There is not a weekend without freshly baked cakes in our family home. Since I was a child and big enough to hold a cake mixer, my mum would task my sister and I with baking duties – whisking eggs and sugar, weighing flour and chocolate dipping. And of course the best duty of all – eating any leftover cake mix straight out of the bowl. My mum is an expert baker and I’ve never quite measured up. So when I heard there was a Christmas inspired evening run by ‘Bake with Maria’, I didn’t need much persuading. Founded by a passionate baker Maria Mayerhofer, ‘Bake with Maria’ offers baking classes in her Baking Lab, which she opened in 2011 in St. John’s Wood.
Maria hosted an evening for fellow food enthusiasts – there were cakes, freshly baked breads and mulled wine, as well as many gift ideas from guest brands. The stairwell to The Baking Lab was beautifully lined with candles, paving a way to a rather enchanting evening. The room was filled with chit-chat and gingerbread aromas, pots and pans clanging.
It was an evening not only pleasing the taste buds, but heart-warming as well. We listened to personal stories from people who pursued their passions, and seeing and tasting their creations, the love for what they do was very apparent.
There were presentations of wonderful products and special gift ideas, including delicious artisan treats from Lavolio Boutique Confectionery – a company, founded by Lavinia Davolio who makes some of the tastiest sweets I’ve tasted. It takes five days to make a batch and all her creations are vegetarian and gluten-free. They come in pretty boxes too, which Lavinia designs herself.
If jams and preserves take your fancy, why not try some award-winning produce from the The London Jam Factory. Pierre-Louis Phelipot experiments with different and unusual flavours, summoning to wonder creations such as ‘Fig and Cinnamon’ and ‘Raspberry and Geranium’.
Jo Heckett’s hand-made Christmas ornaments will make any Christmas tree look million dollars! Jo’s technique easily resembles the one of a baker – she rolls out the porcelain clay and uses cookie cutters to create shapes, which she decorates with real gold, platinum and glaze, and bakes in the oven. This year’s new additions include snowflakes, little Christmas trees and Christmas jumpers.
The evening ended with a live baking session and Maria got a few of us involved. Maria baked her Christmas brownies, which she decorated with a strawberry and whipped cream – yes you guessed it, making it into a cute Santa’s hat.
You can make your own Christmas brownies by following Maria’s recipe:
140g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
160g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
115g chocolate chips
Whipped cream and strawberries for decoration
Melt half of the butter and pour it over your remaining butter in a medium bowl – this way all of your butter will be nice and soft and room temperature
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients together so they are well combined.
Place the egg, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of your standmixer. Mix at medium speed until the mixture is frothy. Alternating between your flour and butter and add these ingredients in 3 additions to the egg mixture whilst you are whisking.
Remove the bowl from your standmixer and fold in your chocolate chips. Pour the mixture in to a piping bag and rest the mixture for 1-2 hours at room temperature.
Turn your oven to 175C, grease your muffin tray (or the tray you plan to bake the muffins in). Pipe the mixture into the molds and just stop 3 mm below the rim. Bake for 18 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Maria runs a variety of baking classes as well as private baking lessons, and there is a culinary holiday in Tuscany taking place in May 2016.
There is no better gift than the gift of giving and these unique presents will make anyone feel extra special, and not just at Christmas.
For more information on classes and gift vouchers, visit: www.bakewithmaria.com. The Baking Lab is located at 2nd Floor, 81 Loudoun Road, London NW8 0DQ. Nearest station: South Hampstead.