We are almost bursting with news, so although it might be cold and wet and miserable we’re pretty sure that we can get you all through February baking some really super treats, and before you know it we’ll be well on the way to Spring.

I'm very pleased to announce our new in-house baking expert and author Vanessa Kimbell is now on hand for recipes and technical advice. Vanessa trained as a baker upon leaving school and then worked in a bakery in the south of France. Vanessa often pops up on the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme as a contributor specialising in fair and ethical trading. With an Italian mother and strong French connections I am really looking forward to her recipes and we’re kicking off with her Chocolate Hearts for Valentine's day, made with Original Beans chocolate buttons. We’ve also got Vanessa presenting a series of short videos giving advice and tips each month. The first shows how to get the best from your banetton or proving basket.

If you’d like a chance to meet Vanessa and learn to bake sourdough bread, we are giving one lucky person and a friend the chance to spend a day with her baking at The Kitchen Garden School in Northampton. To enter tell us on Twitter who you’d take with you and why they love to bake using #bakerybitsfriend.

We’re also up for a bit of fun this month - it’s the first ever National Toast day, there is more information here about some of the fun prizes to win. We’re also furiously boiling marmalade here ready for the Marmalade awards. It is in its 9th year and one of our favourite bakers, Dan Lepard, is judging this year and what could be nicer than home made marmalade on home baked toasted bread?

Our New Year resolution to keep our social media up-to-date is going well. We’re going great guns on Twitter, and Facebook and delighted to have joined Pintrest. We’ve got galleries going up day-by-day with your bakes, so keep sending in those photos of what you’ve baked to gallery@bakerybits.co.uk.

This week I’ve had several enquiries about going to The Big Cake Show this March. It certainly looks like fun, but as we’ve committed to doing the Cake and Bake show in Manchester 4th – 6th April we won’t be able to do both. However we’ve got 5 pairs of tickets for the full weekend at the Cake and Bake Show to give away. Simply tell us of a friend who bakes and tell us why you’d like to take them and we’ll enter you into the prize draw. Twitter or Facebook use #BBCakeandBake to @BakeryBits, email to competition@bakerybits.co.uk, subject “Cake and Bake Show”. See terms and conditions.

We’ve also got a Crust book to giveaway to our baker of the month. You can read more about Richard Bertinet’s excellent book here, and with permission, we are pleased to share the recipe for Richard’s fabulous Breton Loaf. Some of the techniques for this recipe are explained in full details in the book, so for those of you who want to bake it please take a look at some of Richards’s techniques online before tackling it, or better still buy the book. To win this book send an email to competition@bakerybits.co.uk, subject “Crust”, Tweet or Facebook using #BakeryBitsCrust with a photo of your favourite bread to @Bakerybits. See terms and conditions.

Finally we are considering stocking some new fresh organic yeast and wondered if there might be any volunteers out there to try a recipe using fresh yeast in mid-March?  We’ve got two-dozen packs so email your address to yeast@bakerybits.co.uk, with subject "Yeast".

Happy Baking.

February 2014