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Austere times drive people baking mad

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TO baking mad

After seducing dessert lovers with his treats in BBC Lifestyle’s Glamour Puds, French pâtissier Eric Lanlard returns with Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard. This time, he explores the growing phenomenon of baking clubs, where he is surprised by the skills of some of the amateur bakers. Debashine Thangevelo got the lowdown on what viewers can expect…

HIS pierced left ear, bejewelled with a diamond stud, is as much an Eric Lanlard signature as his designer cakes and pastries.

The French pâtissier and celebrity TV chef first romanced viewers with two series of Glamour Puds – that’s not forgetting his handful of inspired baking books – and he is super excited about his new BBC Lifestyle venture, Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard.

Chatting to me from London, on an extraordinarily sunny day, Lanlard enlightens me on the format of his latest show.

“There has been a baking revolution in the UK. A lot of people are blaming – not in a bad way – the economy. People are entertaining more and spending more time in the kitchen. In the last couple of years, everyone has gone baking mad. The sales of baking products and sugar have soared. There has never been as much kitchen equipment sold.

“One of the things we came across was people who had baking clubs. I was surprised and investigated more,” he says.

eric lanlard berries

Operating on a similar premise to book clubs, these gatherings of passionate bakers see them share ideas and experiences.

“Anybody from any age or background can get together and make cakes. So we created a show and invited them to come to my house and show me one of their favourite cakes. And I give them a nice little judgement. It is done in a nice way – I’m not Gordon Ramsay. I’m not going to make them cry or destroy their homes. I simply give them constructive tips,” offers Lanlard.

In the 10-episode series, the former apprentice of Le Grand Patisserie, Brittany, has had the great fortune to meet some truly talented people. He says he has some great memories.

“One was with the kickboxers – the most unexpected baking club we could find. There are these three big guys who spend most of their time fighting in the ring or training and then you find them making cookies and little chocolate cakes. It was funny how seriously they take it. They were very competitive. But their baking didn’t go that well; their presentation was terrible – they came with a plastic box with cookies. However, they scored the highest as they used great ingredients and didn’t put in too much sugar. I was blown away by the quality of their cookies. The simple recipes are the best,” comments Lanlard.

“We had a family that did a lovely christening cake. Their mother never bought them cakes as kids. Now they all still bake together at home and they continue that tradition. They did a great three-tier christening cake.”

Besides allowing the baking club folk room to flourish with their delectable signature offerings, the celebrity chef also offered spoonfuls of advice.

“For the kickboxers, I did some morning muffins packed with good ingredients and seeds. We also had three neighbours who love baking. One had a son who couldn’t have any wheat or dairy products. And he is 12 and has never had a cake in his life as a result. I created a recipe for her to bake him his first cake.”

Aside from empowering viewers with baking tips, Lanlard also tries to cajole them into relinquishing their fear of baking or making cakes.

“I want people to watch the show and learn something from it. When you watch a cooking show and it finishes, you want to make it (the dish). We always try to keep things very simple. I try not to use fancy ingredients and have viewers running around the city trying to find them,” Lanlard says.

With his café, Cake Boy, doing exceptionally well, as are his baking classes, Lanlard is basking in the sweet success of his labour of love – baking.

• Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard airs on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 180) on Monday at 8.30pm.

Why not try one of Eric’s delicous recipes:

Genoise Sponge with Summer Berries

Ingredients:

250gr of golden caster sugar

8 eggs

250gr plain flour

50gr melted butter

For the filling:

500ml cream

2 tsp vanilla sugar

750g assorted fresh seasonal berries; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and redcurrants

Icing sugar to dust

Method:

• Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line the base of two 22cm cake tins.

• Put the sugar and eggs in a heat proof bowl and place on a bain marie, beat continuously until the mixture starts to thicken.

• Now remove the mixture from the bain marie and whisk the mixture with a hand electric whisk or in a freestanding mixer at full speed for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in volume and pale and fluffy.

• Melt the butter until it reaches buerre noisette stage - when it becomes golden brown and takes on a beautiful nutty flavour. With the electric whisk still running, pour the melted butter into the egg and sugar mixture. Sift in the flour and fold it gently into the mixture with a large metal spoon, be careful not to overmix at this stage as this will prevent the cake rising well.

" Divide the mixture between your prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble:

• Beat the cream with the vanilla sugar until it is nice and fluffy.

• Take your cooled sponges and remove the top golden layer from each cake (don't throw these away - they can be enjoyed as a teatime treat with homemade jam and cream!) cut the sponges horizontally so you have four thin layers of sponge to build your cake.

• Place the first sponge layer and place on cake stand or serving plate. Spread with a layer of whipped cream and then arrange a layer of berries on top. Larger berries may need to be sliced. Add another thin layer of cream and then place second sponge on top. Top this sponge just with cream. Place a third layer of sponge on top and add cream and berries, top with final sponge and spread layer of cream on top and a layer of berries. I like to keep the green stalks on the strawberries for this layer as it creates an attractive, fresh look. Finish with a final dusting of icing sugar and serve!


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