I wanted to have a post about baking on a budget, and the best person to write it is my wife Becky – a brilliant baker. So over to Mrs Webb!
The Great British Bake Off is back! To celebrate GBBO’s return I thought I’d show you just how much cheaper, and tastier, it can be to make your own creations
Andy and I are big fans of GBBO and we thought last year’s series was a return to form. If you’re also a fan and you feel like mixing some muffins or perfecting your profiteroles, we’ve some tips and tricks to get more for your dough, whatever your level.
Get the right equipment to ensure no soggy bottoms!
This doesn’t need to be as expensive as it sounds. We discovered the TK Maxx baking section on a trip to the Charing Cross Road store and have been converted – not hard when you can get really excellent quality essentials at hefty discounts.
For example, they have brands such as Le Creuset, Joseph Joseph, Jamie Oliver and Tala and everything is brand new and in perfectly good condition. Stock changes regularly but recently we’ve seen Salter weighing scales (the most accurate scales) for 50% off, classic GBBO bakeware with a significant reduction and if you like to practice your icing techniques a decorating turntable at nearly 60% off. Paul and Mary, sorry Paul and Prue, would be proud.
Baking goods aren’t just in TK Maxx stores, you can also see what bargains are available online.
Baking books are great, but can you make do with online?
Although admittedly it is lovely to have shelves adorned with baking and cookery books by the latest culinary experts, this can be a pricey hobby. Check out The Book People for real bargains if you like the weight and feel of a real cookbook. Titles include the new book from GBBO faves such as last year’s finalist Kim Joy (her Baking With Kim-Joy is currently £6.99) and previous winner Nadia Hussain (you can get Time to Eat, also brand new for £7.99)
However, if you need expertise but without the squeeze on your finances then I always find online baking sites really handy. Most of the top pastry chefs or TV cooks have their own websites nowadays and they are mostly bang up to date with that must-try recipe they made on their latest episode. The BBC Food and Good Food websites are a goldmine of brilliant information about all things baking – you can even search by ingredient(s). Or search by chef if you have a bit of a chef-y crush (like me on Marcus Wareing). Jamie Oliver’s website is great as is Nigella Lawson’s.
It’s always worth keeping an eye out for independent food bloggers like Joy the Baker or Bakerella. There are some fab vegan blogs too – This Rawsome Vegan Life or the more widely-known Deliciously Ella are my top picks. The picture of the raw date and hazelnut brownies will make you drool and they are more or less sin-free!
You don’t need expensive ingredients or equipment
Odds and ends from the fridge and basic ingredients all make treats as tasty as if you’d used premium products. And it doesn’t have to be harder to use some elbow grease. There are some easy recipes that take very little effort, like these for soda bread and cookies.
I often make these brownies that involve just five ingredients, a bowl to mix it all together, a spoon, and a tray to bake them in (oh, and an oven!):
- 300g chocolate (whatever brand you like but must be dark or milk, not white)
- 300g unsalted butter
- 450g sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 200g plain flour
- Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl in the microwave, in one-minute bursts on half power
- In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar
- Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the sugar and eggs and mix well
- Sift in the flour and mix well until all flour has disappeared
- Pour into a square/rectangular tin lined with greaseproof paper
- Bake in the oven heated to 180 degrees C for 45mins to 1 hour
- Once cooled, cut into 12 to 16 squares (depending on how big you like your brownies)
But if do you want a fancy mixer…
I sometimes make and sell celebration cakes so I’ve two Kenwood KMix stand mixers. These are great for everyday baking too, and they are far more affordable than the Kitchenaid ones you see on Bake Off which retail for between £400 and £600. In fact, it’s now quite common during sales to be able to pick one up for under £200 (Andy has spotted them for as low as £160 – keep an eye on his homes deals page for the next bargains he finds).
We can’t promise they’ll turn you into the next Nadiya but they’ll certainly make your life easier (and your kitchen look good).
Go on a course to improve your skills
If you’d like to become a better baker, going on a course would be a good idea. Lots of colleges around the country offer baking courses – from one day cake decorating tutorials to year-long diplomas, there is something for everyone at all levels. Courses can be expensive but Groupon and other voucher sites often have great offers available.
If you are on JSA or a student you can often get an amazing discount or sometimes even get a place on a course for free. I was looking for work and claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance a few years ago and completed an NVQ Level Three course at Westminster Kingsway College for just £225 when the full-price course would have cost £1300.
Or you could treat yourself to a day at GBBO series three winner, John Whaite’s cookery school and learn how to bake and decorate perfect cakes, pastries and bread.
Or just watch the professionals on YouTube
If you don’t want to be taught in person then you should check out YouTube. There are loads of great ‘how to’ videos on there from big name chefs to ordinary people like you and me just baking at home. Here is the video from Paul Hollywood that taught me how to make a quick puff pastry.
Make some cash with a stall or bake sale
If you have a bit of a talent, some time on your hands, and people skills then why not have a go at holding a bake sale or getting a pitch at a local market to sell your wares? This way you can make a bit of cash to fund your baking habit.
We did this a couple of years ago (OK, more than a couple of years…) at a small local market and sold out on our first attempt. That’s where the pic above was taken. It is a fair bit of work to make enough to have a stall, but if you get a couple of friends to help you then you’ll easily have enough sweet treats to sell.
You can find out more about starting your own cake stall from former GBBO runner-up Kimberley Wilson here. Or just head down to your nearest regular market and ask the stall owners how they first started.
Oh, and quick plug for Andy’s sister’s delicious baking company Wren Cakes. If you live in Streatham or South London you should go buy one of her cakes!