Britain has taken baking to its heart again, a fact due in no small part to the phenomenal success of The Great British Bake Off presented by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Mary Berry has been synonymous with baking for decades but Hollywood has come from seemingly from nowhere to become a TV “personality”; granted his own series on bread making here, and fronting the US version of Bake Off in the states. Dubbed the George Clooney of TV chefs he and Mary have inspired many to reach for the flour again. Including me.
I’m not a bad cook. At times I can be very good, but bread in particular has always been my Achilles heel. The few loaves I have produced over the years (including one baked in a plant pot!) have been heavy, stodgy, and completed unrelated to bread as we know it. With time and space at my disposal now it was inevitable that I should give it another go to see if Mr Hollywood knew what he was talking about. (As former Head Baker at Cliveden and The Dorchester, he should)
My first attempt was pretty decent. The trouble was I started it one evening, and so didn’t have enough time for the proving and rushed it a little. Colour and taste were good, excellent crust, but the crumb was just a little reminiscent of cake. No matter, I enjoyed every slice.
With my second attempt, I went out during the second proving, and mistakenly had slashed the loaf too soon. I returned to find a much larger loaf, though one that had grown laterally rather than vertically. It just about stayed on the baking tray so I slipped it into the oven before it made its escape. Half an hour later and we have a first; a crusty Stottie! Still delicious though.
Think it’s going to be third time lucky?
Food photography is a very specialised art and one in some demand. Books, magazines and websites call out for food that makes us salivate the moment our eyes fall upon it. The trouble is that the food in those pictures is likely to be completely inedible. Read any book on the techniques used and you will learn that the food is often skewered together to aid composition and garnished with oils, paints and detergents to give it shine and colour. It’s not just inedible, it may even be toxic!
For any visitors I may want to impress this week, I baked something safer yesterday; chocolate and almond biscotti. Biscotti is the source of our word biscuit, and means twice (bis) cooked (cotti). Twice as many opportunities for error? Not a chance and no additives for the photographs? My younger daughter Holly is coming to stay this week which is why I made a chocolate version. Eat anything with a chocolate flavour? Holly would. (See what I did there 😉 )