Friday, May 16, 2014


Eton College has an Infusion Society, for final year students with an interest in infused beverages. This year I was lucky enough to be invited along to their monthly meetings. Each time, I took advantage of my fantastic suppliers to arrange a guest speaker to "infuse" and enthuse the boys with their specialist knowledge.  Each interactive session was as unique as the speakers and the questions kept coming long after the meetings should have ended.

Here are the audience write ups of the evenings, along with my photographs.

22nd January Mr Drew Barron

The Infusions Society welcomed Drew Barron of Drury Tea and Coffee Company Ltd. Mr Baron brought three different teas for the society to sample: a Dimbula and an Uva from Sri Lanka, and an Imenti from Central Kenya. The 12 boys who attended were able to try and describe these very different types of tea, as well as hearing about the different ways that tea is manufactured around the world. Finally, different ratios of tea were mixed in order to make an English breakfast tea blend. The evening was a huge success, with Mr Baron showing his understanding of tea through an incredibly interactive presentation.

12th March Mr Malcolm Ferris-Lay

The Infusions Society were introduced to Mr Malcolm Ferris-Lay, a charismatic tea consultant with a seemingly infinite wealth of knowledge from his career as a tea taster. Malcolm regaled his audience with fascinating anecdotes whilst introducing them to the art of tasting tea and the differing results obtained from different leaves. The evening ended with the unique opportunity to taste the last tea sold at the last tea auction in London. Thanks to Karen Phillips of Tastes Delicatessen and Karen Darville of Darvilles of Windsor for arranging the event.

30th April Mr Edward Grace

The Infusions Society heard from Mr Edward Grace of the Beanberry Coffee Company about his passion for coffee.  The audience was enthralled by Mr Grace’s enthusiasm and very quickly understood the need for absolute attention to detail when brewing coffee. The need for coffee roasted to the right degree, freshly ground and added at the right concentration (1.3%) to water at the right temperature (93 degrees) was emphasised. He explained the meaning of strength (nothing to do with the five-point scale marked on the side of packs of coffee) and also body. He also detailed the complex changes which take place as beans aged after roasting and grinding which impact on flavour. 

We were able to sample six coffees, one from CafĂ© Direct, one from Starbucks, and four which were sourced from Beanberry itself, coming from Brazil, Peru, Colombia  and Sarawak. Starbucks fell well short of pleasing our now highly discerning audience, but their opinions were equally split between the latter three coffees, which all attracted keen allegiances from the tasters. This was a stimulating talk at many different levels, and many of those who attended will have spent a sleepless night considering their love of coffee.

We are grateful to Mr Grace for making the time to share his passion for great coffee, and Karen Phillips, of Taste’s Deli, who stock Beanberry Coffee, for arranging the talk.

 (Note the cupping spoons in the waistcoat pockets!)

6th May Mr John McFarlane

The Infusions Society was privileged to have Mr John McFarlane of Norfolk Cordials talk to us about his wonderful fruit syrups, thanks to Karen Phillips from Tastes Delicatessen. Along with some delicious tastes, from the fantastically dry Blackberry cordial to the fascinating combination of Rhubarb, Orange and Ginger, he brought with him a real passion for his cordials that made all of us understand why he has spent six years working to create a product of such exceptional quality.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Baking with BakedIn

I baked something new last weekend: cinnamon swirls. As an experiment, I assure you, not because I quite fancied the idea of eating hot cinnamon swirls straight from the oven. And last night (as my twitter followers know) I baked a sticky toffee & date pudding/cake. To share with my customers of course.

It all started with a new range of home baking kits from BakedIn. We started stocking the kits at Tastes a few weeks ago. What appealed to me about the BakedIn products is their suitability to irregular bakers or those you don't bake the same thing repeatedly, but who want to bake from scratch.  These are not cake mixes, they are boxes of pre-measured ingredients. Which I've come to realise is a great idea. Here's why...

To make cinnamon swirls without the BakedIn kit you need strong white flour (approximately £2 for 1.5kg), icing sugar (£1.28 for 500g), dark muscovado sugar (£1.40 for 500g), caster sugar (99p for 500g), cinnamon (£1.99 for 33g), yeast (£1.15 for 125g) and salt along with the egg, butter and milk you need if you do have the kit.  I expect most people will have salt in their kitchen, and maybe one type of sugar. But unless you bake regularly you probably don't have the other ingredients, especially the strong flour and yeast which are mainly used to make bread.  So you'd spend about £7.80 on new ingredients assuming you had caster sugar and salt. Which is more than the kit costs. You would of course have enough ingredients to make multiple batches, so will save money when you make a second batch. But do you want to keep making the same thing, or would you prefer a sticky toffee pudding instead, or some chocolate brownies, or a lemon drizzle cake? In which case you'd need to buy a collection of other ingredients (self raising flour, dates, soft light brown sugar, bicarbonate of soda and vanilla beans for the sticky toffee alone). Then you'd be faced with where to store all the left over ingredients. Not to mention the baking tins.  I bake quite a lot, have a cupboard full of tins, but rarely the right one for the job! And it seems every new recipe requires an ingredient not already in the full-to bursting baking cupboard.

The BakedIn kits contain exactly the right amount of each ingredient. The things you add to the kits are the things most kitchens will have in them anyway for non-baking uses; eggs, butter, milk etc. So not only does it mean you don't need to weigh everything (in fact you don't need scales at all as the kits come with a handy butter measure so even the ingredients you add don't need to be weighed), it also means no spare ingredients to store or waste. They also come with the correct sized baking tins. I've made many sticky toffee puddings in the past, but was surprised by how much quicker it was to make with the BakedIn kit. That time saving came from not having to hunt through over stuffed cupboards to find the ingredients and tin! All I had to do was open one of the small packets right in front of me.

No left over ingredients. No collection of baking tins. No scales. All the ingredients to hand. Pretty much perfect for the erratic baker in a small kitchen.

The added beauty of the kits are they are not a packet mix cake. They don't contain dehydrated dairy products or any weird-sounding ingredients. They require more than adding liquid and mixing. So you are still baking. You can see exactly what ingredients are going into your bake. You carry out all the vital steps such as creaming butter and sugar. You can adapt the recipe to suit your taste, substitute ingredients if you want to (for example using dairy free "butter" and milk to make a dairy free version). They are also perfect for beginners and children.

And the results taste great! These are tried and tested recipes. No risk that you are buying a bunch of ingredients to make a recipe which fails to impress. Most people who have bought these kits in the three weeks since we started stocking them have returned to buy more. The proof really is in the pudding - here's mine: