John Maines hosted some of our Baking Live sessions, showing us how to make the perfect peanut butter brownie. A member of the Bakers for over four years, he has wowed us with his sweet and savoury contributions and won the Great Village Bake Off in 2018. It was great to interview John and learn more about him.
VB: How long have you been part of Village Bakers, and what inspired you to join?
John: I joined the Village Bakers in October 2015. At the time I was really starting to develop a passion for baking and cooking, and I wanted to find a group of people who share those interests with mine. After looking online, I found the Village Bakers and went to their next meeting. It can be understandably daunting, going to meet a group of new people on your own, but this is a wonderfully friendly group of people who celebrate each other and everyone’s creations equally, so I felt right at home very quickly, and I’m sure others who want to join up will feel the same!
VB: What is your fondest Village Bakers memory?
John: Winning The Great Village Bake Off in 2018. I spent 6 hours making that cake overall, and I was purely doing this to take part, because it’s such a great event. There were so many fantastic creations, I never hoped or expected for a second to win so I was really speechless!
VB: What do you enjoy most about baking?
John: It can be almost meditative. The kitchen is my sanctuary, so I’ll put on some music and get to work! From a very early age, I’ve always had this desire to create in various forms, and that desire has stayed with me into adulthood, so there’s a huge satisfaction to be had in baking. Plus making things for your loved ones is the cherry on top!
VB: What is your signature bake?
John: This is a hard one, because I bake so many different things and like to try different flavours. It would probably be my herb loaf – I make a French loaf and add Italian olive oil, finely chopped fresh garlic, rosemary and thyme. Ironically I’ve not baked this for our Bakers meetings yet so I’ll have to remedy that! At the end of the bake, the whole house will smell of fresh herbs, it’s a really wonderful scent! When the bread is still warm, we’ll eat it with a dollop of butter – it’s absolute magic.
VB: How are you finding baking during lockdown?
John: I think like so many others, I’ve found certain ingredients very difficult to get hold of, but if anything I’ve been doing more baking since the lockdown began. I think you have to think back to what the generation in WWII did, adopt that ‘make do and mend’ attitude. You don’t have all the ingredients for this, what can you substitute it with? This is where your creativity comes into play!
VB: What other hobbies and passions do you have?
John: I love to run, hike and workout (I’ve actually been doing more running and exercise since lockdown began so I’ll be fitter than I was two months ago!); I love to read. I just read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ”Big Magic” and I’m now reading ”Eat Pray Love” also by her – she’s an extremely eye-opening writer, so I strongly recommend! I’m fascinated by British history (my favourite era is the Tudors); in my spare time I also do a bit of dressmaking (I have a BA degree in Fashion Design from LJMU in 2008), I like to draw and paint, and most recently I’ve started learning Italian as well. There’s not enough hours in the day!
VB: What advice would you give to new or nervous bakers?
John: I would recommend you get talking to other bakers, see what you can learn from them. I believe joining the Village Bakers will certainly help you with this and boost your confidence. Try things at home, start off nice and simple, and see your results and baking repertoire grow! And when you get more confident with it, try to experiment a little, and please don’t be disheartened or lose your confidence if something doesn’t work out – this has happened with every one of us I can promise you, it’s just all part of the journey, and the benefit is you can learn from this, so keep a notebook of everything you do and trust the process.
Why not check out John’s baking blog called Mainsey Bakes for loads of baking inspiration.
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