I was very excited when I spotted that Great British Bake Off runner up James Morton (he of the Fair Isle Jumpers and Gingerbread Barn) was to be demonstrating and taking part in a Q&A session at the 2014 Aberdeen University May Festival. I immediately snapped up tickets to both events for myself and boy. Even more excitement a couple of weeks later when I received an email from the University Events Team asking if I would be interested in chairing the events. Without wishing to seem too keen I sat on my hands and waited for at least 5 minutes before replying in the affirmative.
Slight disappointment when James arrived as no sign of any Fair Isle. I duly gave him a telling off. Kyle was delighted to get his very own hands on masterclass before the audience arrived for the morning demonstration session. The demo had long since sold out and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd joined us for an informal bake off followed by some time for questions, bread tasting and the chance to receive a blob of 9 year old sourdough starter. The salient points were - wetter is better, no need to knead and prove it in the fridge.
The afternoon Q&A session took place in the grand setting of the Kings College Conference Centre. The set up is very reminiscent of the Scottish Parliament with each audience member having their own desk, light and microphone. Thankfully no voting taking place on this occasion. James was very candid about the whole Great British Bake Off experience and shared some top tips for any aspiring contestants. He also confirmed that Mr Hollywood's eyes really are as blue as they appear on the TV. We chatted about everything from his early life in Shetland, medical school, supermarket bread, baking disasters, breadmakers and soggy bottoms.
With our new pet fully house trained and ensconced in the kitchen it was time for some breadmaking of our own. Good job I'd taken Kyle along to the May Festival as I was so busy chairing the events and concentrating on what I had to do that all the technical bread making bits must have gone in one ear and out the other. Thankfully he had been paying close attention and had definitely benefited from his one to one with James.
First attempt was a basic white loaf. A slightly random shape but tasted great and he was rightly very proud of it. Additional equipment was required so I duly ordered up some goodies from Bakery Bits. A proving basket, flexible dough scraper, stainless steel dough cutter and lame blade.
First attempt with our proving basket didn't really hold its shape and turned out somewhat Ciabatta like. Still tasted good with lashings of Ardross Kitchen Raspberry Jam. Diagnosis via Twitter from @bakingjames was overproving. The sharpness of the lame was confirmed by the need for a Peppa Pig plaster.
Following Kyle's successes I decided that I should really have a bash at this bread making lark myself. Under his expert eye and tutelage I managed to produce a reasonable looking and tasting loaf. Tremendously satisfying but I definitely need to exercise some restraint if I'm to continue making my own bread. How on earth do you resist the temptation to eat it slathered in butter all in one go?
It would seem that James's knowledge of bread is indeed brilliant. Confirmed by the Guild of Food Writers awards where Brilliant Bread won best cookbook. Definitely better value than a breadmaker. Book two's manuscript has already been submitted. Watch this space for Baking Bad.
May Festival Photographs reproduced with permission of Aberdeen University