• Forest Warrior – taking Bake to a new venue

    I apologise for being a bit quiet of late – I have been very busy on the baking front.  A week or so ago (the last weekend in April) we catered at Forest Warrior, an OCR in the Forest of Dean.  We usually compete in the event, but this time we were fortunate enough to be given a catering opportunity at the event.

    Not long before the event, the organiser contacted us to say that their main caterer was no longer able to cater for the event and asked whether we would be able to increase our catering commitment at the event.  After a great deal of consideration, as well as considering doing the event with another local food provider, we committed to providing bakes on the Saturday and pizzas and bakes on the Sunday.  We did advise the organiser however that we were a small outfit and were unable to mass cater for the event.

    After an early morning shift (5.30am to 10.30am) I set about baking for Saturday.  With my mis en place and recipes at the ready (my chef-tutor at Ashburton Cookery School would have been pleased) I started with vegan cookies.  Before lunch, I had made a double batch of vegan cookies, two gastro trays of flapjacks and started the nutella and lemon crumble slices.  Replete with a rather large lunch in my belly, I set about completing the two bakes I started before lunch.  Obviously distracted by my break, I made a fundamental error in my lemon crumble slice, which I only discovered much later.  Unaware of my error, I proceeded to complete the rest of my bakes: an apricot and coconut slice, a batch of brownies and a Mars bar slice.

    Having drizzled one of the flapjacks with chocolate and blasted it in the fridge for half an hour or so, so that the chocolate could set, I set about cutting up my bakes into the appropriate size for selling while my husband Jo went into Swindon to pick up reinforcements in the form of Josh and Chiara (our eldest son and his girlfriend), our happy help for the weekend.

    It didn’t take long to realise the mistake had made when making the lemon crumble slice.  Firstly, the slice did not come out of the gastro tray as easily as it should have.  Secondly, when looking at the texture of the slice after the first cut, I realised that the shortbread base was not cooked – not under-cooked, but almost ‘raw’.  Perplexed, I took a look at the recipe again and realised to my horror that it was a recipe that required me to bake the base first before I added the topping and crumble before a second bake.  I could have sworn that I had read the recipe, but clearly I had not.  There was nothing else that I could do but throw the whole bake in the bin.  As per the Law of the Sod, it was the most expensive bake of the day.  With a knot in my stomach, I proceeded to cut up the rest of the bakes and consider what I could bake as a replacement for my failed lemon crumble slice.  Despite knowing that I would need to do another bake, I decided to have a quick meal of a Sourdough Revolution pizza with my family.  After a break and hopefully not distracted this time, I settled on making a batch of blondies as a replacement for the lemon crumble slice.  I found the recipe below on www.sugarspunrun.com.  I doubled the recipe to make enough for the gastro tray.

    Ingredients

    • 226g  unsalted butter melted
    • 250g light brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk room temperature
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 285g cups plain flour
    • 2 tsp cornflour 
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 115g white chocolate chips
    • 130g macadamia nuts

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius and grease and line a 33 x 23 cm baking tray with baking paper.
    • Combine the melted butter and sugar in a large bowl and stir well.
    • Add eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir until completely combined. Set aside.
    • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornflour, baking powder, and salt.
    • Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until completely combined.
    • Fold in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
    • Spread the blondie batter into the prepared baking tray and transfer to the oven.
    • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean or with a few crumbs on it.
    • Allow to cool before cutting.

    Satisfied that the blondies turned out okay, we all turned in for the night.  Jo, Josh and Chiara left early Saturday morning for the event to sell the bakes while I set about preparing pizza dough for 80 pizzas, tomato sauce, caramelised onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.  Although they all came home happy with their experience at the event, sales were not particularly good – the nature of the event (running rather than obstacle) and the poor weather (cold and windy) meant that people did not really hang around at the venue after the event.

