The Big Bake

Cooking up a storm…

Well the great Christmas bake-off almost didn’t happen as, despite all my careful planning regarding logistics, quantities etc, I had overlooked one vital task – buying the ingredients! So at 10.00pm on a cold, Wednesday evening I dragged myself away from the fire and legged it to Tesco for a frantic trolley dash in the baking aisle. Disaster averted, my job saved…

The day of the bake off dawned and the mark-making* crew assembled bright and early, rolling pins and aprons at the ready. After a brief team huddle (it was very cold in there), we split into groups and set to work like a well-oiled machine. The Russes (Holt and Hendo) zested, Kasia cubed, Steve sifted, Lisa (that’s me) ladled and Nic kneaded. By 11.00am the fridge shelves were laden with rows of neatly cling-filmed biscuit dough and we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and looking at the prospect of an early finish. Did I mention we had to bake over a thousand biscuits?

We moved on to phase II of the operation – rolling, cutting and cooking. At this point it became apparent that cutting out a biscuit is not as straightforward as might first appear. Whilst Steve and Nic were able to produce a series of uniformly thick and regularly shaped biscuits, Russ Holt went to war! He wrestled with his dough and wielded his rolling pin like a bayonet – producing an array of hefty biscuits that wouldn’t look out of place on a nightclub door. His biscuits were big, thick, not to be messed with baked goods – and you’ll know if you’ve got one! However, like a good soldier, he battled on and before long had mastered his tools.

By now it was time for Nic to crank up the oven, which in itself was akin to competing in the Krypton Factor . The professional catering oven we were using was significantly more complicated than your standard Hotpoint – temperature and time proved the easy bit; levels of relative humidity, crispness, the space time continuum proved a little trickier, but before long she was loaded up and we were off. At high noon the first batch of biscuits were ready and we basked in the warm glow of success. 60 biscuits down, 990 to go…

At 2.30pm our numbers dwindled – Kasia and Russ Hendo returned to mark-making HQ for a meeting and I was diverted by the school run. Nic, Stev and Russ Holt laboured on through the long hours of the afternoon, but spirits were running low by now as the sheer enormity of the task began to overwhelm us all. A couple of dodgy dough batches had to be binned and things were not looking good. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

Fast forward to 4.00pm and the team were back up to strength, the radio was pumping out some Christmas tunes and we had our mojo back! In a truly inspiring demonstration of teamwork we rolled, cut, loaded and unloaded the oven, cooled and even managed to spray the biscuits silver before they were packed away. Like a well-rehearsed ballet we moved around the kitchen in perfect time. One final count confirmed that we had done it – 1050 biscuits baked! We were tired, we had flour in our hair, silver spray on our shoes, the kitchen was a mess but the job was completed. Would I do it again? Could we make this into a profitable operation? Do I still like gingerbread? That’ll be no, no and no! But hopefully our clients will enjoy them.

And one final word of thanks to Francis Green, the Cotswold Traiteur, who kindly lent us his commercial kitchen. He offered an inch and we took a mile, shutting him out of his own kitchen for the whole day with our insane idea – thanks Frank!

📖Download the recipe

Baked with love