Newsletter – Winter 2020

Hello, Bakers!

We hope you are doing okay during this uncertain time. Sometimes it seems like life is getting closer to a new “normal”, then things change, new lockdowns are introduced, and it can all be hard to cope with. This festive season will be very different, and for many of us it may not be an easy or joyful one. As a group, we aim to be here for you, with recipes, inspiration, and the strong and lovely community that our members have created.

Read ahead to discover some of the sweet and savoury treats our bakers have rustled up, as well as a recap of our recent online events and tutorials, and how to catch up on any you missed. Finally, there is some poetry, and an interview with fabulous baker James Maynard.

We will be having a festive catch-up and quiz on Zoom on Saturday 19th December at 4pm – grab yourself some afternoon tea, or a hot chocolate and a mince pie, and join us for some trivia and fun. You can find the details and the link to join the quiz on Facebook.

We wish you the very best for this winter and the new year. Keep baking, and know we are here for you.

Bakers’ gallery

We have not been able to meet in person at The Molly House, but that has not stopped us from baking and supporting one another, through our online community. The Village Bakers Facebook group continues to be an active and fun one, and you guys make it what it is, so thank you.

Your impressive range of bakes have included fruit cheesecakes, sourdough loaves, peanut butter cups, vegan cookies, pecan pie and almond buns, among others. It is great to see bakers interact with each others’ Facebook posts, and share recipes, advice and love.

If you are feeling inspired, and fancy baking something festive, we have a recipe for a scrumptious mincemeat brownie tart – why not give it a whirl, and be sure to let us know how it goes!

Baking and quizzing

Our Baking Live events on Facebook have provided long-distance baking tutorials and banter. James talked us through the perfect focaccia, Lea returned to her Aussie roots with some Anzac biscuits, and John showed us how to make a delicious goat’s cheese tart. If you missed any of these, you can catch up with them on our Facebook page.

Kevin and Laura led a Village Bakers Bake Along at this year’s Alternative Manchester Pride, creating a delicious summer fruit pavlova, a spring vegetable tart, and carrot cake muffins. You can find the recipes here on our website, and watch the videos at the links above, or by going to Manchester Pride’s YouTube page.

We held our second Bakers’ Lockdown Quiz on Zoom, and it was great to catch up with our group members. We were tested on our knowledge of cheesy pop music, movies and more, and the fight for a spot on the podium was tight. In the end, James came third, Stuart aka Anastasia came second, and in first place was… me, Liz. I admit, I was quite chuffed!

Poetry corner

I write poetry, and baking, queerness and Manchester are key inspirations. I have been encouraged to share this poem, which I wrote about happier days when we could meet in The Molly House, and how Village Bakers has helped me to accept and understand myself. I hope you enjoy it. I tweet @Grizonne if you would like to see more of my poetry.

Upstairs at the Molly House – Elizabeth Gibson

It is a red cave or womb, a deer’s head on the wall,
eyes so soft I long to reach up and feel his breath.
Here is the closest place to home for losing myself
to the sofa, and knowing I am fine asking for water,
am fine to quietly orbit and hover, pick up small talk.

People like me are here, and their lives sound nice.
They work in schools, offices, as doctors and vets,
plan their nights ahead at plays and films and gigs,
fly out or set sail across the world with their partners,
return to devoted dogs, wild gardens and log burners.

And they bake, and here they share their creations:
giant meringue-winged Manchester bees, flaky twists
of basil and cheese, macarons and layered cheesecake.
What do I offer? Simple things: muffins, lemon drizzle.
But resting there on that table, they have a clear place.

Everything makes this cosy sense one day a month,
and deep in the sofa I eat and talk and am. I am here.
In the loo, I smile at the sassiest graffiti in the world,
and I promise one day to add something of my own,
maybe scratch a poem, of thanks, when I feel braver.

Meet the Bakers

James Maynard is one of our founding members. It was lovely to interview him and learn more about his eight years and counting as a Village Baker, his baking specialisms, and finding love through the group.

VB: How long have you been part of Village Bakers, and what inspired you to join?

James: I was at the very first social back in 2012. I was originally invited to attend by my good friend Kevin Sargent and I have held a number of different positions on the committee including Events and Chairman for a couple of years. My love of baking came from my Grannie and Grandma and I loved the fact that there was a social group that centred around something other than sport. 

VB: What is your fondest Village Bakers memory?

James: Has to be the day I walked into the Village Bakers social in February 2016 and met my fiancé Tim. We are due to get married in May!

VB: What do you enjoy most about baking?

James: The creation of amazing things by combining a few ingredients and how it brings people together. I haven’t met many people that would turn down a piece of cake!

VB: What is your signature bake?

James: I’m know as the “King of Savoury” in Village Bakers circles and I will never turn anything like that down. I make Cheese and Bacon Twists which usually go down pretty well and are really easy to do.

VB: How have you found baking during lockdown?

James: Getting hold of ingredients was difficult during lockdown as it seemed like the whole population had decided to take up baking. When I did my Focaccia Bread for the Village Bakers Live on Facebook, I had to look all over for the quantity of ingredients I needed and even resorted to buying yeast on Amazon of all places!

VB: What other hobbies and passions do you have?

James: I love a good binge watch on Netflix and socialising. My family are very important to me and that’s blood related and my chosen family too. I am also currently studying towards my CIPD L5 Diploma in Human Resource Management which is hard work but very interesting.

VB: What advice would you give to new or nervous bakers?

James: Follow the recipe and don’t be afraid to try new things. Even the most seasoned bakers have disasters, but you can learn from it and if in doubt, ask a fellow baker as there is a wealth of knowledge out there.