I was in the middle of TK Maxx a few weeks ago and happened to be checking my e-mails. There was one in particular that caught my attention. I had to read it a couple of times to let it sink in, then I preceded to jump up and down screaming, “YES!” at the top of my voice! Yes, I got a few funny looks but honestly I didn’t really care! I had been invited to attend an event with the wonderful folks at Neff/Bake It Yourself for a day of baking fun with John Whaite. Yep, winner of The Great British Bake Off 2012! You literally have no idea how excited I was at that moment in time. (Although I’m sure all the confused innocent bystanders could fill you in.)
I accepted within minutes and began counting down the days until finally, it was here!
Excited and eager, I rolled up to Neff Headquarters and was greeted by John himself. At this point, I will admit, I was a little star struck! (Silly me.) But as he is so bloomin’ lovely, he made me a cup of tea and we all chatted amongst ourselves (scoffing the delicious biscuits and pastries provided – home made of course) until everyone had arrived.
After a chat with the BIY experts, we had a chance to ask John some questions. It was a little quiet at first but we all got stuck in soon enough!
One lady asked him what the best American buttercream recipe was. To which he responded, “Half the butter to icing sugar with a splash of milk. Make sure to really whisk the butter first, until it is almost white and very light, then add all the icing sugar in and whisk until smooth. Add a little milk if needed.”
I asked him how to stop cakes from rising (and sometimes subsequently sinking) in the centre. He kindly replied, “With smaller cakes, cook them at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. With larger cakes, low and slow is the way to go. It could also be the result of too much raising agent.”
The most commonly asked question was, “What is your favourite thing to bake?” This prompted my favorite answer of the whole day. “That’s not fair! That’s like me asking you which of your children is your favourite!” Haha! This guy’s seriously passionate about baking!
When we were all out of questions, we had an exclusive look around the Neff showroom at all their sparkling new ovens.
I was really hoping I would win the lottery that night so I could have one of these bad boys myself, no such luck unfortunately. They really are incredible machines though. Their circotherm technology ensures a guaranteed even bake every time and the ‘slide & hide’ doors are definitely a nifty little feature! Don’t even get me started on their induction hobs, they are that good, you can actually melt chocolate directly in a saucepan. No need for any of that ‘glass bowl over a pan of barely simmering water’ malarkey – straight in the pan. On the flip side, it can also bring water to the boil in less than a minute. Absolutely amazing. So if any of you want to buy me a Christmas present this year… wink wink!
By this point, we were all getting a little peckish so we headed into the beautiful dining area to have a spot of lunch.
They had quite a selection on offer but I opted for the lamb casserole…
Which I must say was absolutely blinkin’ delicious! I’m pretty sure all of us were asking for the recipe by the end of our bowls.
In addition, we had plenty of amazing home made bread to mop it all up with…
Baked fresh that morning I might add. It was a real feast for the eyes, everything from the unusual fougasse to the humble cottage loaf. YUM!
After we had filled our ‘baker’s bellies’ (as John calls them) we headed off into the demonstration room for our masterclass.
John (with the help of his lovely BIY Expert assistants Karen & Lynn) showed us how to make several delightful treats from his debut recipe book: John Whaite Bakes.
Here he is teaching us how to ice his ‘Bunch of Roses’ madeleines using ribbons of a runny fondant icing.
Followed by a lesson in his ‘Mocha Choca’ madeleines with a rich and decadent chocolate dipping sauce.
The way John talks about baking is not quite how I expected. For him, It’s not about being overly precise, accurate or ‘pretty’ about everything, it’s all about flavours, textures and experimenting. “If it doesn’t taste amazing after 3 hours of baking, for me, it’s not worth it.” I love how slap dash he is about it all though. Everything he baked seemed to have a really charming & rustic ‘home made’ look to it. I can also confirm, that everything tasted absolutely divine!
After our highly informative yet hilarious demonstration (it appears baking has a lot of innuendo) we got to possibly the most amusing part of the day. John had an idea for a fun activity for us all to take part in… and then he kicked it up a notch. He had us all decorating cupcakes. Sounds pretty simple right? Nope. He had us do it blindfolded…
More frosting ended up on hands, arms, faces & hair than it did on the actual cupcakes! The room was filled to the brim with laughter (particularly John’s) and the finished cakes were even more hilarious!
John did pick out a couple of winners, and I must say… a bloody good effort considering the odds were stacked against us.
There was a wooden spoon award given for the erm, how do I put this tactfully, the ‘least pretty’ cakes!
Hahaha! John said when he was watching Nick decorate, the look of concentration on his face had him laughing harder than he’d ever laughed before! A worthy winner of a prized Neff Spatula.
When our sides had stopped splitting, we headed back into the dining room to enjoy a spot of afternoon tea and John’s wonderful baked treats from the demonstration.
The table was lined with his Lemon and Poppy Seed Scones partnered with some freshly whipped cream & lemon curd…
With a beautiful display to the side, boasting his Choca Mocha Madeleines & Chocolate Dipping Sauce…
Apricot and White Chocolate Flapjacks and Dark Chocolate & Ginger Cookies…
And the ‘Bunch of Roses’ Madeleines…
My personal favourite was the flapjacks. I’ve never thought to use treacle in them before but wow, I’m going to in the future! It gives them a real depth of flavour contrasted to the bursts of sweetness you get from the apricots and white chocolate. Absolutely delicious and perfect with a good cup of tea!
When we’d wet our whistles and satisfied our sweet teeth, John was kind enough to get stuck into a bit of book signing and have some photos taken…
I’m sure I speak for all that attended when I say, what a perfect end to a perfect day. I met some genuinely lovely people there. Not to mention the incredible team at Bake It Yourself/Neff and John himself who did a wonderful job at hosting a fabulous event! A day I will fondly remember (and boast about!) for many years to come.
Bake It Yourself are a fantastic online baking community boasting tons of tasty recipes, expert baking knowledge & fantastic competitions. You can check them out on Facebook HERE. Well worth a ‘Like.’
My final thought for the day…
“Experiment, enjoy & eat! The 3 E’s of baking.” John told us this near the end of his demonstration. The more I think about it, the more I completely agree with him. Baking should be about experimenting with flavours and styles that you like. You should embark on each bake because you enjoy it and it makes you happy. And most importantly, the whole point is so that you, your friends and your family can eat your creations! Baking is something that brings people together and let’s be honest, there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing yummy noises and knowing that you’re the reason behind it!
Like John says in his book, “There are recipes for every day and every mood.” All you need to do, is get your bake on.
I hope you enjoyed the post my lovelies. Until next time.