Saturday 25 August 2012

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Come to Bolton

Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2012 Demonstration

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Bolton Food and Drink
My favourite picture from the weekend so far
They always say you remember where you were when something poignant happens in your life. I was in the Dido Suite at work eating spicy bun loaf when the news broke that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would be attending this year's Bolton Food and Drink Festival. There were fits of 'oh my god, oh my god', flappy hands, and rantings; all inter-spliced with the muttering of someone who really ought to be in an institution.

I knew they would be in demand on the day, so I prepared like a bad-ass. 
  • Bake Off watching - check (this goes without saying)
  • Leafing through Berry-Hollywood back catalogue - check
  • Internet research/stalking - check
  • Pacing round the house - check check
  • Recipes completed as part of martial arts style training (but with cakes) - check
  • List of questions written, rewritten and then scrapped completely this morning - check
  • Fear bellyache like I am about to be put to death - check

Everything was in order. I walked into the demo tent this morning and saw my friend Sue from A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate. Any of you who have read my blog from the start will know she is responsible for my rantings (please don't hold it against her). I did a guest post on her blog and the rest is history. I also met Sarah from Rise and Dine, who I speak to on Twitter but had never met in real life. 

Before the show, people were allowed into the tent to get Paul and Mary to sign their books. Most people were presenting shiny new copies purchased that morning. There I was with my 'Ultimate Cakes' book which was probably older than some of the people attending. After the mammoth queue for book signing died down, I made my move. I was utterly star struck. I have no idea what I said to Mary. I can only hope that it was coherent and not in any way offensive. I had met Paul the night before at the Gala Dinner, so was already over my initial shock! 

After the meet and greet we were informed that Sue, Sarah and I would get a session with Paul and Mary but we would need to merge our questions. There we have it. Plans out of the window! Probably the best thing that could have happened given that my OCD was in turbo mode.

We quickly had a read through each others questions to ensure we didn't overlap, then off we trot. Perched on the side of the stage, we had a chat with Paul and Mary like we had known them for years...

The Interview

My questions:

Mary, you were my baking inspiration growing up. The book I have with me is my original Ultimate Cakes from 1994! Who inspired you both?
Mary: First of all it was my cookery teacher, Miss Date. She was a little round dumpling and was very kind to me.
Paul: It was my dad, well dad and mum really. I grew up in a house full of bakers. My mum was making all the pies, like apple pies and dad was making all the bread and scones.

What’s the best dessert you’ve ever eaten and where was it?
Paul: Actually, one of the ones that sticks in my mind recently - we stayed at a hotel called Ston Easton when we were filming the Bake Off and near enough every night I had a passion fruit roulade, which which was delicious with ice cream wasn't it? (to Mary)
Mary: He had it every night, and I put my spoon in it every night! I'm very aware that I mustn't become vast because they'll say we don't want to make cakes because look how fat they're going!
Paul: Haha Big Berry!
Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Bolton Food and Drink

Not including those currently in the Bake Off (obviously) who is the one to watch in the world of baking?
Paul: Tricky!
Mary: Well, we'll wait and see! The next batch of bakers who are going to apply... I think they are going to be of such a high standard. Everybody is baking better. Just look at your big stores! You see so many cake tins and I gather everybody is baking. The supermarkets and stores are selling more bakeware and more ingredients. We've got more people baking!

Sarah from Rise and Dine asked:

Last year the Guardian said you were the best reality TV judging duo ever, I just wanted to see what you thought about that?
Paul: Haha Bang on... I mean, what can you say?
Mary: I liked it because they said we were better than Simon Cowell...
Paul: I met Simon recently and he said 'you're me aren't you?' I mean you take it with a pinch of salt. We just judge from our hearts. We're honest. It's all about integrity and if it comes across well then it comes across. We're just honest to ourselves.

There are so many baking gadgets out there, I never know what to use. What's your must have item?
Mary: I think don't have too many gadgets. You need a sharp knife, you need the basic tins, I don't use an awful lot of gadgets or a lot of tins because most people haven't got the room to store them! If I can get away with using a traditional tin or traditional item, I use it. I don't go in for all the 'a thing to hang bananas on' or all the little intricate things. I can prepare a pineapple with my sharp knife. (To Paul) Do you agree?
Paul: Yeah, there's only one thing I would say and that's digital scales and they will help everything else.
Mary: It's very important to weigh accurately. If you want to be a good baker, you need good ingredients, and then use the right sized tin and then digital scales.

