The Bake Off Crème de la Crème of British Classics at the School of Artisan Food

There’s “nowhere to hide in pastry” says one of the judges on BBC Bake Off Crème de la Crème, and he’s right –  as you can see from my own personal Bake Off at The School of Artisan Food – location for the TV show.

Introduction to Patisserie Classics

Introduction to Patisserie Classics

Set in a stables block of a magnificent country estate,  The School of Artisan Food offers exceptional professional cooking courses – breadmaking, cheesemaking, brewingbutchery, charcuterie and preserving.

The school was awarded the prestigious accolade of ‘Cookery School of the Year’ at the British Cookery School Awards in 2014 and ‘Best Large Professional Cookery School’ (2013 & 2014).

And it deserves the accolades. What you get is a real feel for being a pro pastry chef.

There are day courses and residential – it’s easily do-able from London – a train from Kings Cross to Retford and then a short drive to the Welbeck Estate in Sherwood Forest.

There’s a lot going on in Welbeck. My taxi driver said he’d had the lovely Lucy Worsley in the back of his cab the day before –  headed to the Harley Gallery, also within the grounds. Well, there are 15,000 acres on the estate. It makes Downton Abbey look like a country cottage. And it’s a charity! What’s not to love?!

BBC Bake Off Creme de la Creme Welbeck Abbey

Welbeck Abbey

School of Artisan Food Welbeck

School of Artisan Food in the former fire stables, dating back to 1870.

Getting there early for the nine thirty start, there are a few burly blokes in the refectory. Are you here for the patisserie? I asked innocently  – no, mate we’re here for the butchery. Takes all sorts. In my group we had a girl who is setting up a tea shop in the Yorkshire Dales. Great idea. The Telegraph rated the school best for a  career change saying the aim is to provide serious professional skills rather than just a day out. But what a day out – and a long one!

The School of Artisan Food

The hands on course – everything from scratch

Our teachers and terrifically hands-on-mentors are Graham and Rose Dunton – who both have years and years of experience in the food industry –  Graham having been Chef Pâtissier at the Connaught Hotel. Now, that’s a claim to fame – along with creating  the sparkling red berry glaze for Krispy Kremes.

Rose and Graham Dunton

Rose and Graham Dunton

Standing at my own cooking station and scanning down the 14 points on the day’s order of work, there’s a lot be done to create today’s afternoon tea and there’s literally nowhere to hide.

Everything is made from scratch – and that’s the real beauty of this course, we even make our own jam.

Order of Works at Artisan School of Food Retford Nottinghamshire

it’s going to be a full day!

This gives you a flavour of the day:

Step 1 – Make vanilla sugar – one of a pastry chef ‘s building blocks. Easy –  icing sugar in food mixer with vanilla pods – the tiny black flecks are powerhouses of flavour for later on.

Make Pate Sucree, wrap and place in the fridge –  it’s a versatile dough  – it’s the pastry for the Bakewell tart and a round of surprise biscuits. So we’ve got our hands floury and it’s only 10 o’clock.

Make Victoria sponge and bake – cold eggs are not good for mixing in so we warm them gently in hot water.  Another good tip on the heat of a convection oven – often you should reduce by ten degrees for recipes in books. No wonder I am always cursing my oven for being too hot.

The School of Artisan Food Retford

evened up for the sponge

Make sure to distribute between the two moulds equally. Graham Dunton has such a trained eye he can almost weigh things just by looking at them.

Line the tart and place in the fridge to rest. Thumb in the pastry, this takes some practice. You have to keep the edges even when finessing into the mould. After baking blind it shrinks a little and then the crenulated top is uneven – spoiling the perfection. That’s the aim – be precise.

Graham Dunton at School of Artisan Food

looking down the barrel of a Bakewell tart

Fill and bake the Bakewell tart with  the almond cream aka frangipane – the trick here is not the split the mixture and  use a high quality almond oil. this one doesn’t smell synthetic. It’s a beautiful heavy mix for the tart –  not the airy, foamy one from the supermarkets. We are talking real quality ingredients and mostly mixed by hand. Okay so you’ve got a fantastic tasting tart but what about the decoration? If you are going to show off then you might as well give the almonds some style too. First off let’s call them ‘Roche Almonds’ and add some rum. That’s the art of the patissier.

The School of Artisan Food

Rose Dunton and Roche almonds

And on and on – next Steps.. make the buttercream, the icing, the jam,  then it’s onto sweet and savoury scones – yes, scones – dozens of them! And lots of piping and decoration. There’s so much to do.

Look at all that work.

The School of Artisan Food

The Great British Afternoon Tea – that’s a lot of scoff!

There’s a moment when the kitchen is serenely quiet and we are all busy weighing, measuring and hand whisking.  It’s so peaceful. And then the temperature indicator light goes off and it’s time to get baking again.

Eh voila – this is my tart!

The School of Artisan Food British Classics

Bakewell Tart – and we did.


It’s a fantastic course – something to be proud of, a new or improved skill and you go home loaded with tasty smelling boxes of handmade goodies.

Book here:

Courses cost around £185 for the day (includes lunch and refreshments)

Getting There

From London it’s only about 1hr 20mins by train to the nearest mainline station at Retford.
Hinchcliffe Taxis – 01777 702049 will collect you from the station and drop you back after the course.

Address: The School of Artisan Food Lower Motor Yard, Welbeck Nottinghamshire S80 3LR

Telephone: 01909 544520 /  01909 532 171

Email: info (a)

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