With both Junior Bake Off and its big sibling, the Great British Bake Off now off our screens for the foreseeable, you may be needing a floury fix.
Homemade bakes cannot be beaten. I’ve never understood how anyone can choose a shop-bought version for a birthday celebration. It’s just not the same. Don’t get me wrong – proper artisan bakeries do make lovely cakes, but a supermarket-sourced creation is just not worth the calories.
It’s the same deal for bread — an entirely different product when home baked. It still feels like a miracle when the simple components — flour, water and yeast — turn into a heavenly smelling loaf of deliciousness. That said, it’s as much as I can do to produce a weekly challah (most weeks) and the occasional babka. Otherwise I don't often bother. I’d like to make the time, but it’s not high on my priorities.
So it was a real treat to be asked to review one of the Bake with a Legend baking classes. The classes — the brain child of founder Josh Landy (pictured, left, above)— take place in London, Brighton, Bristol and Manchester. A clutch of GBBO bakers (perhaps a batch would be the better collective noun for bakers) have been recruited to teach a range of skills.
I opted for bread with Beca Lyn-Pirkis, who’d come fourth in the fourth series, six years ago. A lovely Welsh lass, who was full of behind-the-scenes stories about her time in the tent, and who has gone on to front her own television cooking show on BBC Wales.
The London courses take place in a commercial kitchen belonging to The Meringue Girls, behind the shops at Broadway Market. It’s a bit of a trek from my Herts home, so I’d driven, but parking wasn’t a problem. It was actually a treat being down there on market day, as there are plenty of food stalls to browse after the course. I invited old school friend, V.
It wasn’t huge, but there was room for 12 of us to mix and knead around a central work space. The crowd was international, with almost as many US guests as local. The show is apparently popular Stateside too.
Beca introduced herself and told us what we were going to be making. On the schedule — a white plaited loaf and cheese-laden spelt and wholemeal soda bread. Not something I couldn’t do, but useful nonetheless, as I’ve never been able to master the five-plait loaf we learned. Even YouTube hasn’t helped me understand that one.
After we’d made our white dough — we each had our own bowl — we moved onto the soda bread, which was super-simple. The BWAL team looked after us well – topping up tea and clearing all of our mess away as we went along. Luxury!
Four hours later, after drilling Beca for all her GBBO secrets — too many to share — we left with our warm loaves for a mooch on the Broadway. I also rooted out a fab independent clothes shop — Black Truffle — where I picked up some funky, winter boots.
I warmed my bread through the next day to serve with soup — the gooey, melting chunks of cheese in the soda bread made it winter winner.
The courses would make great gifts — maybe if you're still shopping for Chanukah - or an ideal group activity. A work outing or hen activity maybe, or just a fun place to catch up with an old mate — over several cups of tea.