Queen chats to Anneka Manning of BakeClub

Anneka Manning is perhaps our closest heir to the title of Baking “Queen”. She is a food editor, cookbook author, cooking teacher, home economist, and the founder of Sydney’s BakeClub baking school. In her 23 years in the industry, Anneka has worked for an impressive list of leading food publications – including Australian Gourmet Traveller, australian good taste and The Australian Women’s Weekly. In celebration of our partnership with BakeClub, today we chat to her to learn more about the cooking school and her recently released book, BakeClass.

About Anneka Manning & BakeClub

Anneka has compiled and written a number of successful, award-winning books, including good food and more good food (Text Publishing). Most recently, she was the editor, publisher and a contributor of the highly successful Mastering the Art of Baking (Murdoch Books). Her friendly and engaging approach to her writing and teaching comes with her vast experience and a firm belief in ‘simple food done well’, relying on sound basics, simple techniques and quality ingredients. Anneka believes that baking is something to be valued, and, ultimately, shared. “Baking is love made edible.”

Anneka, as the founder of BakeClub, tell us what does a typical day looks like for you?

No day is the same and, like anyone running their own small business, there is always something unexpected that pops up. The main things that fill my days are preparing for my hands-on BakeClasses (which involves everything form writing lesson plans to setting up for classes); hosting classes and events; writing blogs and guest columns; writing, testing and shooting recipes (including those for my regular SBS Food Bakeproof column and my BakeClasses); social media and website planning and content creation; writing our regular newsletter, BakeNews; replying to reader enquiries; media interviews for print, online, TV and radio; and working with my designer to create both print and online collateral.

Congratulations on the launch of your new book BakeClass. Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to create this book? What has been your favourite part of the journey to produce BakeClass. Do you have a favourite recipe?

Thank you! This book is based on my approach baking and is divided into 10 lessons based on the most common mixing methods used in baking recipes. The concept is unique (it’s not structured like your typical baking book) but it reflects the way I teach baking and allows home cooks to learn in a really logical and progressive way. I started writing this book over 3 years ago when I first launched BakeClub and much of what I’ve learnt from my students – what scares them the most about baking, what they need to know to give them the confidence and skill to bake successfully and what inspires them to bake, has been incorporated into it. As a result it is a really user-friendly and approachable book, it explains not only the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ of baking and it will really teach readers how to bake in their own kitchen.
Coming from a publishing background (in magazines, books and newspapers) I did love the whole process – from concept to promotion – but my favourite part was the photography shoot. We had an incredibly creative team working on BakeClass and my vision for this book was interpreted beautifully…we also had fun eating Sticky Toffee Pudding for breakfast too!

We can imagine you have some pretty well-loved baking tools by now, what are the essentials for great (and easy) baking?

Yes, my second drawer is full of my well-worn baking tools! Three of my favourites, and most used, are my electronic scales, timer and spoonula.
I love my scales as they make measuring when you are baking a breeze. Electronic scales have a number of features that will save you time in the kitchen, including the ability to ‘zero’ the reading (the tare weight) so you can measure a number of ingredients, one after another, into the same bowl – brilliant really!
My timer is constantly in use. Even with my experience I always like to use a timer, mainly because I get distracted easily with other things. A portable digital timer is an extremely handy tool for your kitchen, even if your oven already has a built-in one – they are accurate and can be taken with you if you leave the kitchen. It’s a small price to pay to stop you form over baking something.

I bought my first spoonula back in the early 90’s. What is this you ask…basically it’s a rubber or silicone spatula with a shallow bowl like a spoon – which makes light work of folding mixtures, transferring them to cake pans and then scraping the bowl. I would highly recommend you buy one (or three!) of these if they don’t already have one …you really will wonder what you ever did with out it!

(Check out more of Anneka’s favourite kitchen tools here!)

The trends in baking are quite extreme at the moment – at one end there’s crazy layer cakes and ‘mashups’ and at the other end is the resurgence of beautifully honest, simple baking such as some of the recipe you share through BakeClub and BakeClass. What is it about classic baking that makes your heart sing?

