“Ready, steady, BAKE!”

Have you missed hearing these words over the summer? Are you wondering where the next ‘soggy bottom’ will come from or which overbaked celebration cake could be the cornerstone of your foundations? Or have you indulged yourself in the kitchen over lockdown, practicing some amazing new recipes or whizzing up your nan’s tried-and-tested favourites?

Since lockdown, baking has become one of the nation’s best-loved home activities, even leading in the first few weeks of lockdown to shortages of eggs and flour as we all reached for our pinnies and dusted off the baking trays. According to grocerytrader.co.uk, the total home baking market in the UK is worth £988.4m and has a value growth of +0.5%. Sweet cake mixes are worth £38m and growing at 4.1% per year. So, it doesn’t seem as if our love of baking is going away anytime soon.

But if you haven’t been baking recently and need an excuse to get back into the kitchen and bake, here are three:

  1. 14th – 20th October is National Baking Week
  2. The Great British Bake Off is back on our TV screens on Channel 4 (started on 22nd September)
  3. The nights are drawing in and there’s now plenty of flour in the shops!

National Baking Week was started by Pyrex in 2007, to encourage people of all abilities to bake at home. It was a simple idea promoted nationally by the company, bloggers, recipe writers and baking enthusiasts alike. Although the Pyrex official webpage seems to have vanished quicker than a meringue in a microwave, others have picked up the ‘baton’ (get it?) and run with the idea.

Why bake?

Baking is fun, creative and you end up with something edible (hopefully) at the end of it.

Baking also stimulates the senses such as touch, taste and smell, making it great for children who like sensory activities. Many people also consider cooking as a meditative practice saying it helps them relax and unwind. And baking your food can also be a great way to be more mindful and careful about what you eat, as well as being a cost-effective way to feed the family or the children in your setting.

The internet is full of recipes and ideas of things that are suitable for younger children to make, from cupcakes to easy pizzas, chocolate brownies to volcano cakes, so there really is no excuse for not taking some time to inspire children with baking. And with National Baking Week running almost straight on from Malnutrition Awareness Week, we thought it would be a good time to highlight some healthy tips and tricks to make your baking not only fun, but also extra nutritious too.

  • Hide some of your 5-a-day fruit and veggies into your bakes. You can add carrots, onions and avocados to savoury cheese muffins which are perfect for lunch boxes, or blueberries and raspberries also go well in muffins instead of chocolate chips; spinach is full of iron and nutrients and is great to add because it can colour the food green, to add to the fun; and of course everyone loves banana bread
  • Oats are easy to bake with and sometimes don’t even need to go in the oven but they are also high in fibre and good sources of slow-release carbohydrates. They are also higher in protein and fat than most other grains and high in many vitamins and minerals. You can make oat cookies or flapjacks, which are easy and there are lots of healthy alternative recipes which use natural syrups or fruit syrups instead of sugar
  • Use wholemeal flour instead of white flour to increase your fibre intake or make a half-and-half mixture
  • Use unsaturated fat in your baking to reduce your saturated fat intake. There are several brands that are suitable but make sure they say they can be used in baking as the ingredients, emulsifiers and fat content of some spreads make them unsuitable for some baking tasks
  • Instead of using thick butter icing for cake toppings, switch to drizzling some glacé (water-based) icing instead. You can still use food colouring to make it interesting, but it is much lower in fat than butter icing
  • Experiment with substituting healthy options for common ingredients. Try using apple puree or Greek yoghurt instead of oil in recipes to reduce the fat but keep the moisture content; use bananas, honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar or dates as an alternative to sugar, depending on the recipe – but don’t go overboard – they’re still sugars
  • Be careful of your portion sizes – try to reduce the size of muffins or biscuits you bake by 10-20% to reduce calorie intake, but make sure you don’t then fall into the trap of simply eating more!
  • Sometimes we all love a treat, so don’t deny yourself everything you love or you will end up feeling miserable. The trick to sticking to a healthy diet is to make the everyday things you eat healthy and nutritious, and allow yourself the occasional treat – just make sure your ‘occasional’ is just that!

You can find some healthy recipes on the BBC Food website here which are perfect for baking with pre-schoolers, and there are both sweet and savoury options to keep everyone happy. So what are you waiting for? Ready, steady, BAKE!

Facts about this year’s Great British Bake Off.

  • The show returned to Channel 4 on 22 September, a month later than usual, after filming was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The show was filmed in a new venue at Down Hall Hotel in Essex where the production team, bakers, hosts, judges, hotel staff and cleaners lived together for 6 weeks instead of filming over 3 months at weekends.
  • There are 12 contestants - one fewer than the baker’s dozen from last year.
  • Matt Lucas replaces Sandi Toksvig as host, joined by Noel Fielding.
  • Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith judge the best bakes in the famous white tent.
  • The winner is still a secret!

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