National Baking Week: We Meet The Bearded Baker

Here at Topps Tiles, we know the heart of any home is the kitchen, so, with National Baking Week on the horizon, we thought we'd celebrate by settling down for a chat with three baking bloggers.

For our first foray into the fascinating world of food blogging, we met up with Yorkshire-based baker Mike Hawkes of The Bearded Bakery. 25-year-old Mike has been baking since 2010 and tries to indulge his hobby at least once a week.

See what he had to say on the subject of food photography, the perfect Christmas snack, and peanut butter...

What inspired you to start baking? Did you have any training or experience prior to starting your blog?

I'm not really sure where to begin with this! I have had zero training or experience. My baking mainly stems from when I started university - I had to teach myself to cook properly, to make sure that I was getting the right sorts of foods. After a couple of years of throwing meals together I started trying my hand at baking a few things. Then something just clicked and I now bake at least once a week, and I'd do it more often if I could afford the ingredients.

In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about being a baking blogger? Have you encountered any unexpected challenges?

There are two main things I'd say here: the costs of ingredients and the photography. Buying the ingredients to bake frequently all mounts up and it's something I have to try and budget in to my monthly spends. When it comes to photographs, the standard on most food/baking blogs tends to be really high, which means that unless yours is too, most people won't bother with your blog.

How do you decide what you are going to create and write about? Do you have a trick to help you pick?

Step one: does it contain peanut butter? But no, not really. I tend to do it on a week-by-week basis and just make what I fancy eating, or what someone may have requested.

Where do your recipes come from? Are they handed down from family and friends, or are they your own inventions?

Unfortunately nothing is handed down, although I will undoubtedly inherit my gran's recipes at some point. Most of my recipes come from books (my collection is slowly but surely growing) or the internet. I'll often try and put my own twist on things I've found online though. I also experiment fairly often, which doesn't always end well.

What do you think is the most important tip for successful baking?

Patience. Don't just throw everything in a bowl and stick it in the oven. If there are instructions, follow them. Learn about the ingredients you are going to be using and why they are going into what you are making. If you don't know why the baking powder is there, for instance, you may be less worried about getting the amounts wrong.

Who is your biggest baking inspiration? How have they helped you in becoming the baker you are?

This is a tough one; I can name more chefs than bakers! For me, it's all fairly self-driven.

What is your proudest achievement in baking?

Out of all the things I've made it's possibly one of the more simple things: Cranberry and Orange Loaves. I make several every year in the run up to Christmas. They taste incredible, and are great either as dessert or a snack.

Which recipe of yours is the most popular?

The recipe that I probably had the largest amount of good feedback on was for my Peanut Butter and Bourbon cookies. People frequently ask me when I'm making them again.

What do you think are the most important skills to have as a baker? Any advice to aspiring bakers?

Once again, it's all about patience, but also a strong arm (unless you're lucky enough to have a food mixer straight from the off), and creativity. One thing I will say is don't worry if your cakes (or whatever it is you're baking) don't look like they've been made by a professional. Decorating skills can come with time; worry more about the taste than about covering them with intricate frosting patterns!

National Baking Week runs from October 14th - 20th 2013.

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