    On Sunday, we returned (this time with me en tow) to the event not only to sell bakes, but this time pizzas as well.  It was a slow start.  At one point, I wondered if we would sell a single pizza.  One of our early customers, a young lad, heartened me a bit.  He not only bought one pizza, but came back for a second.  I shouldn’t have been concerned as when lunch time hit (and a number of people returned from their waves) things went a bit crazy and it was very difficult to keep up with demand – both on the bake and pizza front, but especially on the pizza front.  At one time we had about a half hour wait for pizzas – much longer than I would have ideally liked.  Most importantly, the feedback on the bakes and pizzas was very positive.  One of the volunteers came up to us before completing the volunteers’ wave to check whether we would still be making pizzas when the volunteer wave finished – we had made a pizza for the volunteers earlier and she had liked it so much that she wanted more.

    The event wound up late afternoon and we set about the arduous task of taking down the awning and packing everything away.  With all of the competitors finished for the day, I had a go on some of the obstacles near the finish line.  We had hoped to do the last wave of the day but with things as hectic as they were at the stall it had not been possible.  Having a go on a few of the obstacles was the next best thing.

    Exhausted from three days of cooking (I had baked for another event on the Thursday) we made our weary way home.  There was still no rest for the wicked when we got home as we still had to do the clean up.  We did the best we could with the energy we had left and then celebrated our hard work with a glass or two of red wine, knowing that another busy week at work awaited us.

    Although we would definitely consider the event a success, it was a lot of hard work with little financial return.  Would we do it again?  Yes we would.  In fact we have been invited back the Sunday after next to do it all again but on a smaller scale.  We have also been invited to cater for another event on the back of Forest Warrior – someone who saw us at the event has asked us to cater at an event they are holding in July.  We are hopeful that it will go ahead.  Watch this space.

  • What was all the flap(jack) about?

    A couple or so week’s ago I was contacted by a potential customer who had seen my profile on Instagram.  Within a couple of days I had met with the potential customer, put together a price list, shopped for ingredients and completed my first bake.

    The request was relatively straight forward, a batch of brownies and a batch of flapjacks.  Nothing that I hadn’t done before.  However, most of my brownie and flapjack baking was done when I was at Lynwood & Co. and as you will know if you have eaten at Lynwood & Co, both their flapjacks and brownies are exceedingly good.  Despite being exceedingly good and despite being familiar with their recipes, it would not have been right to use these recipes when baking for a potential customer.

    With about 24 hours in which to research, cook and deliver the bake, I did not have time to develop my own recipes from scratch.  So armed with an array of my cookbooks around me on my bed, as well as the Internet to hand, I scoured all the recipes I could to find a suitable flapjack and brownie.  I settled on the one flapjack recipe that I had baked in the last couple of years (other than the Lynwood & Co recipe of course) and a chocolate fudge brownie.

    The bakes were relatively straight forward, especially the flapjacks.  The chocolate fudge brownies were a little more complicated with a few more steps, including hand beating the eggs and sugar into a light, thick and smooth mixture with no sugar granules and melting the chocolate and butter in a Bain-Marie, stirring regularly and preventing the chocolate from getting too hot (simmering water which does not come into contact with the bottom of the bowl in which the chocolate and butter are being melted).

    With an order being placed for 15 brownies and 15 flapjacks, I cut the respective bakes into 15 pieces and delivered them to the potential customer.  As there were no pieces to spare, except for a few brownie crumbs, I was unable to taste my bakes before they were dispatched.

    This is not how I would normally operate.  My usual modus operandi is to allow potential customers to ‘try before they buy’ or at least test the bakes before I deliver them.  However this time, there was no time.

    Although the brownies went down well, the flapjacks needed to be more gooey and the size of the bakes were not quite right for the price that the customer wanted to charge for them.  Taking on board the feedback and rising to the challenge, I tweaked the original flapjack recipe.  I upped the quantity of ingredients as a whole to make larger flapjacks and tripled the amount of syrup to make them more gooey.  I also tried a second flapjack recipe, which professed to be the ‘best ever flapjack’.  Cutting both flapjacks into larger portions and tasting both flapjacks I headed off to drop off my bakes.

    A day later, I received the news that ‘taste-testers’ thought that both flapjacks were delicious but that they preferred the new recipe.  I have to confess that I had initially preferred the adapted original recipe, albeit that I thought it could do with a bit more syrup.  However, when I tried the flapjacks the following day, it was definitely the new recipe that I preferred.

    And with that, I now have a brownie and flapjack recipe under my belt and hopefully a happy customer who I can provide regular bakes to.  As they say, all is well that ends well.