Do you have a Kitchenaid?
Paul: Kitchenaid are good and so are Kenwood. They are both very good. It depends what you want. They both do the same job. I've test driven the two of them recently and they're both good.
Mary: They are both good but also you don't need one. If you're not doing an awful lot of baking you can buy for about £15 a handbeater - that's what we're going to use today - you don't need (unless you are going to do an awful lot) you don't need specialist equipment. So don't let that be your excuse! You can make a scone with a bowl, and that's all you need!

And finally Sue from A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate asked:

When you start filming the series do you know who is going to win at the end and are you ever right?
Mary: No! Definitely not! They change all the time and I never look at the twelve to start with and think 'that one should win'. Each time we take each programme, and judge the programme and one will go from that. Very rarely do we look back. So they have to prove themselves. They have to be all round bakers. They have to bake an excellent loaf, a perfect cake and be original.
Paul: It's more - someone's on a journey out there, happens every year. Every one's on a journey and that's the one that wins. It's about passion.

The Demonstration

I have to say in all honesty, Paul and Mary are ridiculously nice people. They are funny, genuinely talented and have great chemistry on stage. Mary is constantly reprimanding Paul for naughty behaviour and he relishes in teasing her. He calls her 'Bezza' on stage and cracks cheeky jokes about her age. For example, he told the crowd that her first book was published in 1853... 

For the demonstration Paul made a plaited loaf (which was done before you had the chance to think 'eek') and Mary made her Fraisier cake, which will be one of the technical challenges in a few weeks time.
Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Come to Bolton
Mary's tips for a perfect Fraisier were:

  • Ensure your Genoese mix falls into ribbons in the bowl before sinking into the mix.
  • Melted butter should be cool but runny. Mary believes life is too short to clarify butter (Paul commented 'not for you Mary, you're 105!' Cheeky...)
  • Dampen your tin before putting the cling film inside. This helps it stick.
  • Allow the mixture to drop into the tin then scrape the rest in.
  • Always use full fat everything in baking. Mary said 'I'm not into all this low fat stuff! Just have a smaller slice!' 
  • Mary noted that her favourite cake is the chocolate roulade they made on last year's Bake Off.

Paul also had some pearls of baking wisdom to share, as well as some interesting facts:
    Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Come to Bolton
  • Bread dough should bounce back if you prod it with your finger. If it doesn't, it's not ready for the oven.
  • Scones should be pronounced 'sc-ons' not  'sc-owns'. Couldn't agree more...
  • The contestants on this year's Great British Bake Off actually argued with Paul!
  • He said that contestants often overcomplicate their recipes on the Bake Off.
  • He is NOT doing Strictly Come Dancing this year...
  • James Martin is his son's godfather. Oh the glamour!
  • He drives a baby blue Aston Martin, which was parked right outside the tent.

I will never hear a bad word said about this duo. They came across as lovely people who were happy to chat and help wherever possible. They are clearly pulled from pillar to post but really don't mind. It's clear they have both worked exceptionally hard to get to where they are today, and in my opinion it is well deserved. I love them even more than I did before...

Please leave your comments below... x


  1. Thanks for this...lovely insight, great questions! And that baby blue Aston (my absolute favourite car), perfectly matches those baby blue eyes ;-)

  2. Thats a really lovely account Rachel, loved reading it and thanks for mentioning me too. xxx

    1. No problem! Hope you got plenty of goodies before you left...?

  3. Wow, you were so lucky to meet the legends Mary and Paul. I love the handy tips that Mary and Paul gave you. A once in a life time achievement, lucky you x

  4. Rachel it sounds like you had a fabulous time, what a super write up of the day. I don't know how you did not pee your pants with excitement, I almost certainly would of !

    I liked the Kitchen Aid / Kenwood question - would love to take a peek into their kitchen to find out exactly which one they have, rather than the diplomatic answers they gave ;)


    1. I really got the impression that Mary was non-plussed with both! She's strictly wooden spoon I think...

  5. Brilliant interview! I would've been just as nervous and excited as you to meet these too!

    1. Thanks Kat! I was so unbelievably star struck! Haha!

  6. I was so impressed with them I've booked the NBC winter food show! Tickets are on offer this weekend and they are there!!! I was so happy Mary made a surprise appearance in Paul's demo...

  7. Thanks for the mention! It was a lovely day and a real honour to meet the King and Queen of baking - they are such lovely people and very funny together!

    Enjoy the rest of the festival. Alas, I can't make the other days because I'm going to Tenerife and knead to pack (cheesy baking pun!)

  8. Wow what a great time, and very jealous you got to put your questions to them. Although I am a sc-own sayer!


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