Once again, you’d barely know it was a spring term holiday from the turnout at our bonus baking session. Much to our surprise, 6 of our 8 trainees attended. We’d only expected 4 of them, but a few extras were able to get some childminding help from friends and come along. Seeing this level of dedication is just another affirmation that our trainees are eager to learn, feel they are getting something out of coming and feel good about their participation.

So, with our bread instructor Deb on holiday with her family, I drew upon my many years as a domestic baker and taught our trainees how to bake the following: rye chocolate muffins, orange polenta cake, vanilla pound cake, and wholemeal shortbread biscuits.

The focus was on having fun, and fun we all had. We reviewed the basic procedure for sugar baking from the previous bonus baking session: first cream butter and sugar, add eggs, then flour, etc. We touched upon the purpose of folding and proper technique. We brainstormed alternate flavourings and learned a few tricks for testing for doneness. To develop our listening skills and practice a bit of writing, we took down the ingredients for the pound cake as a dictation. And to get some practice developing numeracy skills, we converted those ingredients from ounces to grams.

The best part may well have been when we made the wholemeal shortbread biscuits, which were inspired by a recipe from The Paris Baker in the Financial Times. Each trainee had a go at some carving, and made elaborate potato stamps for a cocoa paste to top the biscuits. We used these for half of our biscuits, which we formed after rolling the dough into a log and slicing off individual biscuits. The other half of the dough was flavoured with rosewater, rolled into little balls, given dimples in the centre and filled with cherry jam. Both were delicious.

Luckily for us, Myatt’s Field Park was renting out some of its space to a film crew the day of our session. The site manager purchased a number of our muffins and cakes for his team, bringing our takings for the day to over £60! Needless to say, our trainees were happy to see a tangible value placed on their work. And the positive feedback was nice, too!

Up next: Graduation on 1 May, then on to work placements and a stint at Celebrating Sanctuary at the Southbank on 15 June.