You guys are the greatest cheer squad imaginable - thanks so much for all the kind thoughts on my baking exploits! So I just had to stop by this evening and share all the gossip with you - it was such fun - I had completed all the baking yesterday, so there was no pressure at all and I was determined to enjoy the experience.
And it was fantastic. I got to plate up my chicken, sage and pancetta palm pies and slice my marmalade loaf cake, served with greek yoghurt, candied peel and blood oranges in caramel. And then my food was whisked off, with me trailing in it's wake, to meet Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
And they were lovely - so amiable and keen to put me at ease (quite important, given the somewhat daunting presence of a film crew in the room). Mary had the air of the health visitor about her - immediately friendly, but you get a sense that she knows her stuff and wouldn't hesitate to tell you in the nicest possible way, if you were not doing things right. Or perhaps it's just that she told me twice that I was doing a good job bringing up my children. And Paul - well, quite frankly he could say whatever he liked as long as I could enjoy his twinkly blue eyes - swoon.
They said my pastry was very good (hooray!) although Paul thought I could have added cream to my pie filling to bring all the flavours together - I'm going to try that next time. And Mary said I had done an excellent job with the cake as it is apparently very hard to bake with marmalade without the cake sinking in the middle (good thing I didn't know that or I may have worried). Paul thought the cake was a bit on the dry side but Mary lept to my defence, disagreeing with him and saying it had a perfect Madeira texture. I get the impression those two quite like to disagree!
And then we had a bit of a chat about choux pastry followed by me shooting myself in the foot by admitting that I do not bake a great deal of bread. The simple truth is, I can buy excellent bread from an artisan baker made less than 5 miles from my front door and it has made me lazy. I'd rather spend my kitchen time making something that I couldn't buy as good a version of.
Which is truthful, but perhaps not a terribly well judged admission when you are auditioning for a place in a baking competition, when one of the judges owns an artisan bread company and believes baking is synonymous with bread.
But as I waited for the verdict, contemplating the challenges of the next phase of the competition, I have to admit, I was daunted. So when they told me I hadn't made it through to the last 60, I wasn't surprised and, if truth be told, a teeny bit relieved. Because it's pretty high pressure, this competitive cooking business.
And tomorrow, when I am back to the day job of being CEO of my own kitchen, I will smile to myself a little bit. Because I am still really glad to have applied - today goes down as one of my very finest cooking adventures. And if ever I am asked the question again "What is your greatest baking achievement?" I can reply that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood say my pastry is very good.
And perhaps I might invest in that Artisan Bread book Rebecca was recommending...