Monthly Archives: October 2010

My Week at Le Manoir

Well what a week this has been, and rather apt too it being National Baking Week and all. I spent the week at Le Manoir, Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin starred restaurant in Oxfordshire, baking in the pastry kitchen. The first thing you should know about the restaurant is that it is beautiful, probably the most attractive setting for a restaurant I have seen in this country. It is set in a beautiful building surround by large perfectly managed gardens, including a large vegetable garden. I have to admit that the first day or so were fairly nervous for me. This was the first professional kitchen I have ever worked in and I guess I just felt a little out of place. This was also whilst I was working in the service side of the kitchen. The pastry kitchen doesn’t just serve the restaurant it also makes things for the hotels breakfast and afternoon tea as well as all the bread for the whole operation. The service side of the pastry kitchen deals with the restaurants desserts and because there is a very fast turnaround it gets very busy during service and a little stressed meaning I sometimes felt a little lost with everyone running around me.

I started the week making ice cream and sorbet bases including a wonderful pear and anise sorbet. Because a lot of this kitchen is prep work before service I peeled a lot of apples and segmented loads of grapefruit, which according to Monsieur Blanc I wasn’t doing as perfectly as I should have been. He actually seems like a very nice guy and came across very well the two times I met him. The second section I worked in is called the tour kitchen and is responsible for all the breads, cakes, and afternoon tea. I loved working this section, I got to make so any different things from start to finish including large batches of their famous lemon cake, huge batches of bread, masses of petit four and many many other things. I was so impressed with the output of the kitchen. The desserts look completely stunning and everything I tried was great. The breads were also amazing, I especially loved the sourdough. The chefs were all very welcoming and gracious with there knowledge and helped make the experience as inspiring as it was. I came away tired (12 hour shifts starting at 5.30 will do that to you) but with loads of ideas.

Whoopie Pies and a Giveaway

I have never been a fan of whoopie pies I think its because of the whole “next big thing” label that seems to surround them. Everyone seems to be saying that they will be the next cupcake but I really doubt it. Why am I posting a recipe for them then? Well I was asked to do a baking demonstration at a charity even this weekend and I wanted something easy and quick so thought I would give them a whirl, and do you know what? They were pretty good. The event was The Great Brownie Bake Off organised by Louise Thomas the Chocolate Consultant and was to raise money for the charity Wheels For Wellbeing. Twenty-two home bakers who thought they had a great brownie submitted samples and a panel of judges including Paul A Young and Abigail Phillips of The Cake Nest (who will be using the winning recipe for a year in her business) sampled each one looking for the best. During the day, whilst the judging was happening there were demos by a really great group of people

Stacie Stewart the Masterchef finalist, Fred Ponnavoy the head chef at GU Chocolate Puds, Caroline Aherne of Sugargrain Bakery and Sasha Jenner of Hobbs House Bakery. The day was a great success and whilst I was a little nervous doing my first live demo the whole experience was a lot of fun. Continue reading

Great Brownie Bake Off

I swear I’ll post a recipe soon, I was going to post one today but i’ve temporarily lost the recipe! In a weeks time I will taking part in The Great Brownie Bake Off, a competition to find Britain’s best brownie recipe from the country’s home bakers. Thankfully im not a contestant, I think my days of competitive baking are behind me. No I will be doing a baking demonstration as will Stacie Stewart from Masterchef, Fred Ponnavoy the Head Chef at GU Chocolate Puds, Caroline Aherne of Sugergrain Bakery and Sasha Jenner from Hobbs House Bakery. It really should be a great day, the brownies are being judged by a great panel including my favourite chocolatier Paul A Young. So if your in the area pop in along and say hi, and try some goodies. It only costs £1.70 entry and that includes loads of samples and the demonstrations, a total bargain and its to benefit charity. I will be making banana and chocolate whoopie pies and this is a sneak peak (these were chocolate and peanut butter but they are almost the same)

Update

Since the show finished I have been so busy, my feet have barely touched the ground, it has been such an exciting and fun time. I spent all wednesday the day after the final ensconced at the BBC doing about 20 interviews which was weird and amazing at the same time, especially doing BBC Breakfast. Want to know something secret about Breakfast? The “Green Room” is actually red (yeah that was a lame secret) Continue reading