Quintessential Baking!

Senior School, Alumnae

On Friday the 5th of February, Francis Quinn, the winner of the Great British Bake Off in 2013, visited the food technology department at the Royal High School. She gave us a demonstration, told us the story of how she came to apply to the Bake Off and win, and answered some of our questions.

She first started by demonstrating to us her small marzipan bees. She whisked the yolk of one egg, the rind of one orange and 1tsp of orange blossom water, and then once they were whisked together, she added 50g ground almonds and 50g icing sugar. It created a really aromatic marzipan, which also had a really orange colour from the orange rind. Francis moulded the marzipan bees to roughly the size of an almond. She then painted some stripes onto the bees with dark chocolate and some eyes as well. She then stuck some toasted almonds in the sides as wings, and they were complete! She explained that she made these to cover her showstopper wedding cake which contributed to winning the bake-off, so they’re one of her most famous creations. She also placed them onto mini flapjacks to make it look like mini beehives! The marzipan and the chocolate also made the room smell like chocolate orange!

She showed us a really clever trick when melting chocolate which saves time (and washing up!) by making a mini Bain Marie. You need to fill a mug of hot water, then place a really small glass bowl into the mug and then cover, then the chocolate should be melted, after a few minutes. This is also useful when you only need a really small amount of chocolate as well.

It was also world Nutella day on Friday, so to celebrate she showed us how to turn a regular chocolate cupcake into a brownie owl with Nutella, Oreos, chocolate and nuts. She spread a thin layer of Nutella onto the cupcake, split the Oreo for eyes, and stuck on chocolate buttons as feathers, it was a really quick, effective demonstration that would take less than 10 minutes to change up normal cupcakes.

After she finished her demonstration, she explained how she came to apply to the Bake Off. Instead of doing Food Technology at school, she did textiles, and that’s where all her creative input from her bakes comes from. She was working at the clothes shop Joules, as a children and baby clothes designer when she created her first masterpiece - a hidden squirrel tree cake, for a work colleague who they had nicknamed squirrel and was going off on maternity leave. After they had all been amazed with her design, her colleagues persuaded her to apply to the show.

Francis was picked for an audition in London, and travelled down on the train with her bakes. She said there was nothing more stressful than travelling on the Tube with bakes which were going to be judged on appearance! They had been asked to make Paul Hollywood’s bread, and Mary Berry’s scones, and while she was fairly confident in scone making, she had rarely made bread before. She followed both recipes, however her scones were burnt on the bottom, and the bread came out looking very golden brown. She met Paul and Mary and needn’t have worried as Paul Hollywood called her bread ‘perfect’!

Once she had been accepted to the final 12 for the show, she found it difficult to practice as she was at work all week and then competing at weekends. So sometimes she took dough to practice in her hotel room with, and sat there kneading and knotting all evening!

It was a really inspiring experience, and she even signed some of her new cookery book, Quinntessential Baking! We are really lucky that we can experience such interesting speakers as her!