We’re steaming ahead with the Meet the Blogger series and today I’m interviewing Mary-Anne Boermans*, one of the contestants from the Great British Bake Off. When I watch the Great British Bake Off, I can’t help admiring Mary-Anne’s pioneering spirit in trying new or slightly different techniques, and the way she combines her own ideas with things that she’s picked up in old cookery books to make dishes that make me drool. For more delicious ideas from Mary-Anne, check out her blog or find her on Twitter, where she tweets as @wotchers.
If you live in the UK and haven’t yet sat for an hour being tempted by the tasty baked goods on the Great British Bake Off, why not catch up on BBC iPlayer or watch the next episode next Tuesday at 8pm. What have you enjoyed most on the Great British Bake Off so far? Which of Mary-Anne’s creations has been your favourite? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Welcome to my little blog, Mary-Anne, and thank you for agreeing to the interviewed.
We’ll start with some quick-answer questions...
Cooking or Baking?
Cooking (which to my mind includes baking)
Sweet or savoury?
Terry Pratchett or Jane Austen?
Terry. Always Terry.
Mel Giedroyc or Sue Perkins ... just joking – you don’t have to answer that one!
It'd be both, anyways. Both completely hilarious, and SO good at putting us at our ease in the beginning in what was, quite frankly, a very surreal experience.
Congratulations on getting on to the Great British Bake Off this year. I really admire the way you all produce such beautiful baking despite the time pressures. What was it like, and has your home baking speeded up?
Thank you. It was great being on the show because in some ways it reminded me of cookery lessons at school (yes, I am old enough to come from the era when cookery lessons were available in school - only for girls in my day though). Also, because I mostly cook and bake during the day when I'm on my own in the house, the group bake experience was a fun one. There were a lot of laughs in that tent - good times. It's not really affected my speed, because we were baking things I don't normally bake at home, but there have definitely been benefits.
How has being on the show changed you as a baker (if it has)?
I've been trying to make more of an effort with the presentation of my baking, since filming the show. My own personal 'style' if you like, is rustic, hearty and generous - so the small, dainty baking tasks we were being set were certainly a challenge. And I do think I am better now than before the show. I recently made some Coconut Gingerbread Cakes that were originally supposed to be cooked as spoonfuls of batter on a baking sheet, but I found a workaround that made them look a lot neater and much cuter - and I wouldn't have considered doing this before.
Where did you find inspiration for your recipes on the Great British Bake Off?
I really like old cookery books - and I mean REALLY old - Eliza Acton, Hannah Glasse, Mary Kettilby, Elizabeth Hammond, Hannah Woolley. Thanks to modern technology, I don't need to buy their books - facsimiles are available on the internet, and I love experimenting and reviving their recipes, which are absolutely delicious. I also like consulting my ever-growing collection of recipe books produced by the Womens Institutes of various counties. I am trying to get at least one from each county/region in the UK. Thirdly is the internet - I see a picture and try to recreate it, or put a twist on it if I think I can improve it in some way.
What is your best bake that hasn’t had any airtime so far?
I really liked my Coconut Lime Cupcakes from Round 1. Only the Banoffi Cupcakes got any screen time. Both recipes are on my blog though (here and here). I made three different macaroon flavours, but they only showed the not-so-great one (boo!) - the others (hazelnut & chocolate, and blackcurrant & mint) looked and tasted great! </modest> ;)
You have a great blog and an impressive number of page views despite only blogging for a few months. What is your secret, and what is your favourite post on your blog?
Thank you for the kind words. You're not the first to mention the page view numbers. Obviously, a lot of interest has been due to the return of the Bake Off - but I've also been lucky enough to have some blog pictures accepted by Tastespotting and Foodgawker, which has really boosted the visitor numbers - for example, over 2000 in just 36 hours, after I posted the Apple Rose Tart recipe. Although the popular posts are always encouraging, I don't really have a favourite post - all of the recipes are ones that I can vouch for in terms of taste and because I think they are achievable by anyone, especially those wanting to cook and bake for their families.
In your ‘about’ section on your blog, you seem to deride your photos – and yet they are great! Do you do your own food photography, and if so, what advice would you give an aspiring food photographer?
Deride? Hrms - that wasn't my intention. I do do my own photography, and I base it on what I see as being important - i.e. the food. I wanted to show that, just because the recipes are budget conscious, doesn't mean they can't look just as inviting as those with more expensive ingredients. Plus I can't afford to go out and buy a whole stack of styling accessories just for the blog, so I use what we have in the house. For the aspiring food photographer I would say - just do it. Practice, practice, practice. In this age of digital cameras, you don't have to wait for pictures to be printed, you can see immediately whether you like them or not. And if not, then delete them and try again. Natural diffused (i.e.indirect) light from one side is ideal - and try using a big piece of white card on the opposite side to reflect the light back onto your subject. There are also many helpful tips and suggestions out there for creating favourable lighting conditions inside, without having to spend a great deal. Another reason to love the internet.
Apart from your own (!), which blog (or blogs) are your favourite or particularly inspire you?
Several of the Bake Off contestants have their own blogs and I have them listed on the blogroll on my home page. Even though we have the Bake Off in common, it's great to see how diverse they all are - and each one typical of the authors. Worthy of special mention I think are Yasmin Limbert's Pieces Of Rainbow and Jason White's Preheat The Oven. Yasmin is such a talented baker and cook, as well as being wonderfully creative in the craft projects she produces, and Jason shows exceptional talent, despite being just 19 years old.
And finally, you say on your blog that you’re a Terry Pratchett fan – what is your favourite character and/or book?
Granny Weatherwax, without a doubt. You probably need to read all 4 books with her in to fully appreciate the cleverness and completeness of the character/personality Sir Terry has created, but any one with her in is a favourite of mine. I especially like Lords and Ladies though - Midsummer Night's Dream, but not as we know it (but also much more believable and scary, I think).
*Disclaimer: I’ve chosen to interview Mary-Anne Boermans, and to talk about The Great British Bake Off, because I love the programme. I’ve not received any kind of compensation for this interview. All of Mary-Anne’s answers are copyright to her, and you will need to contact her if you want to replicate them in any way.