Everything my Granny taught me about baking... and social enterprise.
Bloom is a start-up social enterprise, and we have some wonderful members of our team, helping us to do what we do. This week's Bloom blog comes from the amazing Emily, co-leader of our Tuesday training course this Autumn. We've been privileged to have Emily share her expertise with five of our trainees on our Baking Basics course. Here, she shares with us about where her passion from baking comes from and how that's translated into being part of Bloom's training programme...
'This weekend marks a year since my brilliant granny passed away. Baking will always remind me of granny (and grandpa, but that's a story for another week!) and I know she'd have loved hearing about what we are doing at Bloom. She was never a showy baker, but she was very good. Even at 89 the church Flower Guild wouldn’t let her stand down as Chair because the rest of the committee wanted to keep coming round for her Victoria Sponge! Gran's approach has influenced how I bake, and over the past 6 weeks I've realised that her tips actually make a great recipe for a successful social enterprise...
Firstly, she reminds me that 'my way is not necessarily the best way'. As part of Bloom training, we always provide recipes, tips and hands on support where it's wanted (who doesn't need a spare pair of hands to help you wrap your Battenberg cake in its marzipan blanket?!) but we recognise that each baker's approach is unique. Of course, at Bloom we have our own style and our bakes are always top quality but when you're training and doing things for the first time, it’s easy to forget to test your own ideas and skills. Who knows what creativity might ensue...the spiralled cheese straws one of our trainees came up with last week are a great case in point, I'd not thought of branching out from a straight straw!
This was very much granny's attitude, she wanted us to be skilled and self-empowered. She bought me my first few cook books and we made things together collaboratively. What Gran loved was to see us get enough knowledge to try things at home myself and be able to provide some treats for friends and family, if that's what we wanted to do. Not to do it 'her way' or slavishly follow her recipes. Here's one of my favourite shots of the two of us with our co-baked turkey croissant wreath!
My second lesson from Gran is that having taught me and worked alongside me, she then empowered me to flourish by myself. One of the greatest honours I had was when she asked me to make her and grandpa's Diamond wedding anniversary cake (to be eaten by the founding members of St Albans' WI, gulp!). There's nothing like someone believing in you to get you trying new things!
This is what I love seeing most in our work Bloom, when we're able to see people progress through our training and then be able to flourish into bakers in their own right. Like when one of our wonderful trainees brought in pictures of the very first birthday cake she'd baked for her daughter, having never had the confidence before. Or when another trainee totally nailed a new recipe for some amazing Raspberry and White Chocolate blondies, that went on to become a bestseller at Lewisham People's Day. At Bloom, we believe in empowering our trainees to take on real responsibility to produce amazing bakes of their own. We know this is the best way to bring out their innate talent and watch as they completely surpass my average skills and go on to invent some brilliant bakes!
My final lesson from Gran is that she always valued something homemade and really appreciated effort. Granny would always send me a little note to say, 'thanks for the flapjack, the fudge, the biccies...' because she knew they weren’t just baked goods but little tokens of my time, efforts and love. It amazes me that she never got rid of a little laminated shopping list notepad I made her in the 1990s - it certainly wasn't because she couldn't go and buy a new notepad from the shops!! And that's part of the point of Bloom - and where all of you wonderful people can contribute to what we are doing each week.
Of course, you could go out and buy boring supermarket-made brownies OR you could go and get some from your local farmers market, community cafe or the Bloom pop-up cafe at Blackheath Christmas fair (come!). Why? Because we all know how important it is for the human heart not just to be creative but appreciated and fairly rewarded for what you've produced. And so each time you buy local, independent or social - you're showing your appreciation for the effort and creative skills of individual makers and bakers.
I love Bloom's passion for social enterprise; we believe that everyone's got the skills to produce something delicious and we're trying to open new doors so that hard work and skill can generate opportunity and income. So, I just want to say thanks, Gran, for the baking tips and decades of encouragement - I wish you were here to see me being able to pay it forward in my own local community.
And thank you to the amazing trainees who've been part of my group this Autumn. It's been such a pleasure to work alongside you, to learn from you and to see your creative talents flourish. I look forward to coming and buying your goodies at the Blackheath Christmas Fair and other pop-up Bloom locations this Autumn. In the meantime, it's time for me to celebrate my beloved gran by making her absolutely legendary mince pies and getting them in the freezer ready for the party season....