Making it work for live TV...

Television Centre

So London called...

It said “hey man, we’ve been looking for a bread expert to come and chat with us on Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 and hey presto, we came across this chap who’s made 100 videos on YouTube...”

Ok, so that’s not EXACTLY what they said but it is pretty much the gist ;-)

I was delighted! Not nervous. In fact, I was a little delighted but as with all things in “showbiz” these things come and go. I had been so close to being on TV before for a different show, literally prepped and ready to go the day before filming and the phone line went dead, only to receive an email two weeks later saying sorry but I didn’t make it. And so, without feeling negative about things, when the call came in I guess I felt a bit nothing really. After all things don’t happen until they happen and I knew that. This time things were a little different though, I was asked to come to London to meet with the producer and that hadn’t happened before…

So here was the deal, I would talk through four breads I had made, people (celebrities) were going to eat and share their opinion of my homemade bread live on Channel 4 before deciding which was their favourite and then telling the world. No Pressure. That meant that the bread had to be as close to fresh as possible at 10:33am on Sunday morning, and they were sending a car to pick me up at 6:20am.

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The plan was to bake everything on Saturday evening to various stages of “baked” then finish it off in the studio prep kitchen moments before going live, easy. But I was already booked for a private bread making course in somebodies home on the Saturday, leaving at 1pm and likely getting home at around 8pm. Not ideal. Here’s how I made it work…

I decided on the recipes early on, four breads that were good for beginners: black olive fougasse, seeded sandwich loaf, “no-knead” focaccia and hot cross buns since it was nearly Easter. I had a small window on Saturday morning to make the dough and a small oven to bake one or two before leaving the house for the day. I made all four of my doughs that morning.

Fougasse only needs a single rest, there’s no need to prove them up them up again after shaping and before baking, I was making six, and could part-bake two at a time for 10 minutes each before cooling and wrapping ready to finish off at the studio. Sorted.

If one of the breads was to be fully baked it would be the sandwich loaf as the size and shape of it would allow it to hold the moisture the best of them all for the longest, so in theory the fully baked loaves would still be relatively fresh the following day. I baked them fully on the Saturday morning. Two down, two to go.

The other two doughs I stashed in the fridge to chill and tick over nice and slowly for later while I was out for the day.

Now, if I returned home from my private course at 8pm and removed the dough from the fridge it would have taken a good 90 minutes to come back to room temperature before I could shape, prove and bake them. Then we are talking shaping at 9:30pm, baking two batches at 11pm & 11:45pm, in bed by 12:30 at night to wake up again at 5am to get ready, pack up and leave to go live on TV. Again, not ideal.

I did some maths and my wife and I had a chat.

If she could remove the dough from the fridge at 6pm while I was out teaching, it would be ready to shape upon my return shaving two clear hours of my evening bake making bedtime a far more sensible 10:30pm and that’s exactly what we did.

The following morning, I woke with nothing to do but to get ready and double check my packing list. The car arrived at 6:20am to pick me up, I loaded my things and spent the next 45 minutes chatting to the driver and getting increasingly nervous.

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The show was great! I had an hour and a half in the prep kitchen to finish everything off, cut tasters and dress the display before wheeling it to the studio and putting everything in place super fast during the ad break. Then 3, 2, 1, GO!

I was so nervous but it could not have been better. Everybody I came into contact with on the day was so lovely. There is a ton of work involved in creating a show like Sunday Brunch both on and off set, so many people involved, and as corny as it sounds they are like a big family. Even if somebody spent 40 seconds attaching my microphone to my jacket they would introduce themselves, ask me how I was and how I was feeling about going on. They really looked after me and the feature was a great success.

A whole day in preparation for 8 minutes on TV and it felt great. You guys across social media went ABSOLUTEY CRACKERS with your support. Thank you so much!

The reality is that the whole day I spent in preparation is nothing compared to time spent working hard since the day Bake with Jack was created. So really, that one day becomes 6 years in preparation.

Actually, you could say that without such a disjointed restaurant/hotel/event chef career, then Bake with Jack would never have been created in the first place. So then, perhaps we are 16 years in.

In fact. Without the slight disinterest I had in academic studies then perhaps I would have never put on those chef whites in the first place. I said I was playing the long game in a post last year. I said that I used to get laughed at when I dreamed of being on TV, and here we are, 32 years in and I made it to the slightly-bigger-than-your-telephone screen. YESSSSS!!!

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If you missed the show, I think it has disappeared now from All4 but at the time of writing this you can still catch up on my second appearance featuring a few of the breads from the new Summertime and BBQ bread course. If you are in the UK Click here to watch it in Episode 16 and scroll forward to 58 minutes in, after the Bake Off Professionals clip.

I said on Instagram that I hoped this could be the beginning of something great, and if it wasn’t then that would be ok too. It’s what I have been working towards for so long, for the most part without even knowing it, and when I look back on the past 6 or 16 or 32 years I realise that surely everything has been, and continues to be the beginning of something great. Even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.

Thank you all so much for watching and for your support before, during and after. I spent the next whole week after the show answering all of your comments, emails, tweets and messages on Instagram and Facebook and I hope I got them all!

