Statistics tell us that as many men as women bake (in the U.S., anyway) but that the men who do bake are more likely to do so more often. When men bake, they get into it! Edd Kimber is a self-taught English baker who won a national baking contest after leaving the academic life of studying politics. His first book, Say It With Cake: Celebrate with Over 80 Cakes, Cookies, Pies and More, is on the shelves and he is working on a second. We chatted with him about his newfound career.
Dédé Wilson: Edd, we have read that you get a lot of your inspiration from baking as a child. Can you describe your early baking days for us? We love hearing from self-taught bakers.
Edd Kimber: I come from a old fashioned kind of family in the north of England and baking wasn’t necessarily seen as a treat, it was just part of our day-to-day life, so I grew up with baking as a regular thing. We would almost always have a crumble on a Sunday and scones and simple cakes made a regular appearance. My mum always encouraged me to help out in the kitchen so I have many happy memories at the kitchen counter baking and cooking with her.
How did you come to enter the Great British Bake Off contest?
I left university with a degree in politics, but no intention of taking it up as a career, I actually had not any idea of what I was going to do. I took a temp job whilst I tried to figure out what to do next, but that temp job ended up lasting about four years! It was a boring and very monotonous job with no creativity at all, so baking became my outlet, it was all I thought about during the day. I eventually decided that I’d love to make my hobby and my passion my career so I applied to my local culinary school, but for some reason was turned down (I still don’t know why).
I decided to teach myself to bake in a more professional way, so I bought any baking book I could get my hands on and then over two years I baked something almost every day, trying to teach myself a new technique or new idea. After about two years of doing this, a friend emailed the application for The Great British Bake Off, which she had spotted in a magazine. I initially dismissed it, as I never thought I wanted to be on TV, but was eventually convinced and I guess the rest is history, I now have a career I adore and baking is my life!
Now that you develop recipes professionally, what have you learned that you think is important for the home baker to know?
Don’t worry about failure, making mistakes actually teaches you more about baking then success does – you definitely learn what not to do next time!
I was once asked by a journalist how often things don’t turn out perfectly in my kitchen and I answered, “Every single day.” When I am developing recipes, it is very rare something comes out perfectly the first time; refining and retesting is a constant in my kitchen and is how I improve my knowledge and skills. If everything came out perfectly the first time, we would never learn how it worked.
We love the end papers of your book with all the family photos. Talk to us about why it is important for you to share your baked goods with friends and family.
Family is the reason I started to bake and keeping that link alive is very important to me. My grandmother passed away when I was only 3, so I didn’t really know her; the only link I have to her is the stories my family tell and the recipes she left us with. One of my most treasured possessions is her recipe box, packed full of recipes from different family members, all handwritten with so many quirks and things that make me smile every time I read them. If you take a look at the book, you can actually see this on every page. We took these recipes, turned them upside down and scanned the pages, these were used as the background for the recipes and in fact if you look carefully you can even spot some of my grandmother’s handwriting peeking through.
Tell us about the Hot Cross Buns in particular. Where did the inspiration come from to add the chocolate and orange?
I love baking that has a story or tradition attached to it and hot cross buns are one of my favorites, they are definitely a taste of my childhood. Whilst I love the traditional version, I sometimes can’t help messing around with a recipe. The orange goes brilliantly with the spices in the buns and we all know chocolate goes so well with chocolate, it just makes for a slightly more indulgent hot cross bun.
Any particular tips for our readers for the Hot Cross Bun recipe or the Crêpe Cake?
Make sure to proof the buns properly. If they are under-proofed they have a tendency to rip as they bake, so to test they are ready for the oven, press lightly with your finger and if it springs back slowly they are ready. If it springs back quickly they need a little longer.
What are you working on next?
I am currently putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for my next book…I will also be visiting New York in May and will be doing a book signing while I am there (details will be announced on my Twitter account when confirmed).