Last Saturday was the perfect autumn day to participate in an Autumnal themed Bloggers Baking Event. It has not been that long since I started blogging and I was delighted to have received an invitation to a workshop on baking, food photography, and food styling. Perfect combination for me since, as most of you know, I love baking and I’m keen to notch up my photography skills. The Baked In Style Event organised by Neff in conjunction with Curry’s PCworld was right up my street.
Baking in the City
One of the things I quickly learned when I started blogging is that there is a large community of food bloggers out there who, without fail, are very friendly and helpful. Up to last Saturday, however, I had yet to meet one of them in person. So it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I made my way to L’Atelier des Chefs in the City, just around the corner from St. Pauls Cathedral. Turns out I had nothing to be worried about. All the food bloggers I met were just as friendly and helpful in person as they are on line.
Quick round of introductions out of the way, we were swiftly shepherded into the kitchen to crack on with a bit of baking. I teamed up with Corina from Searching for Spice, Lucinda from Bakes, Books and My Boys and Sandra from Cake and Whisky to bake a cake. If I say so myself, we made a great team.
Following a demonstration by Fabrizio the Chef, we set of baking our own Hazelnut torte. Once they were in the oven, it was time for a cup of tea and a little chat, but not for long.
After the break photographer, food stylist, and blogger Carol Poirot of Mademoiselle Poirot gave us some helpful tips and pointers on how to create good food photographs. She took us through the basics like how to use a Tripod, aperture, ISO and shutter speed. All the while encouraging those who hadn’t yet moved away from the auto settings to give it a try. Although I don’t always get it right, I now take most of my pictures with the manual settings.
By now our hazelnut tortes were baked and cooled, and we went back to the kitchen to fill and complete them. Next, Carol gave us tips about how to style photographs, explaining how she uses props, ingredients, textures, and colours to tell a story. Encouraged and inspired we returned once again to our cakes to style them.
While Carol produces many stunningly beautiful images, her style is very different from mine. Both myself and the rest of the team preferred a more minimal approach for our cake. However, it is fascinating how the same basic hazelnut torte can look so different just because it is finished and styled differently.
Step by step Hazelnut Torte
- 110 g butter softened
- 110 g caster sugar
- 2 eggs separated
- 110 g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp instant coffee granules optional
- 1 tbsp milk
- 55 g toasted hazelnuts chopped
- 2 dessert apples peeled, cored and sliced
- apricot jam
- finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- icing sugar to dust
- Preheat the oven to 190℃ /170℃ fan/gas mark 5. Grease and line the base of a 20cm round cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time and beat well after each addition.
- Add the flour mix until just combined. Dissolve the coffee granules in the milk and add to the cake mixture along with the chopped hazelnuts.
- Whisk the egg whites until standing in stiff peaks, then carefully fold into the mixture with a spatula or metal spoon, taking care not to knock out all of the air.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and level. Bake for 25–30 minutes until firm but springy to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, place the apples in a pan with 2tbsp of the apricot jam, the lemon zest and juice. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Leave to cool.
- When the cake is completely cold, split into two layers and sandwich back together with the apples and a little more apricot jam if desired. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve.
We added coffee to the cakes but I think it would taste just as good without so have made this optional.
Freeze: Freeze for up to 1 month
3 reasons I love Neff Ovens
It goes without saying that we baked our creations in Neff ovens. Before we started baking we were given the run down on the ovens by the friendly guys from Neff. I’m currently not in the market for a new oven but, if I was, I would certainly be giving these ovens serious consideration. Here are the 3 main reasons why.
- The Slide and Hide doors – I just love how the doors “disappear” underneath as you open them. Not only does it look neat, you can get right up close to the oven making getting dishes in and out so much easier.
- CircoTherm – Unlike other fan assisted ovens, the air is drawn in from front to back instead of blowing back to front. No blast of hot air and steamed up glasses when you open the door. The Neff team explained how the system ensures even cooking throughout the oven with no transfer of flavours from one dish to another when cooking different foods.
- Vario Steam – The oven has a compartment that opens out at the front and can be filled with water which then introduces steam into the oven. Great for sealing foods so that they are crispy on the outside and tender inside. Steam is also invaluable for making a great crust on bread which appeals to me as a keen bread baker. This built in system is rather easier and more effective than placing a tray of water in the bottom of the oven which is the DIY way of introducing steam during cooking.
The guys also talked about the Neff induction hob which has some impressive features. Personally I am not keen on induction hobs but some people love them and, as far as induction hobs go, these one did look a good choice.
Baking and Social Media
Baking has seen a huge surge in popularity in the UK since the start of The Great British Bake Off. If social media chatter is anything to go by, this article has some interesting fact and figures about the GBBO effect. If you been inspired to do more baking, I would love to see your bakes. Drop me a line or tag me on social media.