Thanks for being part of this massive milestone with me, here’s to whatever happens next…

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Chocolate Orange Knot Buns, Foodies Festival 2019

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 It’s always a joy to be invited to demonstrate at a food festival and a real buzz to share my love for homemade bread to an audience from up on stage. I do my best to make every single demonstration special and for this year’s Cakes and Desserts theatre at the Foodies Festivals in Brighton and Syon Park I’m making these yummy buns.

Challenged with making something sweet (which I don’t often do) and using chocolate products from Foodies sponsors, Food Thoughts, I have come up with the ultimate chocolate orange knot bun. Inside is dark chocolate and an orange zest butter, and for the topping I wanted to make a super crunchy, sweet and salty mixture to contrast the soft and sweet bun. I used toasted and salted pumpkin seeds, pearl sugar and natural cacao nibs for the topping which and have a slightly bitter note and have a crunch that’s hard to beat.

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If you’d like to see me at a live demonstration, click here for latest dates.


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 Chocolate Orange Knot Buns


Notes

This recipe is an enriched dough, that means butter, milk and eggs, and because of that expect the rising to take a little longer than your standard bread dough.

Be sure to microwave your milk a little, just enough to take off the chill from the fridge.

This recipe will make 15 Knot Rolls

Difficulty: Medium

My Kitchen Temperature: 20°C/68°F

Start to finish:  5.5 hours


Ingredients

For the Dough

100g       Room temperature milk

 20g         Fresh yeast or 10g dry yeast

 1              Medium egg

 250g       Strong white bread flour

 35g         Golden caster sugar

 4g           Salt

 35g         Soft unsalted butter

 For the filling

 50g         Soft unsalted butter

 40g         Golden caster sugar

Finely grated zest of 2 oranges

50g        Chopped Dark Chocolate

For the icing

Juice and pulp of 1 orange

Around 300g of icing sugar (see method)

To Finish

50g         Pumpkin seeds

50g         Food Thoughts Natural Cacao Nibs

50g         Pearl sugar

A pinch of salt


Method

Making the Dough

1. In a large mixing bowl weigh your yeast, add the milk and whisk together until the yeast is dissolve.

2. Next add the egg, flour, salt, and sugar. Break up the butter into pieces and add that too.

3. Mix everything with your dough scraper until it comes together into a rough dough and then turn it out onto a clean table. Knead your dough well for 8 minutes. Then, shape it into a ball, place it back into the bowl to rest with a cloth on top for 1 ½ - 2 hours.

Making the Filling

4. While you are waiting you can make the orange butter for your filling. Cream together the butter, sugar, and zest until it’s light and fluffy. You can do this in a mixer with a silicone beater if you like, but it’s such a small amount that I usually beat it in a bowl by hand with a stiff silicon spatula. Keep beating until it’s aerated and super soft, this will make it easier to spread later on. Set this butter aside.

Filling and Shaping

5. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper ready for later. When your dough has risen nicely, turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Dust the top of the dough, press it with your fingers to flatten and roll it out into a 35cm square with a rolling pin.

6. Use the flat edge of your dough scraper to spread your soft orange butter in an even layer all over the dough, right up to all edges. Next sprinkle your chopped chocolate pieces all over the butter as evenly as you can and press slightly with your palms so that they stick. Fold the dough in half from the top edge and roll very gently over the top with your rolling pin, just enough to flatten slightly, neaten it up and stick the two parts together.

7. With a knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough vertically into three wide strips. Then cut each strip into five more strips, one per bun.

8. One by one pick up your strips with your fingers holding them at each end. Carefully stretch and twist the strip of dough and wrap one end round the other in a circle two times. Then pass the remaining strip underneath finally wrapping it once more over the top. Tuck the end underneath and place on your parchment lined tray. At this stage feel free to have a play with your knots, it’s not essential that you do them exactly like mine, but you will find that doing them the same as each other makes a big difference to the overall look of your rolls if that’s important to you!

9. Repeat with the rest of your dough strips ending up with 15 knot buns spaced out across two trays with plenty of room to expand.

10. Cover your buns loosely with cling film and allow 1-2 hours for them to rise up, becoming lighter, softer, and much more delicate to the touch. At some point during this time, preheat the oven to 180°C Fan/Gas Mark 5.

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Baking and Finishing 

11. Bake your knot buns for 8-12 minutes until golden. Slide a knife underneath and lift a bun, if it’s golden underneath then it’s ready. If they are still a little pale return them to the oven for two minutes at a time until they are ready. Cool them on a wire rack.

12. Now to mix up the icing. Squeeze the juice of an orange into a bowl over some scales, use the orange pulp too. Whatever the juice and pulp weighs in grams, multiply that number by four and add four times it’s weight in icing sugar. Mix together to get a smooth icing.

13. Toast your pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. As they start to pop add a pinch of salt and sprinkle some water in with your fingers. You need just a little water, enough to sizzle and dissolve the salt so it will stick to the seeds. Too much water will mean your seeds will boil a become chewy. Continue toasting until the seeds are lightly golden and popped. Set them aside to cool.

14. Mix your toasted seeds with your nibs and pearl sugar.

15. Pick up a bun and turn it over. First dip it upside down into your orange icing, lift it and allow any excess to drip off back into the bowl before dipping into your topping mixture. Turn it back over and place back onto the cooling rack. Repeat to finish all your other buns.

 16. Let your buns rest on the cooling rack and the icing will dry and go crunchy. Eat.