Baking Scones with John Whaite

This Tuesday I was invited to attend a food bloggers event held by AO.com and Neff.  My very first event, as a blogger, with a name ...




This Tuesday I was invited to attend a food bloggers event held by AO.com and Neff.  My very first event, as a blogger, with a name badge and everything. I was told there would be afternoon tea, and a chance to bake and fire questions at Great British Bake Off winner, John Whaite. 

First things first... you offer me free food, you've got my attention.

Second things.. er... second.  You offer me a chance to talk about food and bake all day instead of going to work?

Yeah.  I'm totally going.  Just try to stop me.

I was pretty nervous at the prospect of baking with some very talented bakers and in front of someone who's won a national baking competition, what sane person wouldn't be?  But I tried to push down those nerves on the train with the most expensive grapes of my life and a bit of people watching.  God I'm nosy.

So onto the event, after being greeted by several upbeat and friendly faces and receiving my name tag, I was handed a very nice cup of coffee and lead towards what I can only describe as a food bloggers wet dream.

Oh my, the shiny glass top surfaces, the shiny, stylish brand new ovens, the gadgets, the touch sensitive appliances, the domino hobs and the fantastically beautiful overheads.  Oh yes.  This must be what heaven feels like.



We were shown this multitude of amazing looking ovens and hobs by a man called Stephen (I think, my memory is bad with names) who was so upbeat and enthusiastic about what he was showing us that I felt genuine excitement (as much as I'd felt on my wedding day) when he opened a beautiful oven with a flourish and with a raised eyebrow told us we'd be cooking in one of them later on.

The day was getting awesome.



So onto the the man of the hour,  I won't gush, cause gushing isn't usually my bag, but it's very rare to meet someone in the food industry who will hold his hands up and say "I'm not the best, and I make mistakes.  That's how I learn".   He was very unequivocal and I got a strong sense of family values, and of learning from your mistakes.  He pressed on the fact that you shouldn't be embarrassed if things go wrong.

Sound advice, because as we all know, things go wrong in my kitchen.  All. The. Bloody. Time. *Cough* I've set myself on fire several times *Cough*


He highlighted the importance of eating a balanced diet, and enjoying yourself every once in a while without sounding like a self righteous arse.  You got the impression he seriously meant what he was talking about, the passion as he spoke about his recent chocolatiering venture, Hungry Dog, brought back memories of my own dreams of training with chocolate.

Plus anyone that admits to baking bread to relieve stress gets two thumbs up from me.  Cooking is my ultimate stress relief.  In fact, I didn't feel truly relaxed at the event until I was fist deep in scone mix.

But that's a story for later on in the post.

Back to the Q&A.

We're all too used to being looked down on as food bloggers.  John actually celebrated us (whether it was because he was in a room of female food bloggers remains to be seen) and said he enjoyed reading food blogs himself, and even pointed at the lovely Britt (Who I'd met that day, and as a fellow Doctor who fan, is obviously amazing) and said he enjoyed reading her blog.

The Q&A was held after a day of demonstrations and baking, so it was relaxed and quite informal.  I even felt comfortable enough to ask a question I'd been dying to ask.

What is the process you use for creating a recipe?  From thinking of it, to having it in a published book?  Here was his reply, which I've found incredibly useful.

  1. First, I would think of what chapters I want in my book.  Cakes, picnics etc etc
  2. Then what sort of things would I want to see in those chapters, for instance, with a picnics section, things like tray bakes.
  3. Then think of flavours and what sort of ideas I can float from that.
  4. The recipe rolls on from this flow of thinking
  5. It's like having a skeleton, then adding the muscles and then the skin.


During the Q&A, it was strange to have him up front answering our questions as he and the AO & Neff teams integrated themselves during the day to the point where you couldn't distinguish between bloggers or anyone else unless you seriously gawped at name badges like a bit of a pervert.  Everyone got stuck in, had a laugh and it was such a brilliant environment to be a part of.




We were all just a bunch of people who really enjoyed baking / food and a bloody good oven.  Who can complain about that?

John and a lovely lady called Lyn (pictured above) did a demonstration at the start, showing us how you could cook something as delicate as lemon poppy seed cupcakes with something as dominating as fish tarts in the Neff oven, and it wouldn't impair the flavour of the more delicate food.

Later on, when they were cooked, we were offered half a cupcake each (One cooked with the Fish, the other on it's own in the oven) and asked to say which was which.  We all had a good guess, but you couldn't tell at all.

