Three Minute Squiz with… Anneka Manning

To say Anneka Manning is a baking enthusiast is a bit like saying we’re keen on delicious baked goods… She’s a food author, editor and cooking teacher. And she’s the founder of BakeClub – a hands-on and online cooking school in Sydney that teaches the fundamentals of (you guessed it…) baking. Anneka is also a keen Squizer so please give her a light and fluffy welcome to this week’s Three Minute Squiz.

How and where do you Squiz?
I’m religious about listening on my morning walk and then I sometimes follow up with a read over breakfast.

We read a quote of yours: “baking is love made edible.” Where did your love of baking start?
I grew up in the country (on the Monaro in south-eastern NSW) on a sheep and cattle property and we never (ever!) had bought biscuits or cakes in the house – always homemade. I spent all my spare time either baking and cooking or horse riding… it’s just what it did. I still giggle at the fact that I was also the only one from my primary school who ordered the cookbooks from the Scholastic book club and always entered every baking category I could in the annual local show!

Are you still a country kid or are you completely urbanised these days?
Still a country girl at heart and I think I always will be… I do love Sydney (especially the beaches and parks) but it does get a little overwhelming at times. All of my family and lots of friends live in the country so I am super lucky to have plenty of opportunity to ‘escape’ the city when I feel the need.

How did you go about crafting a career out of your love for baking?
I spent about 27 years in the food print media working on and contributing to various magazines, newspapers and book publishers mainly as a food editor and writer. But baking has always been my first love when it comes to food and when I had the opportunity to create a business of my own about seven years ago it was the natural thing to niche into.

You’ve worked for the major Aussie food publications like Gourmet Traveller, Good Taste and The Australian Women’s Weekly. Which has the best test kitchen?
Oh, tough call… probably Good Taste as I set it up with my team so we were able to design something that suited us and the magazine’s needs. The kitchen was in the centre of the office which made it a hub especially for the constant stream of more-than-willing taste testers which I loved!

And tell us about BakeClub?
BakeClub is my baking school. While we are based in Rosebery, Sydney, for my face-to-face classes and workshops, we also run online baking courses and have lots of baking resources on our website, including recipes, tips and blogs, to help home cooks learn to bake and improve their baking no matter what their current skill level is. I also host the unique, six-month Make Me a Baker program, the only baking course of its kind currently in Australia. I specialise in teaching not only the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ of baking – basically the science of baking (truth be known, I’ve always been a bit of a geek at heart!) – which gives them way more success every time they turn on their ovens.

What’s one fundamental thing we can all do to be better bakers?
Take your time and enjoy the whole baking process. Too often we are in a rush to make/do/finish and we forget that there is so much joy to be found in the actual process of deciding what to bake, choosing our ingredients and bringing them together, enjoying the aromas that your house is filled with, and then sharing it with a those around you. When you take the time to slow down, be mindful when you bake and notice the individual steps, you not only learn so much more, but you will also enjoy the experience tenfold.

Sponge cakes: world’s trickiest cake or a mean joke played on semi-skilled bakers? Asking for a friend…
Hahahaha, possibly both! Sponges can be tricky but, like so many other baking techniques such as pastry making, if you have a good recipe and are aware of some things that are key to sponge making (like what a ‘ribbon trail’ is) they really aren’t as challenging as they seem.

And what implement should all good bakers have in their arsenal?
If I could only recommend one, it would be a good set of digital scales. I love my scales (I know, it’s sad, really!) but they are the most valuable piece of equipment you can have when baking so you can measure accurately and with ease. And if I’m allowed a second (I know, cheeky) the other tool that I find indispensable is a spoon/spatula or ‘spoonula’. Basically, it is a rubber or silicone spatula with a shallow bowl like a spoon. It makes incredibly light work of folding mixtures, transferring them to cake pans and then scraping the bowl. I would highly recommend you buying one (or three!) of these if you don’t have one already

Asking you for a favourite recipe might be like asking you which of your two kids do you like more… So maybe we could ask you to share a preferred Easter recipe?
Yes, you aren’t wrong! For Easter, I always come back to these Hot Cross Buns… I sometimes swap out the sour cherries and chocolate, and sometimes not.

Name four people – living or dead – you would love to have at your next dinner party.
Samin Nosrat, Nigel Slater, Missy Higgins and my mum.

Best dessert you’ve ever eaten?
Strawberry ice cream that my aunt Jean and I made with warm strawberries from her strawberry patch one Christmas holidays when I was about 10yo. Unforgettable and it has never been matched!

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Self-control – I sometimes have too much of it and I wish I didn’t!

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story we should know about?
I know I am probably meant to give you some insightful answer here but this story made me smile… we are living in crazy times at the moment and this would have never been a thing otherwise.

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