Monday, 20 May 2013

A Great Garden Bake Off

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the lovely folk at King Henry's Walk Garden in Stoke Newington. They'd got my name from Made In Hackney where I'd run a spelt bread workshop back in early April. They asked if I'd be interested in getting involved in their Great Garden Bake Off, which they were hosting as part of the Chelsea Fringe. I'd be doing a couple of bread making demonstrations and be a judge in a true GBBO style competition. I was in.

And so it was I got cracking on trying out the best recipes to demonstrate. Taking the theme of a Great Garden Bake Off I decided to make two different types of bread using root vegetables and herbs that people could grow in their own garden or allotment.

The first was a Beetroot and Fennel Bread which makes the prettiest dough I've ever seen, and the second - a Sweet Potato and Rosemary bread, which is great for using up leftover mash. I tested them out on the folk at work and both went down a treat so the plan was set.

So the night before, I got home from work and started my own little bake off. I'd made my sweet potato mash a day ahead, keeping it plain with just a hint of black pepper. So first up was kneading the dough, after which I then left it to rest for 15 minutes before folding in the sweet potato. This way you get lovely swirls of sweet potato in the bread and you can really taste it, rather than it being completely incorporated in the dough.

After an hour and a half it had doubled nicely and was ready to shape into four round loaves.

Meanwhile, I'd been having fun playing with the hot pink dough you see here.

I love proofing dough in a cake tin - it's the perfect way of seeing when it's ready to bake as it's nicely filled the tin (as below) and means you don't risk ruining the roundness of your loaf when transferring it from your banneton to the baking tray.

So as each batch of dough was ready, in the oven it went, and these were some of the beauties that came out at way past midnight...

And so I was ready; I had my six loaves to take the next day, along with a couple for me and my housemates.

The next morning I woke to bright, slightly promising skies, and kept my fingers crossed that it would stay dry.

I weighed out all my dry ingredients for the bread demos and packed them up in lots of little tubs and boxes. Then it was back to more kneading so I could show the shaping technique in true 'here's one I made earlier' Blue Peter style. After a precarious walk down three sets of stairs carrying all my equipment and dough, I hopped into a taxi which whisked me down the road to my home for the day.

It is truly a gorgeous little oasis, tucked away from the main road, so you'd never know it was there.

On arrival the children's pizza making workshop was just coming to an end. It was great to see the looks of triumph on their faces as they carried their pizzas across to the clay wood-fired oven. That was until all hell broke loose over the presence of tomatoes on a pizza. It was a true Brother and Sister show-down of who could scream the loudest to get their way. After the tears and tantrums subsided, a compromise was reached and all became calm and peaceful again as they tucked into their freshly baked pizzas. Even my stomach was starting to grumble at the sight. But it was time for me to get set up.

The tasting table under wraps

Open for business

My Beetroot and Fennel Bread demonstration was first up on the programme, so I got to work setting out all the ingredients and getting ready for the show.

Once a small gathering had got comfy in the hut I began, telling my story and the joys of making and eating Real Bread. I then demonstrated the kneading on a rather low, squeaky table - not so great when you're my height but thankfully my back made it through. I then brought out my pre-made dough from earlier that morning and showed how to shape it ready for its second proof before going in the oven. And then of course, the taste test! Everyone seemed to love the beetroot and fennel combination - it was great introducing people to new flavours and a type of bread they'd never tried before.

Then another local baker, Trine of Love Loaf, took to the stage to talk about all things Sourdough. I took this opportunity to go for a wander round the garden and eye up the competition entries which I'd be judging later that day. They were already starting to pile up and looking very tasty.

This one really caught my eye, it was so beautifully presented...

But before the judging could begin it was time for me to do my second demo, this time on the Sweet Potato and Rosemary Bread. I'd invited some friends along that I'd met while interning at the Baking Lab to help with the judging, so it was great to have some friendly faces in the audience for my second round. They also cheekily took a few snaps...

Folding in the sweet potato

Giving it some welly
The window pane test

Introducing the shaping technique
Nearly there...

The finished product

The taste test

At the end I was asked about how I was making the break into bread making and mentioned that I was attending an advanced bread making course at the School of Artisan Food this very week to help me on the way. And talk about a small world, one of the guys in the audience said they would be there too, on the very same course. There's only around eight places on each one, so talk about a coincidence!

And so my demos were done and it was time for the judging...

The three tables were now full of tantalising goodies ready for tasting.

There were five of us in total: myself, Trine, and then Martina, Julia and Adri from the Baking Lab. Between us we had to agree on a first, second and third place for each round.

First up, the Signature Bake - a loaf of bread, using vegetables, fruit or herbs.

We each took it in turns to try a small bite - starting with the beauty I snapped on its arrival above. The herbs really came through giving it a lovely depth of flavour. We then moved around the table, commenting on each as we went. I think I was definitely playing the role of Mr Hollywood, giving each a critical eye, whilst a couple were more forgiving and more Mary like!

But between us, we all agreed on the top three. First place went to a beautiful sourdough made by the very guy who I'd be meeting again later that week at the advanced bread making course. He'd incorporated olives, walnuts, hazelnuts and lemon into the bread and it was just heavenly with a gorgeous crumb structure. Second place went to the beautiful bread decorated with herbs on top and third to a lovely tomato bread.

Next up, was the Technical Challenge - six x Chelsea Buns.

Again, there was an outright winner who'd be snapping up first place but it was a close call on the second and third. Some were so close, but had failed to add any glazing, and others deliciously tasty, but were more of a danish pastry than a true Chelsea Bun!

And then, just when we thought we could eat no more, it was time for the final round: The Showstopper - six x Decorated Cup Cakes.

We had two lots to assess: with both adult entries and some great looking junior entries.

It was a bit of a mixed bag to begin with, some with more icing than cake, and others with some interesting flavour combinations, but you could see the tender loving care that had been put into each and every one. After a lot of discussion and debate, and a lot of tasting, we finally managed to reach a compromise on the winning entries, but this was definitely the hardest round to agree on. Everyone's sweet tooth was so different, it was really interesting to hear the different opinions.

And that was it, now it was time to grab a slice of pizza from the clay oven and take a seat in the lovely garden just in time for the sunshine. Perfect!

I'd like to say a big thanks to King Henry's Walk Garden for having me along, it was a wondrous day and I hope to step foot in that magical paradise again very soon. 

1 comment:

  1. I missed the bake off so was really pleased to get your description. It sounds great. Thank you.