Although I was tempted to ask for another cake, just to make sure.

We were then treated to John making Orange and Cranberry Scones for our afternoon Tea.







Watching someone make scones, along with smelling cakes and tarts being cooked only about a foot away from you is torture.  Especially when you are surviving on a small pot of grapes.  That's all I have to say.  Some of the tips we were given is the following:

  1. Uses eggs in scones as they help with the rising.
  2. And bread flour, with added baking powder - Roughly 1 teaspoon per 100g I do believe. 
  3. Don't roll out your scone dough, flatten it out with your palm.
  4. Don't overwork the mixture.

SO....










Then to my extreme excitement, we were asked to put our cameras away and go and wash our hands, cause it was time to start baking!  I gobbled this news up with voracious glee, because I knew then that I would chill out a bit.

After I'd washed my hands and put on my apron, I was stationed at a... station with a lovely lady named Jo.  We all pulled out our ingredients and got baking.





It was so much fun and I felt so much more relaxed, chatted to the other bloggers and got to use the oven we'd been promised earlier.  Jo & I made plain sweet scones.  As we baked, John wandered over to each station to offer advice and have a chat.









After all the baking, sampling and cleaning up, they lead us through to this:




YEAH THAT'S RIGHT, FREE FOOD!!

Bowls of clotted cream, freshly baked scones, tarts and cakes.  We all grabbed a plate and were told to dig in.

And dig in we did.  After 10 minutes of everyone taking pictures.  Ah, to be in a room with like minded people.  Bliss.

I had a little bit of everything and about 12 cups of tea (Are you surprised?  ARE YOU?!)  Everyone had a nice chat and a bit of a laugh.  It was a lovely atmosphere.



Then we were led into the presentation room again to hear the Q&A with John I detailed earlier on in the post.

It was an awesome day, made so by good food and good company.  SO TO SUM UP.


  1. John Whaites = Nice and full of very useful scone tips.
  2. Bloggers who attended event = Absolutely lovely.
  3. In fact everyone there was pretty awesome.  Cheers AO & Neff!
  4. Scones = good.
  5. Tarts = good.
  6. Let's just go with all free food is good, but these were pretty awesome.
  7. I did not set fire to myself.
  8. I didn't have to do any washing up.
  9. I did make a mess though.  Oops.
  10. I got to keep my apron.  This made me happy.
  11. I got a really awesome goody bag, filled with the items below.
  12. The train ride home, someone clocked my name badge and giggled.  Glad someone else finds my blog name amusing.  Either that or they were laughing at my chest, which I don't appreciate so much.
  13. I just properly discovered the 'numbered list' icon in the editor.  Hence the overuse of them in this post.
  14. Not even sorry.






Thank you for AO.com and Neff for inviting me and feeding me.  I had so much fun!

Click here for the official play-by-play. (plus a list of all the very talented bloggers that joined me there)

Not all the photos on this blog were taken by me.  Those that are unmarked (without my stamp) are credited to Ao.com.  My own are stamped with my logo.

Here's the stop motion video we were shown - they were really good!


Laters!



You Might Also Like

10 Comments

  1. Emma this all sounds absolutely amazing! Wow! I can't bake to save my life and even I'm jealous of getting to play in such a great kitchen :D

    I'm so glad you had such a great time!

    x

    ReplyDelete
  2. wow That sounds like a really fun experience. And all those pastries...o..I am in love!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This looks like it was quite the fun experience.. and a delicious event too! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a wonderful experience.!! food, fun and good company! Blessings, Catherine

    ReplyDelete
  5. So jealous, I can imagine how much fun this was! Although, I did get to meet John too at the BBC Kitchens once and he was a lot of fun to talk too :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love when you share these experiences with us! Makes me so jealous but yet so excited!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Looks sooooooooo fun! I'm sad as I was invited to this but couldn't make it down. Would have been nice to meet you xx

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a super fun event!! I am so jealous of all your learnt, saw and ate!! :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    ReplyDelete
  9. Emma, This looks like a fantastic experience. I am sure you enjoyed every minute. All looks delicious too. Blessings, Catherine

    ReplyDelete
  10. It sounds like a fantastic event. I'm very envious and would love to have been there.

    ReplyDelete

Don't be shy, say hello and voice your opinion! I love your comments and reply to all I can. Thank you!