Paul Hollywood's Cookery Demonstration at Gloucester Quays Food Festival

From Friday 18th to Sunday 20th July, Gloucester Quays was taken over by the Gloucester Quays Food Festival. More than 120 market stalls were set up showcasing the very best food, drink and crafts from all over the world, and there was also a Food Festival Cake Taste Off for those feeling brave enough to put their Victoria Sponge under scrutiny. Live cooking and baking demos were also held throughout the weekend, including a demo on contemporary cake design and a chance to watch Frances Quinn, the reigning champion of the Great British Bake Off. On top of all of this, both Paul Hollywood and James Martin held demos in the Cookery Theatre, drawing in crowds on both Saturday and Sunday. I was lucky enough to attend Paul Hollywood’s demo and was able to have a quick chat with him too (you can read the interview here).

As we waited for the demonstration to start, I wasn’t entirely sure whether the deafening drumming sound was coming from the rain pouring onto the roof of the marquee, or from the fluttering hearts of the women all around me. To say that the crowd has reached a fever pitch whilst waiting for Paul Hollywood to take his place at the counter would be an understatement. The seats were full despite the hideous weather, and the (predominantly female) audience was excited to see Paul at close range.

Although I’m a big fan of GBBO and Paul, even I was a little taken aback at greeting he received when he took the stage to T Rex’s Get It On: there was rapturous applause, some gentle shrieking and more than one indecent remark within earshot of me. I’m not exaggerating to say that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a pair of knickers being thrown on stage. I really had not expected such a raucous crowd at a 10.30am celebrity demonstration at the Gloucester Quays Food Festival. At one point, a man was booed vehemently when he dared to put his hand up in response to the question ‘does anybody here not watch GBBO?’ Still, it was a good sign for the Food Festival that the rain hadn’t dampened the spirit of things.

Paul is clearly a seasoned pro at giving demonstrations, as he gave loads of great tips and kept the audience laughing throughout with references to Mary Berry’s age (it went up from 104 to about 165 by the end of the demo) and his tan. He said he was ‘looking a bit peaky at the moment’ and was eager to start his holiday in Italy, but, I promise, he was the colour of burnt caramel. He did shatter the illusions of the swooning audience in one fell swoop though, when he admitted that his perma-tan is a complete t-shirt tan, thanks, largely, to his convertible. Husbands everywhere sighed with relief at finding this one flaw.

We were treated to a few titbits on the new series of Great British Bake Off, coming to BBC1 very soon, and he was genuinely excited about the new talent. He knows who the winner is and promised us that we’d be surprised, hinting that based on the pattern of the previous winners (Edd, Jo, John, Francis), the winner should be male this year, and then said ‘it won’t be...or it might be’. We’d better just watch it for ourselves, I suppose. If you can’t wait for GBBO to start for your baking fix, here are some of Paul’s top baking tips.

Scones

Paul swiftly put to bed the most hotly debated issue facing the baking world: is it a scone, as in gone, or a scone, as in cone?  It is apparently indubitably a scone, as in gone. The Queen Mother said so, as did Mary Berry, so that’s that.

Paul showed us how to make red onion and Parmesan scones and made it look incredibly easy. He explained how important it is to use strong white flour instead of plain flour, promising us it would ‘revolutionise our baking’, thanks to the power of the gluten.

Paul’s top tips for scone baking:

1)Work the mixture with your hands, not a mixer.

2)Add quality Parmesan, ‘not cat-sick Parmesan’ from a box.

3)When cutting out scones, the frilly edge is known in hotels as the working class edge, and the round edge is the posh edge.

4)Brush only the tops of the scones with egg wash; don’t allow any of it to seep over the sides, as they won’t be able to grow enough when baking.

Plaited Loaf

Now, I still remember poor Sarah Jane’s attempts to make a plaited loaf in GBBO’s third series. There were tears, there was a lot of panic, and there was most certainly not a plait at the end of it. Paul wanted to prove how easy they actually are to make, so after he worked the dough, he flew through the steps to make a pretty plait in record speed – what a show off (and it is definitely not the same as plaiting hair, by the way). He then asked for a volunteer to come and make one alongside him, and had to choose from about 300 very willing women. The lucky lady tried very hard but did not make it look quite as effortless as he had been hoping. I watched it and made notes and still don’t fully understand what those talented hands were doing. Incidentally, Paul seems to have been destined to be good with his hands, as he originally trained to be a sculptor. Just imagine – you could re-enact that scene from Ghost before digging in to his perfectly formed buns...

Paul’s top tips for making a plaited loaf:

1)Fast action yeast is the best to use.

2)Put olive oil on the worktop, not flour.

3)Work the dough until it’s stretchy and smooth – ‘it should not resemble the back of your mum’s leg’.

4)Roll out the dough using all of your hand, from the tip of your fingers to the palm of your hand.

At the end of his demonstration, Paul answered a few questions from the audience, telling us that the most difficult things he’s had to learn how to bake are probably macarons or sourdough. Amongst other favourites, he loves baking a rich chocolate cake using ground almonds instead of flour, topped with a chocolate ganache and raspberries; the mere mention of chocolate and raspberries together elicited groans from the crowd. He explained that he prefers to use plain flour with baking powder rather than self-raising, and, finally, he declared that he has never made a mistake whilst doing a baking demonstration, and if he had, it probably wasn’t his fault. So there you have it – an hour in the company of Paul Hollywood, the silver fox of the baking world.

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