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Category Archives: Baking

the brain works very weird at this hour

Yessssss, I managed to find an obscure lyric from a song called Alaska.  Get me.

OK. let’s not beat around the bush.  Poor, lovely, beardy Iain was sabotaged by the most evil pensioner in Britain, Diana.  Well, that’s what you would think by watching the furore unfold Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday.

After an exceedingly pleasant evening beginning with Expendables 3 (everyone needs more Dolph in their life, right?) and finishing with some yummy Chinese, we returned home and switched on Newsnight to find Kirsty donning a pinnie and introducing the ejected Iain Watters.  WHAT?  This would never have happened on Paxman’s watch.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

it’s chriiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaas!

With some time off work, this is the time for me to catch up on some writing, you lucky people.  What better time to sit down and discuss the phenomenon of festive food and it’s televisual counterpart.

I began my journey with the legend herself, Ms Fanny Cradock.  There were two quick episodes on Good Food Channel, one focusing on mincemeat, t’other on Christmas pudding.  In episode one, our main ingredient is described as “the Cinderella of Christmas” and such delights as mincemeat pancake, galette and OMELETTE (eggs with flakes of butter, nothing else) are created, right before our eyes through a fog of icing sugar.  Icing sugar on everything and about a centimetre deep too.  The speed in which she works is pretty astonishing: no messing about.  Fanny would do very well in the omelette challenge with James Martin, I can tell you.  Eggs are mixed together, pastry unfolded and costume jewellery glistens in grease.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 1970’s.  The next recipe is for a tart.  Pastry is lowered into a shallow, round cake tin and filled with mincemeat.  Fanny cracks on saying “I’m not going to explain it all to the older people, you know all this stuff.”  Nice to see – basically, “you’re all old enough to know how to make bloody pastry and form it into a tart shape, now let’s get on with it”.

We move swiftly on to a Swiss roll filled with, yep the ‘meat.  The sponge is pre-prepared and handed over by Sarah (aka Poor Sarah) and various maxims are uttered such as “everything is so much better when you know how”.  Thanks.  We are advised that you need a good quality rolling pin – not one with handles though: “that’s the best kind, the professional kind.  Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get a rolling pin in your stocking”.  If I did, I might be lucky enough to hit my husband round the head with it.

Fanny and Sarah

Delia Smith is a more recent Christmas icon.  Carsmile still swears by her instructions for turkey or goose from the ‘Complete Illustrated Cookery Course‘ 1992 edition (originally published in 1978).  As is the way on speciality channels, we are served up a whole evening of her 1990 series, Delia at Christmas.  This particular episode began with the words “I don’t agree with vegetarianism…” but she humored us with a selection of recipes for cheese terrine, stuffed peppers and ‘sausage’ (cheese and herb) rolls.  An issue with the screening of classic shows is the aspect ratio as Delia invited a friend over to explain the delights of fizzy wine.  “You don’t have to stick to Champagne,” said the very wide sommelier, “there’s other fizz out there like Cava or this stuff from India!”  I’m not sure if I was more excited about the Indian wine or the amazing shoulder pads.

The following installment was the legendary “36 Hours of Christmas” and I started to wonder why programmes continue to be made on the subject of Christmas turkeys.  People moan about dry, tasteless meat but once you know the best way to do it, why bother with anything else (“everything is so much better when you know how”)?  Now we are acquainted with Delia’s technique, I don’t care about Gordon’s recipe or even Jamie’s version.  But the more shows I watched, the more I noticed the seemingly endless ways of cooking the festive bird.  Lorraine places a bag of frozen peas on the breast before it goes into the oven to slow down the time it takes that part to cook, Nigella sticks her poultry in a gigantic red bucket (to match her silky, red dressing gown) with herbs and spices to add moistness and don’t even get me started on the stuffing controversy!

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somewhere, Brendan is stroking a white cat…

Celebrity chefs Paul Hollywood and Marcela Valladolid.

Paul Hollywood, the star of the Great British Bake Off, has spoken about his upset and sadness at the collapse of his marriage, saying he might have been happier if he had not become famous.

The baker left Alexandra, 49, his wife of 15 years, amid efforts to launch his career in the US and reports of a relationship with his new co-star Marcela Valladolid, 35.

Hollywood, who returns to the small screen with Mary Berry for a fourth series of the hit programme this week, told the Radio Times that he is tempted to “disappear and hide”. The 47-year-old said that he did not have girlfriends until his mid-20s, described himself as an “egomaniac” and “an old man from the rough end of town”.

