A conversation with BakeClub's Anneka Manning, a melting moments recipe + a Bake, Eat, Love giveaway
'Dear Liz, this is your invitation to BAKE! ❤ Anneka.' reads the delightful inscription penned on the first page of my review copy of Anneka Manning's Bake, Eat, Love. Oh my! Baking is such a pleasurable past time and of my favourite things now I'm retired, so I'm with you, Anneka.
Anneka Manning started collecting recipes at the ripe old age of seven and remembers being the only one in her primary school who ordered cookbooks through the Scholastic Book Club. She was drawn to recipes that involved baking and would spend her time making scones for the shearers on her father's property, and entering baked goods in the Delegate agricultural Show.
'This was just the beginning of a life that was destined to be one long foodie journey,' she writes in her book Bake, Eat, Love - Learn to Bake in 3 Simple Steps. Anneka has worked for leading publications including Australian Gourmet Traveller, VOGUE Entertaining + Travel, and australian good taste; as well as appearing on television and radio. She has also compiled, written and contributed to a number of successful, award-winning books, including good food and more good food (Text Publishing), The Low GI Family Cookbook (Hachette) and Mastering the Art of Baking (Murdoch Books). Anneka now owns and runs a baking school called BakeClub, which she says is a reflection of not only her life-long passion for baking, but also her personal and professional experience as a home economist, food editor, author, publisher and mother of two children.
Anneka and I caught up by phone and email recently and I'm sharing our conversation with you:
Anneka, it's lovely to catch up with you after such a long time. Congratulations on the success of your Bake Club and your latest book Bake, Eat, Love. You must be delighted with their success?
Yes, thank you Liz. It’s been a big 12 months since I launched BakeClub last May. After spending about 25 years in food publishing, across magazines, news papers and books, I felt it was time to take all of that experience and knowledge and pour it into my passion, which is baking. I also wanted to create something that was approachable and accessible for the home cook and allowed them to learn how to bake through a number of different mediums. The response to both BakeClub and Bake, Eat, Love has been wonderful so I really feel there is a need for getting back to the basics in this modern world of ours.
I love your description of what lies behind the 'essence' of baking. Would you care to elaborate here for my readers:
As I say in the introduction to Bake, Eat, Love: “There is no denying the exquisite pleasure of sampling a generous slice of butter-rich homemade vanilla cake, a plateful of moreish freshly baked biscuits or a big wedge of soul-warming apple pie. But the reasons for baking at home start way before and go way beyond the eating part.
In my own passionate and often all-consuming lifetime affair with baking I have come to understand there is much more to it than the purely physical combination of simple, everyday ingredients to produce something that is eaten. The wonderfully emotional by-products of the whole baking experience are something else completely. From planning or discussing the intention (think how excited kids – and many adults – get at the mere mention of choosing a recipe to bake), to the almost meditative practice of the baking techniques, to the sharing of the actual baked goodies, something incredibly special is at play.
I call this powerful emotional aspect that underlies the physical steps the ‘essence’ of baking. A very individual experience that is hard to describe, the essence represents the way the act of baking and the sharing of the baked goods can make people feel nurtured, comforted, loved and part of something special. It brings people together, inspires compliments and gratitude, and simply makes people feel good. In my way of thinking, baking warms the heart and feeds the soul. It is something that is to be valued and, ultimately, shared.”
Please tell my readers a little about Bake Club, what your mission is, and how folks can join:
BakeClub is both an online baking resource as well as a physical baking school where we offer both hands-on and demonstration-style BakeClasses. Through these online resources, face-to-face BakeClasses and my writing and presenting, we teach home cooks the basics of baking in approachable yet inspiring ways, while giving them the know-how and skill to bake with confidence and success. Simple techniques, fail-safe recipes and clever tips that are relevant to their modern lives (and home kitchens) is what BakeClub is all about. We bring real baking into the home. I like to say that we don’t do the ‘fancy’ stuff, we just do the ‘real’ stuff!
The majority of our face-to-face BakeClasses are held at Flash in the Pan Studio in Rosebery, Sydney. However I do host Private Group BakeClasses and other special events in various other locations throughout Sydney, regional NSW and interstate. My ultimate goal is to reconnect home cooks with not only the basics of baking but also the magic that surrounds it and, through this, with those they love. I want BakeClub to be the go-to place for any home cook who wishes to bake, no matter where they live, no matter what their baking ability.
There are a number of ways that home cooks can connect with us. To start with they can become a member of BakeClub to receive exclusive recipes, our monthly newsletter, BakeNews, my regular blog, special member discount offers for our BakeClasses and much, much more.
Who are your food heroes, or who inspires you the most when it comes to baking or cooking?
I’ve tended to look to some of the wonderful international food authors such as Julia Child, Nigel Slater, Diana Henry and Alice Waters for inspiration and guidance… they have all influenced my cooking and baking for many years – in different ways but all substantially. One thing they all have in common is a wonderful way with words. They make me want to sit down and read their cook books, not just cook from them. As far as Aussie food heroes go, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and Margaret Fulton make up my trio. Fabulous women who have strongly influenced the way we eat and cook in Australia today.
To bake the types of beautiful food that you all bake, it's important to have a well-stocked larder, so what staple ingredients or whole foods do you always stock in your larder?
I always have a well-stocked pantry. I feel that everything is OK if the pantry is full. These are just a small selection of my staples:
What fresh ingredients are always in your shopping basket?
Lemons. I don’t even need to think about putting these in the shopping basket at the moment as our tree is very generous during Autumn. We go through two or three a day in salad dressings, tarts, puddings, cakes and biscuits and, to finish the day, fresh lemon and ginger. Butter. Pure, rich and as natural as I can lay my hands on. I prefer unsalted in most of my baking. Apples, pears and mandarins. At this time of the year I choose good selection seasonal fruit to snack on and for lunch boxes . And pumpkin. Even though the rest of my family doesn’t particularly like it I make big batches of soup with leek, fennel, carrots and/or zucchini and freeze it for a quick lunch option when I’m working from home.
