Baking , Teaching, Weight Watchers and a Wedding

I always knew after Christmas it was going to be hard for me to keep the blog up to date as I used to during the bake off as I had and still have so many irons in the fire that have me distracted(that's not meant as woooo look at me I am so busy with stuff other than my blog as you will learn below).

I digress, firstly I knew once the New Year celebrations were over it was down to the brass tacks of losing a fairly sizable chunk of weight I had accumulated over the past year to year and half. Kicking off a week late on the 6th of January I had what looked like a mammoth task ahead of me, I weighed in at 19st 1.8lbs the heaviest I have been in 5 years. It was a result of every cake and sweet that crossed my lips in the build up to the Great Irish Bake Off and then the post bake off cake scoffing at every kind of event, not to mention what had become a regular "Let's go to the chipper tonight will we"? 1 or 2 nights a week. It had become a snowball effect and it was time to whip out the old trusty Weight Watchers handbook and get back in the saddle for the 29th of May when myself and Joanne get married. It's been nearly 2 months since I last updated you lovely folk on how this Weight Watchers malarky has been going but I am happy to report despite the first two or three weeks of sugar withdrawal, I am becoming a lean mean fat fighting machine. I have lost 33 pounds already which sees me weigh in at 16st 10.8lbs which is well on track, only roughly another 10 or so pounds to go and I am at a happy weight. There is no better feeling in the world than losing weight and fitting back in to clothes that haven't fit for so long.

Putting the diet to one side for a minute, this year has started something quite amazing for me, because I have been teaching baking since the 1st of February and its one of the best things I have ever done. I started  in Kitchen Complements with a 4 week bread course with those lovely people in the title picture above. For the 4 weeks we had great fun making all manner of breads from soda to sourdough. With 12 people to a class and 3 recipes each we knocked out an amazing 144 bakes over the 4 week period. It also was a hectic 4 weeks, teaching also involves buying all the ingredients, having them all weighed out (of course with the help of Joanne) before each class, testing recipes and setting up before every class, but not once did I say to myself this is rubbish and not worth it. It was  such a great way for me to get my feet wet when it comes down to actual teaching, something I have only really done in my day job teaching colleagues how to use a system I manage. I have spoken before in the past on this blog that the bake off gave me a great courage and the ability to speak to large crowds, well teaching is only improving me more and more with each class I deliver. I have always hated the spotlight and people looking at me, I remember as a child my mum informing me and my brother of a Sunday "We are bringing up the gifts in mass today" and all I could think of is oh crap people will be staring at me waiting to mess up. That continued throughout my teens and even in to college, I was impossible when it came to delivering presentations, so much so I would have to have the entire thing rehearsed, memorizing a script off in my head as to what I would say. However I am pleased to report in 2014, the year I hit 30 years on this planet, that I finally can talk to large crowds, improvise or ad-lib on what I say and actually sound like I know what I am talking about with out having any fear of failure. 

Once my classes had come to an end in Kitchen Complements I had another two baking classes on the
horizon, the first one being Robyn's Nest up in Swords and the second being in Recipe4Success down home in Annacotty, Limerick. Robyn's Nest was an achievement for the simple fact this was going to be the first time I would be teaching people how to make Macaron. Nearly 1 year ago I was down in Limerick tearing my hair out trying to make the little blighters, but I have since practised, practised and practised some more ,finally getting them bang on the money. It was an absolute joy to teach in the Nest with Linda and Emma (the owners) who were my assistants on the night. We had great craic and produced some fantastic macaron. It goes to show when you know how to do something right anybody can do it. The Nest from a teaching point of view was ace because the ladies had everything ready to go and weighed out for me, which was brilliant as I was coming straight from my day job in William Fry. The setup they have is amazing, and an absolute credit to their hard work, if I was to recommend a cookery school especially in Dublin I would be sending you here. They have so many diverse classes, from cakes to Indian nights. They really make you feel at home and I cannot wait to be back.. which I will tell you about later on in this post hehe.

Finally this weekend past I was down home teaching in Recipe 4 Success in Annacotty, Limerick. Like
Robyn's Nest everything was setup when I arrived by Shane and Nicola, it was such a relief! I was teaching for the whole day, first off 9.30am - 12.30pm teaching French patisserie. Of course macaron were on the menu, aswell as my favourite Friands, and finally choux pastry. Like macaron this time last year I was practising choux pastry for the bake off and could not get it right whatsoever, until strangely when I had to get it right on my live audition day for the bake off making sweet and savory choux buns. Since then they are one of my most favourite things to make and it was great to be demonstrating them to some eager students. We had an excellent session bolstered by how good a setup up Shane and Nicola have. If you are not in Dublin I would be sending you here to learn how to cook! For the morning session I had the help of Nicola and Sarah who were with me every step of the way as we moved through the recipes. Then in the afternoon from 2pm - 5pm I was teaching my favourite thing to do in the kitchen and that is teach bread making. We made 3 different breads, Bolus (they follow me everywhere), No Knead Loaf and Pesto Tear & Share bread. It was another 3 hours of fun with the aid of Sarah and Shane this time round. During the proofing periods I also demonstrated some breads, making one huge batch of my dough using the "on the bench" method without using a bowl. I made a 6 strand plait, a blackcurrant jam braid and some nice fresh bread rolls. It was a thoroughly good day, even one of the students Edel brought a box especially in with her for all the bread she took home.

So 2014 has been going pretty well so far and as a result of my classes I have managed to secure another course in Kitchen Complements, where I am teaching my 2nd bread skills session  with all new breads which you can check out below:

I am also hoping to sort out some mid week classes down in Recipe4Success so hopefully I will be able to report back soon on a class coming up in the next few months. Finally I am close to agreeing a regular slot with Robyn's Nest so those dates too will be up soon on here and their website. Most excitingly though Robyn's Nest has kindly offered me the use of the cookery school to make my wedding cake, which I can't wait to get started in to, I even bought the tins yesterday ! It's going to be 5 tiers and all I can tell you is it will be 5 different flavours and no fruit layer. 

Finally and I mean the last thing, I am going to leave you on a little bit of a cliffhanger, but there are two things coming up on my horizon, the 1st you will hear about on the 22nd of March and the other soon after........everyone loves a cliffhanger right? 

Happy Baking !


PS: Check out 

Robyn's Nest here :

Recipe4Success here :