As soon as a copy of Paul Hollywood’s new tome slammed onto the MWSAB desk, we were eagerly thumbing through it, deciding what slice of gold we were going to bake the hell out of. And, gosh-darn it, when even the Silver Fox himself demanded we document the process, it was clear this called for another round of BAKING BAD.
Since our last adventure, Tom Noble had seen fit to leave behind his ‘characterful’ Islington flat for some delightful new lodgings in London’s exotic Crouch End.
‘It’s like a Spanish Villa!’ Ben Willis spluttered, washing the tobacco and more miscellaneous filth from his fingers as he prepared to cook.
‘Tell me about it,’ Tom rejoined, thrusting cans of lager into the fridge and inexplicably spreading plain flour on top of the dishwasher.
Tom flours the dishwasher
With compliments offered and filthy fingers scrubbed, it was time to crack open a can and get bloody baking.
Sweat coursing down his cheek and into the gap where he accidentally shaved without the guard on his razor, Tom grappled manfully with the puff pastry. Before long the top of his dishwasher was adorned with a golden crown. Mesmerised, I watched him inserting it into a cake tin with the care and affection of a young lad applying glue to his first Spitfire Airfix kit.
The pastry placed, it was now time for me to shine. After a brief debate about what’s a dessert spoon and what’s a table spoon, I dutifully dolloped some raspberry jam into the mix. Textbook.
Wearied by our exertions, we stuck the brute into the fridge (post-lager removal), and headed to the soft embrace of the lounge area to watch a beleaguered Liverpool stretched apart by Real Madrid like the very pastry we had just been manipulating.
Half-time, and back to the kitchen. It was time to whack the rest of the ingredients into a bowl. Wham! No bother. Cristiano Ronaldo might have an extraordinary goalscoring record in the champions league, but by God I’d be surprised if he could combine eggs and milk this well. Mixture now added to the cooled jam and pastry party, it was time to bang the whole thing into a pre-heated oven and let that bad boy bake.
They call me the dollop king (unfortunately)
Ben Willis may have turned up an hour late after taking the wrong train, having to take solace in a nearby kebab shop as the kindly proprietors juiced his iPhone5 and offered him cigarettes, but that wasn’t going to hinder him, especially after Tom and I had already sorted out the mixture.
To describe the breathtaking dexterity with which he fingered the dough is nigh on impossible. He reminded me of a master-puppeteer, who, with a flick of his pinkie, could create such nuanced changes in his puppets’ movements as to make us think those wooden sods were real.
A master at work
Later, we crowded around the oven like excited kiddiewinks on Christmas morn. Had Santa been? You better believe it. The golden treats which awaited us in that piping prison were nothing short of basically edible. Tom in particular was so taken aback by the sight and smell of the slightly charred pastry that he became overcome with nostalgia for his northern childhood. Proust had his madeleines, Noble had his Bakewell Pudding.
Bidding our host and, dare I say it – friend – adieu, Ben and I hastened out into the night. We shivered against the chill, hurrying past a dimly lit Londis on the way to the bus stop. But whilst the night air did its best to infiltrate our coats, it was powerless against the warm glow that throbbed in our hearts.
Quite simply, we had baked our little socks off.
Finished article 1: Bakewell Pudding
Finished article 2: Jumbles
Both of these actually turned out really rather well, and there are some excellent recipes in this beautifully produced book. Whether you fancy tackling some of Paul’s brilliant British recipes for yourself, or need some early Christmas-shopping inspiration, we heartily recommend you part with your dosh for this one.
Paul Hollywood’s British Baking is out now from Bloomsbury