What is your favourite or most useful baking tip?
Liz, I have a few baking tips that I feel are essential. For example, what size is your Tablespoon measure? In Australia, the standard tablespoon measure holds 20ml or 4 teaspoons. However, in the US and the UK a tablespoon holds 15mls or 3 teaspoons. More often than not it is the 15ml tablespoon sold in our local stores while our recipes are written using the 20ml tablespoon! Check the size of your spoon and adjust the quantities if necessary. It won't make a big difference when you are measuring ingredients such as flour and sugar, but if measuring concentrated ingredient such as baking powder or yeast, it can cause real imbalances in your baking.
When it comes to the cookbooks you bake from, do you prefer to keep the pages pristine or do you like it when they’re well used and the pages are just a little dusted with flour?
Definitely dusted with flour, stained with butter and smudged with chocolate. I’m also known to take to cook books with a pen, making my own comments and adjustments to be remembered for next time. I would be sad if people felt they had to keep my cook books in pristine condition. I write books and recipes to be used (not just read and looked at). To me a marked book tells me it has not only been well used but also well loved! [I agree!].
Do you have an all-time favourite recipe (either in the book or on your blog)?
The Melting Moments (from Bake, Eat, Love) and Almond & Raspberry Cake (from my Blog/Website) are possibly the two recipes I come back to again and again. Everyone loves it when I bake them.
What's on the agenda for you and Bake Club for the rest of 2014?
Lots of BakeClasses and events, including two delicious. magazine reader events later in May and a gorgeous heirloom baking class I’m doing with the Monday Morning Cooking Club in early June. I’ll continue to write my fortnightly blog, Bakeproof, for SBS Food along with guest blogs and my own blog, BakeBlog, as well as creating lots more content for the BakeClub website. Our second year will all be about making sure our members are getting the resources they need to bake brilliantly no matter where they live. It will be all about fail-safe recipes, helpful tips and tricks and easy-to-follow techniques… and of course spreading the word about BakeClub.
And finally, what’s for dinner tonight?
Not sure, Paul, my husband, is cooking while I do the hockey pick-up. But last night I did a slow-roasted spiced shoulder of lamb with turmeric and coriander pilaf. Great autumn fare (and the leftovers were perfect for the school lunches today). [Yum!].
Anneka, is there a recipe you might like to share with Good Things readers?
Liz, Melting Moments are a favourite of mine and I'd like to share my recipe from Bake, Eat, Love as well as my video that accompanies the recipe:
These melt-in-the-mouth buttery biscuits, sandwiched with a creamy, sweet buttercream are an all-time favourite. This version has the addition of orange zest in the filling, which adds a subtle citrus tang. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a cuppa.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking time: 16-18 minutes
Makes: about 18
250g butter, cubed, softened
110g (2/3 cup) icing sugar
11/2 teaspoons natural vanilla essence or extract
250g (12/3 cups) plain flour
60g (1/2 cup) cornflour
Orange buttercream filling:
60g butter, softened
1 orange, zest finely grated
125g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
Use an electric mixer on medium to beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, scraping down the side of the bowl when necessary.
Sift the flour and cornflour together over the butter mixture. Mix on low speed (or use your hands to mix) until just combined and a soft dough forms.
Use lightly floured hands to roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on the lined trays, about 5cm apart (you should have about 36 balls). Dip a fork in flour and use it to flatten the balls to about 1cm thick and 4cm in diameter.
Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, swapping the trays after 8 minutes, or until the biscuits are a pale golden colour. Remove from the oven and cool on the trays.
While the biscuits are cooling, make the orange buttercream filling. Put the butter and orange zest in a small mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat on medium speed until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat on low speed, scraping down the side of the bowl when necessary, until well combined and smooth.
To join the biscuits, spread a little buttercream on the base of a cooled biscuit and sandwich with another biscuit. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and filling.
These biscuits will keep in an airtight jar or container in a cool place (not the fridge) for up to 4 days.
© Anneka Manning. Recipe originally published in Bake, Eat, Love – Learn to Bake in 3 Simple Steps.
WIN A COPY OF BAKE, EAT, LOVE!
Anneka and BakeClub have generously offered me five copies of Bake, Eat, Love - Learn to Bake in 3 Simple Steps (each valued at $24.95) to give away to readers of Good Things. To be in the running, please subscribe to Good Things (if you haven't already) and simply tell me in 50 words or less why you love baking.
The competition is open to Australian residents only (with apologies once again to my overseas friends) and closes at midnight on Sunday 18 May 2014, so pop in and enter now. The winner will be notified by email and book will be posted direct to you. Please make sure that you enter your current email address (one you check regularly!) with your comment so you can be reached in the event you're selected as the winner.
SPECIAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
Please note, only genuine entries will be considered. Please don't submit entries using false names and bogus email accounts. This is not appreciated. Multiple entries from the same IP address using fake names will not be considered either.
Good luck dear readers and thank you for your continued support of Good Things. Stay tuned for more delicious recipes and interviews, including my conversation with the lovely ladies from the Monday Morning Cooking Club! Coming soon!
Thank you all for entering. The competition is now closed and winners will be announced shortly.
Wow, choosing winners from these wonderful entries was quite difficult, but Anneka has made her choices (as well as a few extras... so generous! Thank you Anneka). And the winners are: Charmaine, Alison, Elizabeth, Charlie Louie, Zohra, Heather, Kaye and Hema. Thanks again to everyone who entered.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.