Bettys Cookery School
Plumpton Park, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG2 7LD
01423 814016 | www.bettyscookeryschool.co.uk
- Advanced Chef Skills
- Bread Making
- Fish & Seafood
- Knife Skills
- Pastry, Cakes and Puddings
Food and Travel Review
Structure, density, volume – our white-jacketed tutors’ words sound more like those of chemists than cooks. But they choose their words wisely, as working with chocolate – especially the high quality stuff they use here – is all about precision.
It’s 9am and our class of 18, perked up with Taylors coffee, sits alert as David and Jenny answer every eager question about the elements that go into Bettys’ famous sweet creations – not just in this class but in the tearooms, too, which have been serving visitors in the heart of this spa town for nearly a century. Today, our Baking with Chocolate course will cover some classic favourites – from brownies and crème brûlée to a challenging soufflé – and with lively instruction, it promises to be indulgent and fun.
Chocolate isn’t my specialism, but I am filled with confidence after the clear demonstration, before we head to our own well- equipped and spacious work stations to start on the crème brûlée. We leave them to set in the fridge then start on the cookies. Butter and sugar are blended until fluffy and pale; egg and vanilla go in, a shake of flour and baking powder, then roughly chopped milk and white chocolate Bettys buttons. We work the mixture into cookie dough sausages with our hands – hard to resist eating raw – and, rolled in cling film, we pop them in the fridge for slicing and baking later, when they prove perfect with a cup of Yorkshire tea.
Now it’s onto a chocolate torte. Whisks buzzing, chocolate and butter steaming on the hob, the kitchen hots up – and we start to feel the pressure. By lunchtime we get to taste the results – thanks to David’s tips on how to keep the air in my mixture, my soufflé rises out of its ramekin like a cartoon chef’s hat.
The school sits next to Bettys’ craft bakery – a nerve centre that supplies the tearooms and shop and creates hundreds of sweet delights each day. Courses range from patisserie to chocolate making and seasonal cooking – and include some of up to ten days. By 4.30pm I feel like another piece of chocolate could kill me. But then Jenny guides me in how to use a blowtorch to turn three layers of sugar into a cracking crème brûlée top. ‘You wouldn’t find a purist making one with chocolate,’ says David, watching on. But breaking through the top to reach a runny, gorgeously brown centre, it’s clear that while Bettys champions tradition, it’s less about ‘purity’ and more about life’s guilty pleasures. JW. £180.