathy – who I’d previously met in London – and Kevin both live in Norfolk. It’s strange to think that if it hadn’t been for the Internet, many friendships just would not have happened. I’m delighted to have made friends with a diverse group of people who all came together due to a love of baking.

So, we chose our lunch at Number 28: Cathy had a craving for smoked salmon (as you do) and chose a filled baguette which came with salad and tortilla crisps. Kevin opted for a chicken and vegetable pie and accompaniments and I had a delicious leek and gruyere tart, which was served with a fresh coleslaw salad and tortilla crisps. The portion sizes were very good: substantial but not overwhelmingly so. The main course dishes got the thumbs up from all of us with clean plates all around. We didn’t have room for dessert which was a shame, but there’s always next time.

What I must comment on – and highly recommend – is the hot chocolate drink I had. This wasn’t any old hot chocolate but white chocolate that was smooth, rich and not too sweet. It was clearly a good quality white chocolate (trust me, I know these things) which easily surpassed another one I’d had elsewhere a few days previously.

Chris and Kelly, who own Number 28, said they’d taken it over in September 2014 and revamped the café to their own style. I thought it was a very relaxing atmosphere with so much light and space – and there was more seating upstairs. Kelly said that they will be increasing their range of cakes in the coming weeks so I’m hoping that when I next visit the area, Number 28 will be doing the most amazing cream teas to go with the morning coffees, light lunches, and so on. The address is: 28, High Street, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 6BH

 

 

 

A (Gypsy) Tart with a Heart

Gypsy Tarts on rackI grew up in the 1960’s and 1970s, not years that are particularly renowned for exciting developments in the food world unless you consider Vesta chow mein, chicken Kiev or Angel Delight to be top notch cuisine. Celebrity chefs at the time included people like Fanny Cradock and “The Galloping Gourmet” although Delia Smith and Mary Berry were nipping closely at their heels and today are regarded as cooking and baking royalty.

My main food memories of that time are connected to school dinners, something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives and have mixed feelings about. Apart from the lingering odour of stewed cabbage, I mostly remember the puddings: semolina (often lumpy) with a blob of bright red jam in the middle, pink wobbly blancmange, lemon meringue pie, baked Alaska and suchlike.

My all-time favourite school dessert was called Gypsy Tart and I’ve been surprised to find out that many people have never heard of it. This is probably explained by the fact that it originates from the county of Kent where I grew up but it’s a little disappointing that its fame hasn’t spread further. Gypsy Tart is very sweet as it’s made with evaporated milk and muscovado sugar whipped up and poured into a pastry case. It has the advantage of being very quick to make (especially if you use a pre-made pastry case) and also cheap. The filling firms up as it cooks and the tart has a creamy, almost butterscotch-like flavour which instantly transports me back to my carefree childhood and the memory of the one school dessert that I actually liked!

You can make one large Gypsy Tart in a standard flan tin which can be cut into elegant slices or make smaller individual tarts – see the photograph. I appreciate that not everybody likes making pastry (it’s not my strong point, I have to admit as I have warm hands) or has the confidence to do so, therefore there is no great shame in using pre-made pastry cases from the supermarket. So, I give you a quick and easy to make, cost-effective and apparently ‘retro’ dessert with only three ingredients. How easy is that?

 

RECIPE

Pre-made pastry case – 1 large or 6 small

400 mls evaporated milk

330g muscovado sugar

 

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C / gas mark 3 and place the pastry case(s) on a baking tray.

Whisk the evaporated milk and muscovado sugar together for at least 15 minutes on a fast speed. This will dissolve the grainy sugar and result in a light, creamy filling.

Pour the milk mixture into the pre-baked pastry case(s) and cook for 10 – 15 minutes until the filling has risen and the surface is ‘tacky’.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set before serving. You can decorate the top with grated or melted chocolate if you like. The tart goes well with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or fresh double cream.