Whilst we all love the spectacular there is nothing quite like the simple done really, really well. I strongly believe that in recent years we have got so caught up with ‘look’ that the flavor, texture and true experience of baking has been left behind.
Recipes with lots of ingredients and/or elaborate techniques, can be, but aren’t always the most memorable ones – well, not in a good way at least! Trust me, they are often the once that will give you a headache in the kitchen and be for more trouble that they are worth.
A classic cinnamon tea cake made with only six basic ingredients and finish with a simple sprinkling of sweet spice is far from complex, but ins unfailingly wonderful – especially when it’s served warm from the oven!

 

What recipes and styles do you think personify Australian baking? Is there anything lost that you’d like to see come back?

Aussies have always been pretty good at whipping up a cake – sponges, buttercakes, one-bowl mixes…the list goes on. We draw on our heritage and multiculturalism and have a cake for every occasion.
Scones are the one thing that I would like to see resurface. They haven’t disappeared, but the good ones certainly are hard to find. Bring back the light, fresh, well-made scone I say!

 

Through BakeClub, you offer baking classes for both adults and kids. What are some great recipes for introducing kids to baking? Do you have any memorable experience when baking with the kids at BakeClub you’d like to share?

We sure do. Kids are such sponges (the soaking up type not the eating type…) and they are far more capable that what we often give them credit for.
The best recipes for kids are those that get them to use their hands and heads. I’ve been teaching kids since my own were at preschool (and that was a long time ago!) and I’ve realized that it isn’t just the ‘knowledge’ about cooking and baking that the kids absorb. There are so many other things they learn.
Whisking, stirring, rolling, mashing, icing and cutting get the job done while also helping development of fine motor skills. Problem solving and experimentation are always big in our sessions – the kids are often given the chance to predict what may happen when a bunch of ingredients came together or when a mixture is put in the oven and heated, for example – so their cognitive skills are developed. Being introduced to words such as the names of utensils (spatula and whisk), the state of food (stiff and scrambled) and cooking processes (smashing, squeezing and sizzling) does wonders to extend their vocabulary.
Most importantly though when choosing a recipe for children is to make sure it allows them to be involved. They will feel proud of what they create and love sharing the rewards with their family and friend. The smiles will be huge and is so good for their positive self-esteem and self-confidence.
Have you had any memorable cake-fails? Do you have any baking tips to help avoid cake-fails?
The most recent one was forgetting to add eggs to a cupcake recipe. We were preparing for one of our kids classes and they just didn’t go in…no real excuse other than a lot going on that day and possibly we were a little distracted!
They rose beautifully in the oven only to fall with a big crater in the center of each at the final stages of baking. I knew exactly what had happened as this is the stuff that our classes are based on. Without getting too technical, the protein in eggs stabilizes a cake mixture and creates the structural foundations. Without eggs the structure will collapse once the mixture is baked causing it to fall dramatically in the centre.
My advice about how to avoid cake-fails is to find a good recipe from a reputable source and follow it…at least for the first time so you know what results are intended before you start making adjustments (knowingly or unknowingly!).

 

Lastly, what’s on the horizon for BakeClub in 2016-2017? Can you share some snippets about upcoming classes and workshops? What recipes are you working on at the moment?

It’s been a big year so far with the launch of my new book, BakeClass, and we have just recently re-launched the BakeClub website with a gorgeous, seriously enticing new look.
Our next exciting 6-month Make Me a Baker program starts in mid-May and we have a bunch of fabulous BakeClasses, including a new ‘Advanced Pastry’ class, line-up for the rest of the year. My regular Bakeproof column with SBS Food will continue to inspire, I have a special pastry and meringue MasterClass coming up in early May with delicious. Magazine and I’m thrilled to be presenting at the Sydney Cake Bake & Sweets Show in June. I also have a bunch of other special public and private events planned for the rest of the year. So it’s going to be a big one!
If anyone would like to keep up to date with what I’m up to, what great events and class we have planned and what is the latest news in the world of baking you can join BakeClub and we will be sure to keep you informed through BakeNews, our regular newsletter.

 

To hear more from Anneka and the team over at BakeClub, follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube!

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