Reporter Laura Hill brushes up on her baking skills with a cakes and bakes course at Bettys Cookery School.
If there is one thing the team at Bettys Cookery School know a thing or two about, it is baking.
From cakes to breads to tarts and biscuits the professional tutors at the cookery school are experts when it comes to the nation’s favourite past time.
The school offers dozens of courses, which include an element of baking but the recently launched cakes and bakes course caught me eye.
The course has proved hugely popular since it’s launch in autumn, something course tutor Chris Taylor credits to the Bake Off effect.
“Over the last few years baking has just taken off again, and it must be down to the show.”
It took less than 10 minutes before the conversation over morning coffee and pastries turned to the Bake Off. Students had travelled from across the North of England to learn to bake the Bettys’ way and, as proof of the schools popularity, almost half the class had been on a Bettys Cookery School course in the past. “They are totally addictive,” one woman told me, “I make the recipes all the time at home now.”
So, what does baking the Bettys way entail? Well no soggy bottoms, that’s for sure.
Accuracy is key, and both course tutors emphasized the importance of using the correct ingredients and following the recipe. It seems obvious, but as a lazy baker who usually just guesses weights and throws anything in I was amazed at the difference doing things properly made.
As we took our places at the work benches, I felt like a contestant on Great British Bake Off and my competitive streak came out.
“Make sure you label your bakes with your name,” course tutor Jenny Culver told us, “No swopping bakes. You won’t believe how competitive it can get, especially if people have come together.”
Jenny has worked at Bettys for seven years and used to work in the development kitchen before taking up a role in the Cookery School.
Her uncanny ability to spot a mistake before it happened saved me from disaster several times during the day as she always popped up at the perfect moment to tell me to take the biscuits out of the oven, stop over-whisking the cake mixture or reminding me not to forget to put ginger in the ginger biscuits.
Chris, formerly head chef at the Hob Green Hotel, told me preparation is essential for good baking.
At Bettys Cookery School all the ingredients were weighed out and packaged for us - I felt like a TV chef. However Chris recommends doing the same at home, so you can check you have everything you need and don’t have to substitute.
Chris also spotted my tendency to be a somewhat lazy baker, and kept a close eye on me when I was kneading the sweet bread for the toffee and apple pinwheel bread.
Despite my whines of, ‘Is it not ready yet?’ Chris patiently explained the science behind bread making and told me, “This is how we do it in the craft bakery next door.”
Because the course teaches the same techniques that they use in the bakery at the end of the day I was left with food good enough to serve in Bettys tearooms, made by me. Fantastic!