A couple of weeks ago I was kindly invited by ao.com to attend a day of Afternoon Tea Delights featuring Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite. I headed down to Milton Keynes and had a wonderful day baking scones with John and several other bloggers. One of my favourite things about the day was getting to meet fellow bloggers as I have only met a couple so far and that was only recently. Some of them I hadn't heard of before, some I had, and some I read there blogs regularly. I met the very friendly Britt from She Who Bakes and Julie from Real Food Fans at the train station when I arrived. Here's what I got up to at the event...
If you haven't heard of ao.com before, they sell major domestic appliances online. They are known for excellent customer service and their same day delivery service. That's right if you order your appliance before midday you can have it the same day! They will also recycle your old appliance. Their website is interactive with user reviews and videos so you can have a full shopping experience.
One of the main brands that ao.com sell is Neff. Neff are a German brand and the UK is the second biggest market for their products. 1 in 5 ovens sold in the UK is a Neff oven. If you don't already have a Neff oven, you may be familiar with their Bake It Yourself online community. They are on all of the major social networking sites 'encouraging everyone to embrace baking'.
We started the day browsing the Neff showroom and learning about all the features of their appliances. If you watch The Great British Bake Off you will have seen their 'Slide and Hide' oven doors already, this is where the oven door slides underneath the oven when you open it so it is out of the way. But you may not know that Neff also make induction hobs, warming drawers, mini dishwashers, coffee machines and microwaves. My dream kitchen will definitely involve some of these appliances!
We then entered the cookery classroom where John Whaite and Home Economist Lynn Williams made Lemon & Poppyseed Muffins and Salmon & Watercress Tarlets. They made these bakes in order to demonstrate Neff's Circo Therm technology. This means that each rack in the oven has air circulated around it separately and so any strong smelling foods that you cook, like salmon, will not affect any more delicate bakes, such as lemon muffins, that you cook in the same oven at the same time.
One batch of muffins was baked with the salmon tarts, and the other baked alone. And sure enough, after a thorough taste test, no one could tell the difference!
I was so excited to get baking and after a demo from John on how to bake Orange & Cranberry Sconelets, we all got stuck in and made our own batch of scones. Some of the bloggers made cheese scones, and some made the fruity ones.
I made the orange and cranberry ones with Gemma from GemsMaquillage as my bench buddy. I did make a bit of a mess with my dough as it was far too wet, but after adding some more flour it sorted itself out. It did give me some insight into how The Great British Bake Off contestants must feel! Although no one was going to judge my scones, we were being filmed and photographed whilst we were baking and John visited our bench a couple of times to see how we were getting on.
We used the Neff ovens to bake our scones and mine came out looking gloriously golden and well risen. I tucked in straight away and they really were delicious. I took them into work the next day and got some amazing comments on how good they were. I hope when I make these again in my oven they are still just as good!
Finally it was time for lunch and we were presented with this amazing array of afternoon tea delights! There were some of the scones we had baked, the muffins and tartlets John and Lynn made, as well as some other tartlets and a White Chocolate & Apricot Traybake. I chatted to Lucy from Supergolden Bakes and Em from MBakes whilst we ate. I read both of their blogs a lot so it was great to meet them in person, check out their blogs for stunning photographs and delicious bakes.
My plate of goodies!
The final part of the day was a Q&A session with John Whaite. One of the first questions was what was his favourite bake and he said he likes simple things like scones and a Victoria sponge. However his favourite recipe from his book is the Fig, Pecan & Orange Bundt. For comfort food John will always turn to Chocolate Mud Cake or bread. He named his baking heroes as Richard Bertinet and Nigel Slater.
He told us all about his new chocolate range called The Hungry Dog. After a 9 month course in chocolate making, John loves chocolate work and the intense flavours you can infuse in chocolate. All of the chocolates are completely hand made and have a limited availability. John also revealed that he will be opening a cookery school called John Whaite's Kitchen in Wigan soon on his family's farm, where he will do a range of classes. I am very excited about this and it's great that he's opening it up North!
John said that blogs are places a lot of ideas originate from and it was great to hear how he thinks professional chefs are inspired by bloggers like us. We received a goodie bag at the end of the day which included one of John's books. His second book is pictured above, but I swapped it with Julie from Real Food Fans for a signed copy of his first book (because she already owned it). John told us that he writes recipes by first of all thinking about what chapters he wants in his book, then thinking about what would go in those chapters, and finally creating the recipes themselves. It was interesting to learn about his creative process.
It was such a great day and I must recommend you check out the ao at home blog, as well as the blogs mentioned above and Fork & Good, The Spicy Pear and KB Eats.