Hollywood, who has an 11-year-old son with Alexandra, said: “I didn’t think Bake Off would be like this, although you have to be an egomaniac to do it. Anyone who says they’re not is kidding themselves. You couldn’t put yourself in front of a camera otherwise…

He told the magazine: “I thought I’d spend my life making baguettes, muffins, croissants. I might have been happier if I had.

“One day I’ll disappear and hide in a corner of Britain. I’ll own a bakery in a village, live above it, have a big garden because I like mowing. I want to get up when I feel like it, let people queue for my products and when they’re gone, shut the shop and think about tomorrow. Creating magic – that’s my dream. And I’ll do it.” Hollywood called his heartthrob status “a joke”, adding: “I’m an old man from the rough end of town. Wouldn’t you be [flattered]? I lost my youth because I started baking with my dad at 17, and had to get up and go to bed early.

“I needed the money, was happy to be led, and happened to have a good feeling for it, but it took over my life. I never had girlfriends or went clubbing until I was in my mid-20s.”

There has been speculation that Hollywood’s marriage breakdown could affect Bake Off’s popularity and in May the BBC denied reports that his role on the BBC2 show was under threat. But Hollywood said: “It’s about bakers, not judges. Maybe fame has caused a problem, but it’s not fame as such. To nail it to that would be foolhardy.

 He insisted: “The real Paul Hollywood is shy, likes nothing better than going home, putting on slippers and dressing gown, having a cup of tea and watching telly.”

Read the full story here.  (And have a look at brendanbakes.co.uk too…)

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Baking, Competition Genre

 

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GREAT

BOOOOOOOM. What a final. Everything. Tears. Drama. Brendan. Cake. Brendan! Fondant. Intrusion into personal living arrangements! (leaving at least *one* question unanswered…) ‘Soggy bottom’ disasters. BRENDAN! John finally nailing it! Contestants coming back! Exclamation marks! Tabloid bullshit!

I’m gonna miss GBBO. This time round they seem to have got the balance perfect, and assembled a finals team of people you could feel warm about and interested in. If Brendan was precise and practiced, James was innovative and seat-of-the-pants, John was quietly… just very good, and he delivered exactly when it mattered. But over the weeks, it was all about Brendan, and the triumph of practice, planning precision and drive over TV-friendly cheer. British values, indeed.

The Guardian summed the final up really well here.

 

HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS

Image

WE’RE down to the semis in TGBBO, and we all know who the winner is already. That’s right: Paul ‘Inside’ Hollywood. Mel & Sue are fun and sparky and dry. Mary Berry is dotty and posh and particular. John is flustered, Danny is pragmatic, James is coquettish, and Brendan is… well, Laurence Olivier playing Christian Szell in Marathon Man. But it’s The Big Bear that takes it, every week. Alright, I didn’t know he was apparently a gay icon until the Guardian mentioned it today.  He’s the only judge they all fear – you know Mary Berry isn’t going to tear your head off with a look, and she’s going to find something good to say, however pisspoor your St. Honoré. But PH never gives the impression he’s going to say anything other than the absolute, unvarnished truth.

Confident MC contestants can face down the Torode / Wallace blockade, because they know that it’s hokum and that they might well be right or lucky. But no-one dares to gets as much as a langue du chat past Hollywood. In interviews, he appears completely normal, and unaffected or just plain embarrassed by the fame and Twitter nonsense or whatever. In fact, he appears to be that rarest of TV creatures: a completely bullshit-free zone. This is a victory. A victory for rounded personality and unfiltered expertise that’s not been pushed through the dumbed-deeper-and-down TV drool-sieve. And people like that. Five million viewers (apparently) can’t be wrong. Apparently he’s just wrapped a new series for the BBC called – with presumed Liverpudlian irony – ‘Bread’. Which is good, because one thing that is missing from TGBBO is him masterclassing his own hot oven skills.

Anyway, Brendan. (Yeah, I was a bit harsh above. Anything to get a laugh). OK, he’s self-obsessed, aloof, eerie, curiously kitsch, and machine-like – or at least, that is the role the producers and editors have created for him. Yes, he insists on dominating and stamping his individuality on everything, rather than sitting back and letting his talent speak for itself. And yes he takes criticism appallingly, usually accompanied with an ‘I could have you killed’  dagger stare. But strangely, I’m starting to get the impression that he’s actually an extremely warm and genuine man who has just been waiting years to show the world that his pernickity, precise approach to cookery is best. Unselfconscious, nerdy talent FTW. I’m hoping he takes it all the way.

 

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what’s the crack?

My name is Fanny and I am a dealer.

I am new to this business and I’ll admit that I’ve clearly not thought this through.  I accept no money.  My reward is the expression on the faces of the uninitiated as their addiction takes hold.  It only takes one hit and they are mine forever.

Yeah, OK.  Enough of the Baltimore crap.  I make brownies.  People love them.  What of it?

“The game is the game. Always”

I saw the cover of BBC Good Food magazine earlier in the year and thought “I can totally make that for colleagues as a birthday treat”.  The recipe was really easy to follow and I was pleased with the results.  The next day they disappeared in a feeding frenzy.  “OH. MY. GOD.”  “YOUGOTTAMAKESOMEMORE!”

It took me a while but last week I did (after a not-so-subtle reminder from Boss Lady).  We recently merged departments and I thought it a good excuse to make friends and influence people.

Colleague1:  “Would you like a brownie?”
Colleague2:  “Ooh, yes please … did someone make these?”
Colleague1:  “Yes, Fanny made them – they’re amazing!”
Colleague2:   “Oh wow, thanks, Fanny”
Fanny:          “You’re welcome!”
Colleague2:   Eats brownie.  Frowns.  Turns to me.  Nods head.  Smiles.
Colleague3:   “Oh my god.  That was practically indecent!”

You get the drift.

The next day Colleague2 made the mother of all tea rounds so I asked if he’d like one of the last two remaining slices.  His hand was in the cookie jar before I’d finished my sentence.  Another one bites the dust.

Imagine my horror upon returning to work that morning in a post-deal high to be told “Colleague4 made brownies yesterday but we voted yours best”.  WHAT?  EXCUSE ME?  What craziness is this?  I’ve clearly wandered on to someone else’s patch.  Shiiiiiiiiit!  Apparently Colleague4 made salt caramel brownies as well as chocolate and raspberry ones.  You couldn’t make it up.

I’ve been informed that the other offerings were firmer and drier – this recipe tends toward the gooey.  It depends on your preference I guess.  I am currently making a new drug batch for friends but feel there is no need to head towards the New Jack City method of ‘cooking’.  No naked chefs in my crib, mofo.  For now.

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Adventures in Cookery, Baking

 

DOUGH!

The Great British Bake-Off is brave in parts. It veers consciously away from at least some competition-genre staples – the candidates, for some bizarre reason, appear to have been chosen for personability, reliability and a general lack of character flaws and abrasiveness. No tears. The commentary is breezy but informative, the reaction shots and back stories brief, and the Mel & Sue hosting fun and a bit silly. The usual middle-class tropes abound; pastel shades, Union Jack bunting, Smeg fridges, dense Instagram colours. Well cosy.

This week: bread. People cook bready stuff, stuff gets judged, someone gets thrown out. The food appearing looks thoughtful and yummy. OK, it’s not the trickiest stuff: poor Cathryn thinks that trying to juggle one flatbread in the oven and one flatbread on the griddle is tricky. MC material she ain’t. The Terence Stamp-like Brendan, with his river-washed hot-rock oven techniques and his 106 grams of flour per portion fills the ‘bonkers’ quota on his own. The rest are a mix of amateur and ambition. You know the drill. Mostly pretty intense. Some haircuts. Pushovers, though. A well-known pair of other judges, shall we say, would have them for breakfast. Mmm, breakfast.

Luckily the judges here are dotty old Mary Berry and the ludicrously-named Paul Hollywood; a roly-poly Scouse fusion of Simon Callow and that well-trimmed bloke who started Paul Mitchell. I’ll give it to him, he looks like a professional baker, and he has a cheery but precise manner. It’s not nasty. The tough-test bagels bit at the end comes with a cheery, informative insert where they go to a proper old Jewish bakery. No one gets their bagels made even remotely right, apart from the Rick Moranis-alike James who supplies an I’m-over-the-moon reaction straight out of the reality book. These people clearly watch too much telly. Then the kicked out Peter gets a hug from the judges and the hosts. That wouldn’t happen on you-know-what.

Yes, I like a bit of pan-banging and cock-in-the-piping-nozzle macho bullshit as much as the next foodie-reality-genre fan, but there’s something great about the Cath Kidston alternative too.