The School of Artisan Food
The School of Artisan Food tucked away on the beautiful Welbeck Estate (just on the outskirts of Sheffield), is dedicated to teaching skills in artisan food production, offering courses for those with a passion in making food using traditional methods. I went along to their ‘Make your own afternoon tea’ course to get my hands dirty and to learn a bit about British patisserie.
Now I happen to know a fair bit about baking already which the Exposed office are thankful for I’m sure but when the opportunity to develop my skills further arose, I couldn’t say no. The building itself is extensive, with a library, lecture theatre, three professional training rooms, a common room and a refectory – the latter is where everyone gathers for a ‘school dinner’ freshly cooked and served up by the chefs so that staff, students and tutors alike can enjoy a bit of downtime together over a great meal.
The lunch spread for the day consisted of three cheese & onion quiche, broccoli & Stichelton quiche, roast new potatoes with onion & sausages, quinoa with butternut squash & peas and a selection of salads, breads and chutneys – it was all delicious and there was also unlimited tea and coffee available throughout the day. If you fancy a bit of fresh air during the break, have a little wander around the lovely Welbeck Estate which is where Ottar Chocolate, Welbeck Abbey Brewery, The Welbeck Bakehouse and Welbeck Farm Shop are also based.
Pastry chefs and tutors Graham and Rose Dunton who have produced patisserie for some of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants were our mentors for the day and to put it bluntly – they know their shit. Watching them cut out perfect circles, roll out pastry and pipe buttercream effortlessly was truly mesmerising.
The course promised to teach us how to create elements of a classic afternoon tea including a victoria sponge cake, vanilla, lemon & sultana scones, savoury scones and a Bakewell tart. Everything from how to make vanilla sugar to the making of the jam and the baking of flaked almonds was covered – no stone was left unturned.
The group was small and intimate, around 12 people, this allowed us plenty of one-on-one time with the tutors which was great! We were each given our own space to work, the equipment was clean and easy to find, and all the ingredients were readily measured out.
Each step was demonstrated in the middle of the room and it was at a leisurely pace, which meant you could really take in how everything is done and ask any questions you might have. We were given a booklet with all the recipes to refer back to if you have a terrible memory like myself or of course if you want to recreate the sweet treats back at home. What I liked about the class was that although we were given plenty of guidance, there was no handholding. We were left to do our own thing and the help was there only if you needed it.
The first thing we did was make our own pâte sucrée (sweet shortcrust pastry) for the Bakewell tart. I thought I was doing reasonably well until Graham came over and pointed out that I missed two steps – oops. I learnt many new techniques including how to effectively scrape out all the seeds of a vanilla pod and how to make a lovely swiss meringue buttercream, find the recipe below.
Graham made some fresh-out-the-oven chocolate & candied orange cookies with the leftover pastry dough and they were divine, everyone took home their own leftover pastry to do whatever they wished and we were each given a pot of freshly made jam. And on top of all that, we got to take home all the baked goodies we whipped up in the class. I had scones for breakfast nearly everyday for the next couple weeks!
The School of Artisan Food is a not-for profit organisation and works closely with other charities and local suppliers, such as nearby social enterprise Rhubarb Farm who supply the school with fresh ingredients to work with.
The wide range of specialist short courses are open to everyone from keen amateurs to professionals, and can be just half a day or up to four weeks depending on what you choose. Learn all about cheesemaking, discover how to preserve seasonal produce and perfect your butchery skills, the school offers courses to suit all skill needs – tutors regularly see people from the industry joining their courses to upskill and improve their practice across the country.
All in all, it was a successful day and although these courses can set you back a fair bit, all the ingredients and time that go into these classes along with the mountain of goodies, free lunch and lifelong knowledge you get, makes it completely worth it.
Swiss Meringue Butter Cream
– 125g egg white
– 230g caster sugar (or vanilla sugar)
– 330g unsalted butter
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
- You will need an electric mixer with a whisk attachment.
- Add the egg white and sugar to your machine bowl.
- Place the bowl over a pan of hot water and heat the egg and sugar until hot and the sugar is dissolved.
- Now place the bowl on the machine and whisk until cool and thick. Add the vanilla extract.
- Add the butter a little at a time (50g) until it is all incorporated.
- Raspberry jam can be added to the buttercream for flavour.
For more information, head here.