I have just returned from a wonderful food filled weekend in London. I was staying with my brother and we went for pizza at Franco Manca, for soup and sweets things at Ottolenghi, lots of chocolate at the Southbank Chocolate Festival, Dinner at the Cinnamon Club, and afternoon tea at Bea’s of Bloomsbury. I was actually in London for two reasons. Firstly my brother graduated from Birkbeck College with a Masters in Global Politics (yep pretty serious and heavy stuff) so my parents and I were down to go to the ceremony. The second reason is a bit more relevant here as I was attending an audition. If you follow me on twitter (@bakingbynumbers) you may remember me mentioning that I received an application for a new BBC baking show called “The Great British Bake Off”. I had completely given up all hope of getting on the show, I had heard the auditions were being held last Friday and I still hadn’t heard back from the production company as of Thursday. I shouldn’t have worried though, Thursday lunchtime I received a call asking me to be in London for 4pm the next day, nothing like last minute rushes! The requirements for the audition were to bake a cake product and a pastry product. I ended up being in the kitchen until 1am making a triple layer mint chocolate cake and Bakewell tarts, but I think it was all worth it. I managed to get to the audition without doing any damage to the cake or tarts even with the 2 buses, 1 train, 1 tube and some walking not to mention the nerves.
For the audition my things was taken into a room where it was to be tasted by the judges (im not sure I am supposed to say who they are) and then I went in to be asked questions, kind of like the judging on Masterchef. All of this was being filmed and it seemed to go really well they seemed fascinated by the fact I bake but used to weigh a lot more. The female judge, who could be viewed as the queen of traditional British baking, loved my Bakewell tart in fact she told me I couldn’t have made it better. They also seemed to love the cake because they put me through to the screen test, which consisted of a 15 minutes chat on camera with the executive producer. This was harder to judge but I think it went well, its now up the BBC to make a decision whether to put me through to the next stage. It was such a great experience, I was so elated to get complements from a baking icon and a Michelin starred chef that I left the audition on a total high and it was the start of a great weekend.
Saturday morning we headed to the Southbank Chocolate Festival where I bought and enjoyed way too much chocolate goodness. I bought bars from Artisan du Chocolat, Rococo and William Curley along with truffles from Damian Allsop. Everything was excellent, white chocolate with cardomom, milk chocolate infused with ginger and lemongrass, coffee and passionfruit truffles and much much more.
We headed over to Choc Star Van where we met the lovely Petra and enjoyed some of her great treats. We both had one of her wonderfully fudgy brownies and a milkshake. I had the strawberry and my brother had the honeycomb both of which were excellent especially the honeycomb, which was quite addictive.
Recently I have been reading lots of predictions that whoopie pies will be the next big thing. After wanting to try one for a while we finally purchased a couple from Outsider Tart. Their stall was laden with wonderful looking baked goods like cookies, brownies, cakes and of course whoopie pies. We got one chocolate and one salted caramel. Unfortunately neither of us thought they were very good. The cake was dry and the filling didn’t taste very strong. I wont write either of them off yet though, ill try whoopie pies again and ill try Outsider Tart again (their stuff does looks great, just hoping I tried them on an off day)
Whilst at the festival we also attended a talk and tasting by the lovely Louise Thomas the Chocolate Consultant. She gave a very interesting talk about cocoa and chocolate and did a tasting of different 70% cocoa chocolates, to show how was vastly different the same basic ingredients can end up tasting. We tried a variety of bars varying from an interesting organic and untempered Colombian bar, which had a crumbly texture, through to brilliant bar from Amano in the US. Louise was also wonderfully kind and generous, she gave me a bar from Mast Brothers, the bearded chocolate making siblings from Brooklyn New York. It was a bar made with beans from Madagascar which also had nibs running through the bar. It was amazingly flavourful, so full of fruity flavours with the added crunch of the nibs, definitely one of the best bars I have had in a while. They are only available outside of the US at Paul A Young’s shops so grab one if you see one (and send it my way).