Dinner at Le Manoir

Let me first apolgise for how quiet the blog has been recently, I have been very busy and have spent very little time at home and haven’t had much time to blog or even bake, I will try and rectify that this week. But back to the business of last week. After spending an amazing and inspiring week cooking in the pastry kitchen at Le Manoir they graciously invited me back to experience the restaurant itself, to enjoy a meal. I decided to bring along my parents because I wanted to have them enjoy it with me, as a kind of thank you for there support. I have to say it is the best meal I have ever eaten. The service was perfect, official but very warm and friendly. The food was also wonderful. We decided to go for the full nine course discovery menu along with appetisers and petit fours. I’m not always the most elegant of writters so I will try let the pictures speak for themselves, even though they are not that great. Continue reading

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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

The Great British Bake Off

So the secret is finally out, I won The Great British Bake Off and it has been the most amazing past couple of days. I wanted to write a short post to say thank you for all the emails and support I have received over the last six weeks as the show has aired and especially over the last two days as the result was finally revealed. I have had to keep it a secret for so long that it was such a weight off my shoulders to finally be able to shout it from the rooftops. When I was watching the show even I felt nervous, actually I felt sick to my stomach. As I was watching I started noticing emails coming in and over the last 24 hours I have actually received so many it’s been so hard to keep up (most were just Twitter so didn’t need responding). Today my feet have barely touched the ground I started the day at 6.30am and was on way to the BBC for 7am where I had interviews with Gaby Roslin on Radio London, Chris Evans on Radio 2 then amazingly I even did a live tv interview on BBC Breakfast which turned out to be much less daunting then I expected. In total I think I did around 20 different interviews. Even though it was tiring it was amazing and fascinating and I still can’t quite believe it’s happening to me.

Continue reading

liquorice Ice Cream

In the post about Nanaimo Bars I mentioned that I had tried something called Tiger Ice Cream, which is basically just liquorice and orange ice cream swirled together. I absolutely loved it, ever since I’ve been hoping i come across an ice cream shop over hear that makes it, but i’ve never seen it outside Canada. I don’t have two ice cream makers so can’t see how I would be able to make it so I decided to just make the liquorice ice cream. None of my books had a recipe, which I guess isn’t surprising as it’s not exactly the most popular flavour, so I turned to Twitter for suggestions. I was given a couple of suggestions but someone was even kinder to send me Claudia Flemings recipe from her book “The Last Course” a book I have wanted for a long time but which is unfortunately out of print and now ridiculously expensive to buy, so unless anyone wants to give me a copy I won’t be getting it anytime soon. Now, I will admit that at one stage this ice cream looked disgusting, the custard was the most unattractive green colour. I’m sure this is down the the brand of liquorice I used, so I decided I had to add a little colouring to darken it and in the end it looked okay but next time I’ll choose a different brand, because I hate colouring ice cream. Continue reading