Congratulations on being our Baker of the Week! Please see some questions below for our Cotswold Flour Baking Club:
1. You are obviously an incredible baker, what made you get into baking?
Thank you. I started baking bread as a way of managing my anxiety and depression, shortly after losing my leg in a horrific motorcycle accident. It really helped me in that difficult time, and very soon became a healthy obsession. Baking is still therapy and used often as a way to ease mental discomfort but it’s equally a passion that gives me much joy.
2. Your speciality is bread. What is your favourite type of bread to bake?
I should probably say some fancy bread, but honestly, my favourite bread to eat, and bake, is white bread baked as a boule, toasted with butter and jam – it’s a thing of beauty 🙂
3. You must have acquired a lot of baking equipment in your kitchen, what is your favourite or a must-have in your kitchen when it comes to baking equipment?
Can I pick two? For general baking, I love my Stand Mixer, not so much a must-have, but makes baking so much easier and produces better results. My other recent addition to my kitchen is my bread proofer. My kitchen is permanently cold and I struggled with consistent bread proofing. This proofer has allowed me to make great sourdough all the time. Yeah, my proofer is my favourite piece of kitchen equipment.
4. We have to ask about the Great British Bake-off, it is such a huge show what was it like being a part of that?
Being part of the Bake Off is like nothing I’ve experienced before. On reflection, it’s like a whirlwind and a blurring of memories and emotions. On-set, it’s so far removed from normal living, and you’re aware of being part of something quite special. But it’s also terrifying, it’s stressful, it’s physically and mentally very hard – as all the best challenges should be. I feel very privileged to be allowed to have had that experience.
5. With bread being your speciality it must have been amazing to win star baker in bread week?
Making star baker on bread week was the highlight of my Bake Off experience. It wasn’t something I went onto the show wanting to get or expect. But to go onto the show as a bread baker and receive that significantly helped my confidence in my ability to bake bread!
6. What was the most challenging aspect of being on the Great British Bake Off?
For me, it was overcoming my own personal fears and insecurities. The fears of facing failure, criticism, humiliation, and showing that for the whole world to see! I think I met all of those inner demons at once on week one as my David Bowie cake bust began to disintegrate in front of me! Beyond that, it’s maintaining focus and calm under the pressure as you gradually become more and more tired with each episode. The Bake Off is like running a marathon and you have to dig really deep to keep going!
7. What has the reaction been since the show and how have you found your new-found fame?
The reaction has been incredible! I’ve received hundreds of messages of support and encouragement and made many new friends because of it too.
8. Do you have a favourite flour to work with?
Honestly, I love all of Cotswold’s flours, picking a favourite is quite hard. Recently I’ve been using the Plain Heat Treated flour in cakes, muffin’s and scones and am so impressed with the quality and lightness in the crumb. My other favourite flour in bread is Spelt. Just by replacing 10% spelt in a bread recipe will give a pleasant sweetness and nuttiness to the flavour.
9. Is there anything you haven’t quite mastered yet that you’re still working on? Or anything you haven’t made before that is still on your baking bucket list?
Baguettes! To make the perfect baguette is a tricky thing for the home baker. Achieving that perfect crust with that typical light and fluffy crumb is difficult. I’ve also not worked much with Choux pastry, I think baking more with choux would be a good thing to do.
10. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out baking?
My advice would be to bake from the heart, allow yourself to accept that bakes will fail, and see that as an opportunity to learn (easier said than done!). Get yourself a few baking recipe books for well-respected bakers and carefully follow their recipes – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is a perfect book to learn from – it’s a great recipe book to have in the kitchen! Be careful with recipes off the web, and again use internet recipes from well know bakers or respected websites.
11. What are your plans for 2021 and the years to come, do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
For the immediate future, I will just be keeping myself as fit as I can physically and mentally. Maintaining motivation through this lockdown period is a challenge! Long term, I’m still unsure. To continue with baking, progressing with developing recipes, and to continue to enjoy it. I’d love a job that uses my experience and knowledge of baking in some way, but not decided or sure of where that path lies yet.