Great British Bake Off star Andrew Smyth has been raising dough on Wearside.
Andrew, who made it through to the final of last year’s series, joined staff at npower’s Rainton Bridge offices taking part in the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning fund-raiser for MacMacmillan Cancer Support.
He took the opportunity to sample some of the staff’s own attempts at baking and passed on some tips on the second stop in a tour of all the energy giant’s offices nationwide.
“We started off in Hull this morning and this afternoon we’re in Sunderland,” he said.
“Next week we go round all the other sites in the country, so it’s a full week but we will get to see everybody.”
Npower is holding Coffee Mornings across its main sites in the run up to Macmillan’s 27th World’s Biggest Coffee Morning event next Friday, September 29.
I have had the opportunity to get involved in so many things and support so many great causes.Andrew Smyth
The firm has been raising money for Macmillan for more than a decade.
“It has been 13 years now, so it really is a long-running relationship,” said Andrew.
He has been delighted with the reaction from staff so far: “People have been very enthusiastic,” he said.
“It has been fantastic - people have really thrown themselves into it. We briefly ran out of cakes in Hull, until we were able to get a second delivery.”
The latest series of Bake Off is now under way and Andrew is enjoying the luxury of watching from afar: “When you are doing it, you are so busy just doing it that you don’t have time to think about,” he said.
“But it has been a fantastic season so far.”
The show sparked controversy when it moved from BBC One to Channel 4, with presenters Mel and Sue and baker extraordinaire Mary Berry jumping ship to be replaced by Noel Fielding, Sandi Toksvig and Prue Leith. Only Paul Hollywood remains of the original quartet.
Andrew has been impressed with the new line-up.
“I think they are really starting to get into their stride,” he said. “People are a bit frightened of change but now that we’re a couple of episodes in, they really are starting to gel.
“And it’s all about the bakers, at the end of the day. What they have been producing has been fantastic.”
It has been a whirlwind year for Andrew: “I have had the opportunity to get involved in so many things and support so many great causes,” he said.
Andrew Smyth‘s Exclusive Wind Turbine Cake:
Ingredients: two pre-made chocolate madeira cakes; 200g dark chocolate; 200ml double cream; 500g green fondant for base; six candy canes; 250g white flower modelling paste; apricot glaze; 200g mini marshmallows; 150g Rice Krispies; 50g unsalted butter; 500g white fondant; six Rich Tea biscuits; 150g caster sugar with some water; red food colouring; icing sugar and cornflour for dusting.
Cut off the curved parts of the candy canes with a heated sharp knife. Weld the candy canes together by melting the ends slightly on the hob and then pressing together firmly. These will form the three classic wind turbine blades attached to a central axle. Use a protractor to get angles right, so it’s reasonably well balanced. Reinforce the corners with broken bits of cane and melt with a blowtorch carefully (use tin foil to prevent the main axle from melting and bending).
Cover each blade with a rolled ball of modelling paste rolled out. Pinch down one side to create the signature wind turbine blade shape. Add a little nose cone once dried then leave overnight to dry.
Melt marshmallows and butter in a large bowl then stir into Rice Krispies. Use gloves to form into a long tapered cylinder around 35cm long then roll in icing sugar to prevent from sticking. Keep rolling until solid enough to stand up.
Square off ends with a sharp knife then prop upright with cups until dry. Firm up in the fridge then paint with apricot glaze before covering in white fondant.
Smooth and leave to dry overnight. The fondant should be hard before attempting the next stage.
Carve the biscuits out to form a rectangular box with two holes at either end large enough for the wind turbine axle (two biscuits with a hole carefully bored in the middle just large enough for the candy cane to pass through, two biscuits for sides and two for top and bottom).
Carve carefully with a small sharp paring /fruit knife to avoid snapping biscuit. Make sugar syrup to hard crack stage (can be checked on a sugar thermometer) and dip biscuits to stick them together.
Pour some of the syrup inside the base of the box to help secure edges. Then generally pour onto edges and corners and leave to set. Make sure the axle holes are clear of obstructions.
To assemble, bore out a small hole just smaller than the candy cane diameter a few inches into the main tower.
Push a straight length of candy cane into this with just over an inch protruding. Melt this carefully down with a blowtorch then quickly press the biscuit box on - it should set fairly quickly. Cover in white fondant and blend with tower to improve strength.
Set the base of tower in a hollowed out cake and cover the cake in ganache and then fondant to resemble a grassy hill. Allow to dry and weld one final piece of candy cane onto the back of the axle so it can be rotated from the back.