Newsletter – Spring 2020

Welcome to our Spring newsletter! We hope you are doing okay dring this challenging time. Read on to find out what our Bakers have been up to during lockdown and how we are staying connected, as well as recipes, cool people to follow on Instagram, and an interview with our 2018 Village Bake Off winner, John Maines.

A word from our Chairman…


It feels like lifetime ago that we were all able to meet up for the March Village Bakers Sunday Social, at the time we had no idea it would be the last cake we would be able to share together for some time.

Village Bakers for the last seven years has worked on the principle that sharing food is the best way to bring our community together and forge new friendships to support each other. The current lockdown has meant that meeting is not possible, and at present we have very little detail about when pubs and restaurants are likely to re-open and the implications social distancing may have on how they operate. The Village Bakers Committee are currently discussing the implications that restrictions could have on us hosting meetings in 2020 and the likelihood is that the 2020 Great Village Bake Off will be postponed until it is deemed safe to take place.

However, we are working hard to look at new ways for you to be able to chat, interact and share your baking with each other. The Village Bakers Facebook group, has become a hive of activity as you have been baking up a storm and sharing your photos, tips and hints with the group. We have also run three Baking Live events on the Facebook group to allow you to watch, learn and comment on the baking we are doing in our homes. On the 10th May we also held our very first E-social and pub quiz allowing us to come together and share our bakes; although not quite the same as a normal social, it was fantastic to see everyone’s smiling faces.

With so much uncertainly, the nation has turned to baking, resulting in shortages of ingredients; however, if you do have enough flour, eggs and butter you can check out our new recipe page on the Village Bakers website, with loads a fabulous recipes to enjoy.

Finally, I would like to say remember to stay safe and Bake It, don’t Bring It, and Share It online.

We are still baking!

In these tough and unusual times, meeting up monthly and sharing our bakes at the Molly House isn’t possible. However, we can still bake!

Baking has really taken off during the lockdown, with baking newcomers or returners discovering just how calming and rewarding it can be. Shortages of ingredients such as flour and eggs have led to new recipes and thinking outside the box – I have baked eggless cookies, with surprising success!

Eggless chocolate hearts!

There are a number of new additions to the Recipe Ideas page on the Village Bakers website. Why not try Irish soda bread, apple and cinnamon cake, or a cheese and onion quiche?

Although we can no longer share the fruits of our labour in person, the Village Bakers Facebook group is a great way to show off our creations, and to ask for advice if we find ourselves in a sticky situation or faced with a soggy bottom.

From apricot pavlovas to lemon tarts, sourdough to scones, hot cross buns to custard cheesecake, you bakers have inspired us – and made us hungry – every day with fabulous photos.

Thank you so much, and please keep them coming!

Your fabulous bakes

Baking Live – and quizzing!

Our weekend Baking Live streams are a nice, chilled way to get together (virtually) to bake in sync, or just watch and have a catch-up. Each Baking Live recipe is decided by popular vote, so check out the latest poll on our Facebook page and help your favourite bake win!

So far Kevin has shown us how to make a fool proof banana loaf and an irresistible chocolate and cherry tart, and John Maines has taught us the secrets to scrumptious peanut butter brownies. Don’t worry if you missed the livestreams – you can catch up with them on our Facebook page, or in the Facebook group.

On the Sunday we would usually have a social, we held an e-social on Zoom complete with a special Bakers quiz. It was great to see people and catch up, and the quiz got very competitive!

Bakers Esocial
Bakers having a catch-up over cake!

Congratulations to Tim, our champion, and to Gavin and Laura who finished second and third respectively.

Bakers in action

We were delighted to be part of the Gay Village NHS Charity Fundraiser – Kevin had a memorable time collaborating with the fabulous Misty Chance, to bake a classic lemon drizzle cake and support NHS charities.

Kevin and Liz also chatted to Manchester Pride as part of their Community Conversations series, discussing how Village Bakers are working together to keep baking and supporting each other as a community. You can read the full feature here.

Get your baking inspiration

Whilst in lockdown, we have been searching the internet and TV for some great recipes and inspiration. We wanted to share with you some of our favourite Instagram accounts that we have been following to keep you inspired to bake.

@guardianfeast : All the latest foodie news from the Guardian newspaper, great inspiration if only to look at some nice food photography.

@nomadbakerdavid : David Atherton was the 2019 winner of the Great British Bake Off and his Instagram account covers all things baking and is great to see loads of exciting bakes

@supermoonbakehouse : This Instagram account will certainly make you feel hungry. Supermoon Bakehouse are based in New York and produce the most amazing croissants and Cruffins you will ever see. All their products are made by hand with locally-sourced ingredients. Check our this Instagram to inspire you on how pimp up your croissants.

@jamesmartinchef : James Martin, the Saturday Kitchen favourite, has a fantastic Instagram account with loads of links to great recipes and foodie pics to inspire us to get in the kitchen.

Hopefully, after looking at all these Instagram accounts, you will be inspired to rustle up a dish or bake an amazing pie. If so, make sure you post your results on our Facebook group, so you can help inspire us all in turn!

Meet the Bakers

Village Baker, John Maines

John Maines hosted our latest Baking Live, 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!

Annie Wallace, John Maines : The Great Village Bake Off Winner 2018, Howard Middleton

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.

Thanks for reading!

That’s it for this newsletter – we hope it brought a smile to your day. Stay safe and be kind to yourself, and bake if you can.

If you have any ideas for things you’d like to see in the next newsletter please email

More of your fabulous bakes