In just over 24 hours we’ll know who has been crowned 2013 Great British Bake Off champion. I’m rather excited – even if I did want poor Howard to win. But will it be style (Frances), flavour (Kimberly) or youthful exuberance (Ruby) that rises to the occasion!?
One thing I’m sure of is that the contestants will be jolly sad to leave the Bake Off tent behind, and with it, its plethora of must-have gadgets. How do I know this? Well a few weeks ago, I visited the Cake & Bake Show where I met up with last year’s winner, the utterly charming John Whaite. And while he was attempting to show me how to make cupcakes, John was still singing the praises of the Neff Slide&Hide oven one year on!
Here are 10 things that John Whaite loves about Neff’s Slide&Hide Circotherm ovens:
1. ‘The Circotherm bit means they don’t blow, they suck,’ he tells me, with a twinkle in his eye. ‘That’s good news because when the heat is forced out of the back of the oven, rather than rising up, it’s pulled back over whatever you’re cooking, creating an envelope on each level. So you can cook your turkey on level one and your cupcakes on level three, and you’re not going to get turkey-flavoured cupcakes. Instead, the air keeps getting circulated and filtered so there’s no transfer of flavours. You could even re-heat a curry and bake cupcakes in there and it would be fine.’
2. ‘When you open the door, you don’t get that big waft of hot air, as if you’ve got straight off the plane in a hot country,’ John explains. ‘You know when you’re wearing a necklace and you open the oven, and it gets really hot and makes a massive indentation, like a brand mark on your chest? Or your glasses steam up, and you can’t see what you’re doing? Well that doesn’t happen with a Slide&Hide.’
3. ‘Neff ovens use a lot less energy, so you get the best results for your cakes and you don’t have to worry about your bills. They give the same cooking results at 20ºC less than traditional ovens.’
4. ‘Ordinarily, when you’re basting a turkey or checking a meal halfway through, you’ll try and contort yourself between the hot shelves or balance the tray on the oven door, but Neff Slide&Hide ovens have a baking tray on telescopic rails. This takes quite a bit of weight so you can put a big turkey on there, the pull it out and baste it, check it or rip the foil off halfway through to crisp up the skin, and all without burning yourself.
5. ‘You can avoid soggy bottoms! The Circotherm Intensive function raises the oven temperature to 250ºC and directs a lot of heat to the bottom of the dish so it’s great for cooking pies and quiches.’
6. ‘How do you work an oven timer? It’s the biggest nightmare of my life. I wake up worrying about it! But the timer on the Slide&Hide is easy to set. All you do is press a button, twiddle the knob to get the time exactly right and off you go. It will indicate it’s done with a gorgeous-sounding alarm that sings a bit of Norah Jones to you… Ok, it doesn’t do that but it is really easy.’
7. ‘There’s a thermostat light, too, so when the red bars are full to the top you know the oven is hot enough…
8. ‘…and a rapid preheat function if you’re in a real rush.’
9. ‘These ovens are marvellous with bread. The proving setting keeps the oven at a steady temperature that’s perfect for yeast. This enables a quick prove, so rather than an hour it takes about 35-40 minutes. Also, because of the big glass door, it’s easy to see how high your dough is proving, which is important, because baking bread is about getting to know the little signs that tell you when the bread is ready to be baked.
‘Fair enough, some breads taste better when they’re slowly proved overnight in the fridge, but if you’re making a garlic loaf that doesn’t need to have that integral flavour of bread, it doesn’t matter.’
10. ‘The proving function is also great for keeping things a little bit warm, for example, if you’ve softened some butter to pour into a Genoese sponge or madeleine mix but you’re not quite ready for it.’