The Gin Baker

Friday, October 14, 2016


Negroni cupcakes seem a perfect introduction to the seductive nuances of Autumn. 


Liam Beauchamp hails from Edenbridge in Kent, a tiny town filled with medieval buildings clustered along narrow streets and boasting four waterwheel mills which were used to grind flour prior to the World Wars. It seems only right, then, that this young man has developed a passion for baking.  After all, he's had his hands in flour since a young age when he would spend weekends with his Nan, learning to bake her signature dishes. While Liam worked in a variety of kitchens during his college years, he recently developed a niche for baking with gin. The response from family and friends was astounding, which led to the launch of his food blog, The Gin Baker in 2016. 

Beauchamp, a full-time marketer in addition to his part-time baking endeavors, now lives in the town of West Sussex in England's glorious countryside.  He feels fortunate to live in this ideal location, saying, "I am a stone’s throw from both the seaside and London so I can enjoy the tranquility of the sea air and the hustle and bustle of the city." His dream is to publish a book of gin-baked recipes, and while he's at it, he wouldn't mind winning the next Great British Bake-Off..  Read on for my interview with Liam..





Raspberry Bundt 


Tell us about your childhood. I grew up in a very small town called Edenbridge. There was never a lot going on so as kids we always had to make our own fun. Very often this would just be playing out in the streets, and, fortunately, I lived on the same street as two of my best friends. I was never really that interested in sports so most of my time was either spent out on my bike or in a corner reading a book. I was always the quiet child with my head buried in a book. I then began writing my own stories and this is where my passion for creative writing came from.





Frasier


How did you come to love baking? Baking has always played a bit part in my life. Even from a very early age my Nan was a huge influence. She would visit most Saturdays so my weekends would be spent in the kitchen with her, learning to bake her signature dishes. The very first recipe she taught me was for her infamous Victoria Sponge and I still stick to this recipe today. I was always amazed by her ability to remember a recipe off the top of her head –although sometimes I think she just made it up, but that didn’t make it any less delicious. I am much more cautious with my baking, though, and I follow everything by the book. As a baker, I feel that I am bound to a certain set of rules but then I must be creative within them so that I can create my unique recipes. I love taking classic recipes and putting my own twist on them.





Chocolate Babka



Have you had any funny experiences while cooking or learning to cook? It is safe to say I have plenty of kitchen nightmares in my time, especially when I was younger. I feel quite sorry for my family actually because they were usually forced to try my baking efforts, even if they did turn out to be complete disasters. There was once a case of mistaken identity where I accidentally replaced the sugar in the recipe for salt. There have also been plenty of occasions where bakes have ended up on the floor – I definitely suffer from butter fingers. I wouldn’t say I am a pioneer of gin baking but there are very few recipes out there so a lot of what I do is trial and error. Some of the gins I use have very delicate flavors so I have to ensure the flavor comes through the bake. Sometimes this doesn’t work so I have to find more inventive ways of getting the gin into the bake.






Orange Cardamom Cake


How would you describe your career path? Prior to university, I spent a lot of time working in kitchens as I was very unsure of what I wanted to do in life. I mainly worked as a kitchen assistant, which generally meant I would wash the dishes and prepare starters. I then started studying towards a Foundation degree at university in Photography, since that had always been a hobby of mine. I very quickly realized that this wasn’t for me, so I changed courses and started to study towards my Advertising and Marketing Communications degree. During this time I worked in an old fashioned sweet shop and I also spent one summer working in the cake kitchen at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Here my day would usually start at around 6 AM by baking 300 scones. I then completed my degree in 2013 and since then I have worked in various marketing roles. 

Baking continued to play a huge role in my life and most weekends would be spent harbored away in the kitchen. I had always thought about starting my own recipe blog but could never find a niche that I thought people would be interested in. That was until I started baking with gin and the response from my family and friends was overwhelming. This got me thinking that potentially other people would be interested in my gin baking and so far the response has been phenomenal.





Sorbet


Why gin? I was first introduced to “mothers ruin” at university and it very quickly became a part of my survival kit. It probably helped me get through the most stressful three years of my life. To say my choice of gins was poor is an understatement. Very often I would drink the cheapest navy-strength gin I could find. Then I was introduced to new wave gins and my eyes were opened to a whole new world.  I haven’t looked back since. There are so many varieties on the market and no two gins are the same so they are perfect for baking with because they all bring something new to the table.


“My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”


What inspires you? When it comes to developing recipes, my biggest inspiration comes from the botanicals that are used in the gins. Every gin has different tasting notes so I generally try to match the gin to a recipe based on its taste, as well as its scent. There are hundreds of gins on the market, some that are more floral, some that are citric and other more traditional ones that are juniper led. Once I have established the strongest flavor profile in the gin, I will find a recipe that will complement the flavor. This involves a lot of taste testing, which I’m sure you can imagine is very hard work. I also like to peruse old recipe books for ideas. I get most of my inspirations from these books but I like to adapt the recipes to make them my own.




“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”



What is your strategy for increasing your footprint in the local community?  I will be participating in a small Gin Festival next year that is looking to bring together small local distilleries to raise the awareness of the importance of buying local. I will be providing the baked goods for the event to hopefully sober up some of the punters (customers) although I fear my bakes might have the opposite effect.




Dark Berry Gin Tart


Dark Berry Gin Tart

Loaded with blackberries, blueberries and mint, this is the perfect bake to say goodbye to summer and welcome autumn with open arms. For this bake, you will need:
Ingredients:
For the pastry:
100g plain flour
50g of icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp of cold water
For the filling:
450g of blackberries (plus extra for decorating)
450g of blueberries (plus extra for decorating)
400ml of water
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp of caster sugar
4 gelatine sheets
150ml of Brockmans Gin
5 mint leaves
Directions:
1) For your pastry, combine your flour and sugar in a bowl and then add your butter. Using your fingers, gently rub the butter into the flour and sugar until you have what resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add your egg yolk and water and mix until it comes together to form a firm dough. If your dough is too wet, add a little flour until it no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
2) Preheat your oven to 200ÂșC and dust your work surface with flour. Roll out your pastry into a circle with the thickness of a £1 coin and about 5cm larger than your flan tin. Gently lift the pastry and line your flan tin. Trim off any excess pastry and prick the base of your pastry with a fork.
3) Line the pastry case with parchment paper or foil and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake the pastry blind for about 12 minutes, or until just slightly golden-brown. Remove from the oven and remove the paper and baking beans. Place back in the oven and bake for a further 5-7 minutes or until pale golden-brown and dried out. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
4) To make your tart filling, separate your gelatine leaves and place them in a bowl of cold water and leave to stand. In the meantime, place your blackberries, blueberries, mint, water and sugar in a large pan and set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Leave to simmer for between 45 minutes – 1 hour or until the fruit has broken down into a sauce.
5) Place a sieve over a bowl and strain the mixture. Don’t press the mixture as this will make your jelly cloudy. Once all the liquid has drained through, discard the fruit pulp and mint leaves and place the collected liquid into a clean pan.
6) Gently cook over a low heat then whisk in the gelatine and water, making sure you dissolve any lumps. Remove from the heat and then add the gin. Leave to cool for about half an hour, stirring every ten minutes, and then pour the mixture into your pastry case.
7) Place in the fridge and leave to set overnight. Decorate with blackberries, blueberries and mint leaves with a dusting of icing sugar.



Raspberry and Gin Cheesecake 

Raspberry and Gin Cheesecake

For the Raspberry Sauce
200g of fresh raspberries
70g of caster sugar
100ml of Gin
3 tsp of cornstarch
For the base:
20 digestive biscuits
180g of caster sugar
160g of unsalted butter
For the Cheesecake Filling:
500g mascarpone
90g icing sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lime
½ tsp vanilla extract
600ml double cream
75ml of Raspberry Gin Liqueur
200g of fresh raspberries
Directions
1)  Preheat your oven to 180°.

2)  Puree the raspberries and gin in a blender or food processor until smooth and then press through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Pour the puree into a small saucepan and add the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk until blended and then put over a medium-high heat. Stir continuously and then when the mixture starts to boil, stir for another minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and then leave to cool.

3)  Put the sugar and the butter into a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently until the butter starts to melt. Crush the digestive biscuits roughly using a food processor and the end of a rolling pin and add them to the saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and stir gently.

4)  In a large bowl, pour in the mascarpone and stir gently to loosen it up. Add in the lime juice, icing sugar and vanilla and stir. Pour in the gin liqueur slowly to taste ensuring the mixture doesn’t get too runny. If you don’t have a raspberry gin liqueur you could make another raspberry puree with just gin and raspberries and add to the mix. This shouldn’t happen with the liqueur but if it does, either stop adding the gin or add mascarpone.

5)  In another bowl, whip up the cream into firm peaks. Gently fold in the mascarpone mixture. Then fold in 150g of the fresh raspberries. The mixture should stay fairly solid.

6)  Line the base of a springform tin with the crumbly base mixture and press down to compact the mixture. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 180° then top with the gin-infused cheese mix.

7)  Heat the cooled raspberry sauce in a microwave-safe bowl for about 30 seconds or just until warm. Pour over the cheesecake and spread evenly.

8)  Refrigerate for an hour and then use the rest of the fresh raspberries to decorate.

9)  Before serving, leave to chill at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Don’t worry too much about the appearance of the cheesecake (especially if you are in a rush) because the taste makes up for any imperfections.

"I am hoping one day to turn my baking from a hobby into a career so that I can do what I love every day."


Photos and recipes courtesy of Liam Beauchamp (right) and used with permission.

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