I didn’t need much persuading when my friend forwarded me an invite to a baking demo and champagne tasting at a kitchen showroom in Notting Hill and said that while she couldn’t go, she thought it would be right up my street. I like to think she was referring to the baking aspect rather than the champagne tasting, but then I look at the few photos that exist of me and the majority of them involve some sort of sparkling wine… The demo was organised by Martin Moore to celebrate the opening of their beautiful new kitchen showroom in Notting Hill, just a couple of streets down from where I used to live in what now seems like a former life. I don’t often go back but when I do I remember how much I loved living in Notting Hill, back when I was young, had a proper job and no kids. I’m not sure if I even used the oven in that flat – if you couldn’t make it on the hob in a maximum of two saucepans I didn’t cook it. Funny how things change.
Mich Turner of the Little Venice Cake Company, couture cake maker to the stars, was invited to host the demo and entertained us with stories of celebrity cake making while she demonstrated her recipes for a roulade, friands and a rich chocolate cake. I am looking forward to the day when I can perfectly crumb coat a cake in two seconds flat while holding it in the air and telling a story to an audience of 30 people. I’m sure that will be sometime soon… She has a background in food science which is something I still find really interesting and is particularly relevant when trying to incorporate all the sugar, fat and flour alternatives into baking. I could have listened to her all afternoon.
And once we had seen how to make a lime and pistachio roulade, a rich chocolate cake covered in ganache and blueberry and orange friands we got to eat them all while tasting Laurent Perrier champagne.
The champagne tasting was as interesting as it was delicious. While I might drink a lot of Prosecco and the occasional glass of real champagne I don’t really know very much about the processes or the history involved in champagne. And being given the opportunity to try three different champagnes from the same house while having the differences explained gave me an insight into the subtleties of wine making. And for once I did actually “taste” it rather than swig it as I was driving! So now I’m looking forward to a lot more tasting practice.
Mich’s demo wasn’t just a masterclass in baking, it was also a masterclass in how to run a demo. I’ve done a few now at Queens Lodge Kitchens in Chobham and they are quite nerve-racking to start with. Being the centre of attention and speaking in front of people are already two of my least favourite things to do but for some reason once I get started I do actually relax and truly enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to doing some more.
Friands are essentially the cooler, more sophisticated French cousin of the muffin. They contain a large proportion of ground almonds, with a small amount of plain flour and would be easy to make gluten-free by substituting the plain flour for a gluten-free one. And not only are they delicious, you also get to bake them in a really cool tin, which I couldn’t resist buying after the demo. Although if you don’t want to buy a friand tin you can use a muffin tin instead. Now I’ve got it I am going to try various different flavours and combinations. I chose blackberry and lemon for my first attempt as it’s autumn and blackberries are a great seasonal alternative to blueberries. I used frozen blackberries from the freezer but I recommend you defrost them first if you use frozen ones: I didn’t and my friands took a lot longer to cook through than they should have.
250g icing sugar
50g plain flour or gluten-free plain flour
170g ground almonds
Zest of a lemon
210g egg whites (approx 6 medium)
Approx 150g blackberries
30g flaked almonds
Set the oven to 180ºC. Grease a 12 hole friand tray, or a 12 hole muffin tin.
Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.
Sieve the icing sugar and flour into a bowl and add the ground almonds and lemon zest.
Whisk the egg whites until they are frothy and foamy (not even soft peak)
Add the egg whites and melted butter to the dry ingredients and mix together, making sure there are no pockets of flour.
Spoon or pour the batter into the moulds (it is easier to put the batter into a jug and pour it in).
Distribute the blackberries evenly amongst the friands and then top with flaked almonds.
Bake for around 20 minutes until firm to the touch, well risen and golden.
Allow to cool in the tin for around 5 minutes before removing and allowing to cool fully on a wire rack. Delicious warm!