This week marks the second birthday of our little south east London baking club, Band of Bakers. Our first event was held on 2nd May 2012 in the wonderful little Nunhead cafe and deli Bambuni. About 25 or so bakers had pledged their interest, although despite this we were worried that nobody would show up. We breathed a bit more easily as a steady stream of bakers walked in off the street with their cake boxes, got themselves a glass of wine and began chatting to each other. Band of Bakers was born. Two years on we have grown beyond anything we could have expected – we have an enormous waiting list, a number of popular and oversubscribed events and have had the opportunity to work with some great people including Dan Lepard, Paul Hollywood and the excellent team from delicious. Magazine. Most importantly, we have created a community in our little corner of London that reached beyond baking and into people’s everyday lives, forming friendships and support networks, both online and in real life.
I talk about Band of Bakers an awful lot as I am so proud of what Naomi and I have achieved. Nobody has told me to shut up about it yet, although I expect one day they will.
I started thinking back over our many events and the enormous number of bakes I have had the opportunity to try, and what I liked the most. It is really difficult to narrow it down from the many, many that have graced the Band of Bakers tables, but here are a few I particularly loved:
Rhubarb and Ginger Cake by Charlie. This caused quite a stir at our first event, not least because it turned up warm from the oven. It is, quite literally, the most perfect cake on earth. A gingery cake with a slightly coarse texture due to the use of spelt flour, topped with stems of tart rhubarb. I have made it at least 100 times, and based both my fig, ginger and spelt cake and my orange, stem ginger and spelt cake on it. SO good.
Little Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes by Chloe. My reaction to the first bite was “what f***ing genius made these?!” Chloe brought these along to our Winter Warmers event back in November 2012 and I immediately wanted to eat a hundred of them. Beautifully sticky spiced caked with a decadent toffee frosting. No recipe to share, sadly, as the baker herself says that “it will be a miracle the day I write a recipe down, let alone a blog!
Blueberry and Almond Tart by Naomi. This is Naomi’s mum’s recipe and one of my favourite things that she has ever baked (and I can tell you that there is stiff competition!) A gorgeous tart of pastry with a frangipane filling, dotted with little jammy blueberries. I took a slice home for Ollie and he was enamoured.
Black Pudding Scotch Eggs by Jon. Jon can always be relied upon to bring something utterly decadent to the table and, luckily for me and sadly for the vegetarians, it is often of the carnivorous variety. These black pudding scotch eggs were among the best scotch eggs I had ever tried. I’m pretty sure Ollie even managed two. Extra kudos for the yolk being soft. Amazing.
Pumpkin and Chipotle Bread by Lauren. There are few bakers that do bread better than Lauren, especially bread of the sourdough variety, which she writes about frequently on her blog. She also has a fascination with chilli, and the combination of the two always produce something delicious. This bread was made for our Autumn Harvest event back in October 2013 and didn’t last long on the table.
There are so many more, but I fear that I would write the longest blog post on earth if I listed them all.
Having attended every event, I have baked many things for the Band of Bakers table, with varying degrees of success. One of my favourite creations was a chocolate, pecan and rum pie that I made for the Baking with Beverages event back in April 2013. This event was originally supposed to be called ‘Baking with Booze’, but we decided to widen it to include other beverages as we were expecting around 35 bakers in attendance.
The pie is based on a recipe by the excellent David Lebovitz and went down really well at the event. It is basically your average pecan pie, perked up a little with some dark chocolate chips and a few shots of spiced dark rum, which turn it from a standard American dessert to a very grown-up treat indeed. Of course, the rum is interchangeable with other alcohol, David Lebovitz’s version used bourbon, and I always thought Amaretto would work well – or you could leave it out altogether. The most interesting thing about this recipe is that the pastry is not blind baked prior to the addition of the filling. When I first read this, I was like Say Whaaaaa, but then I realised that the idea was to for the pastry and the filling to merge a little, rather than have separate textures as in the case with most other tarts. I did try it with a blind baked case once, and it was nowhere near as good.
Sweet, nutty and boozy – what more could you want? Much better too if you make your own pastry, obvs.
Chocolate, Pecan and Rum Pie
For the pastry:
- 175g plain flour
- Pinch salt
- 2 tsp icing sugar
- 115g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
- 1 egg yolk
For the filling:
- 3 large eggs
- 150g dark soft brown sugar
- 200g golden syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- 30g melted butter
- 2 shots (50ml) dark spiced rum
- 200g pecans, roughly chopped
- 150g dark chocolate chips
Start by making the pastry. Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor, add the butter and pulse until the texture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the egg and blitz until the mixture comes together in a smooth dough. If the mixture is too dry, carefully add some cold water, a couple of drops at a time, until it comes together. Press the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes, or until needed.
Once the pastry has chilled, remove it from the fridge, roll it out and use it to lie the inside of a pie dish or tart tin. Crimp the edges if necessary and return to the fridge until ready to fill.
Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.
To make the filling, place the eggs, brown sugar, golden syrup, vanilla, salt, melted butter and rum in a large bowl and whisk by hand until smooth. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips and scrape the filling into the pie dish.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the tart has risen and has a slight wobble in the centre. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.
Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz.