I was really pleased when I was asked by EdinburghBakers’ cake lady, Susan McNaughton, if I’d like to contribute a blog piece for the Crail Food Festival. When the list was sent out, I found that my ‘victim’ was a young artisan baker by the name of Murray Barnett. He runs a rather good wee bakery, G H Barnett & Sons, in the East Neuk – in Cellardyke near Anstruther to be precise. As it happens, it appears that we have a fair bit in common; we both adore Mary Berry, Doyenne of the Cake, and the King of Bread, Master Baker Paul Hollywood, has judged us both for our baking! Another thing that connects us is we’ve both been baking since we were very young, which is why I suggested to Murray that the theme for this article should be on our ‘Childhood Memories’.
When did you start baking and who taught you?
Murray: The first time I can remember baking was when one of guys couldn’t make it into work at the bakery one night and, as I was so young, I couldn’t be left in the house on my own. I was brought to the bakery and put on doughnut duty! My task was to flip doughnuts and sugar them! Heath and safety would blow a few gaskets these days if they caught a wee six-year-old laddie working with boiling oil! Fortunately, back then, there didn’t seem to be an issue and I loved every moment of it.
Most weekends throughout my childhood, you find me working in the bakery. It wasn’t until I left school that I started baking full time.
My father mostly taught me but I’ve spent time at our bakeries picking up some tips too. Some of my experience was through a lot of old fashioned trial and error, so part self-taught too. I think this is the best way to learn once you know the basics.
Lea: My earliest memories aren’t anywhere near as much fun or exciting. I remember going round to my grandmother’s (my dad’s mum) for Sunday lunch at about the age of three. Being a Yorkshire woman, her Yorkshires were amazing, huge and billowing. Always served before the meat and drowned with gravy made with the meat juices from the joint. The gravy was poured into the centre of the pud and as you cut through the wall, the gravy would flood the plate. To this day, I can’t make a Yorkshire like that. And her apple pie – no one has ever come close, not even me!
What was the first thing you made?
Murray: As I said at the start, doughnuts were the first thing I ever made. I’d love to give you a recipe for them but all our recipes are closely guarded family secrets. We still hold a very traditional view for Scottish baking (even with our modern twists) and all I can say is our doughnuts are still a traditionally fired cake ring doughnut.
Lea: My mum was useless in the kitchen, it wasn’t until she got married that she found out that gravy wasn’t just an Oxo cube and hot water (my nan couldn’t cook either). Like Murray, my dad taught me to bake when I was four. I’d kneel on a chair at the kitchen table. He’d make the pastry and I’d be allowed to roll, cut then fill the pastry with jam. And, if he’d been baking a cake, every child’s earliest memory must be licking the spoon and bowl clean of cake mix.
Were there any particular books, people, chefs who inspired you when you were a kid?
Murray: To be honest, I don’t follow or look up to any celeb bakers. I do love Mary Berry, though, but who doesn’t? I guess if any, my biggest inspiration has to be Heston Blumenthal and his approach that anything is possible if you want it to be!
Lea: I have fond memories of watching Fanny Craddock with my mum back in the 1960s. I have no idea why she liked to watch cookery programs, as she didn’t like cooking. When I was a teenager in the 70’s, I watched the likes of Graham Kerr the Galloping Gourmet, Delia and Mary Berry.
Today my influences come in the guises of the likes of Dan Lepard, Yotam Ottelenghi, Pierre Herme and Clare Clark.
Murray can be found at the bakery:
GH Barnett & Son
35 Rodger Street,Cellardyke,Fife,KY10 3HU
Tel: 01333 310205
Opening times Mon/Tue & Thu/Fri 8am–5pm; Wed 8am–1.30pm; Sat 8am–1.30pm.
If you have childhood memories of learning to bake, please feel free to add your comments below: