Baking, butter, brioche and a mug of mulled wine – a day out at the Waitrose Cookery School in London

I went to the Waitrose Cookery School this week and spent a whole day in their temple to baking, clean surfaces and the John Lewis ‘look’. Even the loos were in keeping with green walls and grey doors (but no sign of Monty the Penguin). I have done a large clutch of baking courses this year, and each one has had me beaming. My whole face lights up in anticipation of the things I’m going to get to work (play) with and the new techniques I’ll learn and all the yummy things I’ll be tasting and taking home.

Pause – should you give the foodie in your life a cookery school voucher? Well it won’t be the wrong size or the wrong colour for starters. For seconds, think of all the things they’ll bring back to share with you and the dishes they’ll be baking for you with their new found skills. Pretty much a win-win situation.

A day at a cookery school is heaven. No washing up – that’s done by the ‘washing up fairies’ (see trolley below) and no multi-tasking with emails, packed lunch making, phone calls or laundry. It’s a whole day devoted to the joy of food.

Waitrose Kitchen FairiesWaitrose setting the scenewaitrose kitchen

There are loads of places running courses – I really recommend Konditor and Cook (the most decadent but re-creatable at home cakes and biscuits – London), Cinnamon Square (superb pastry making and more – Great Rickmansworth), Ruby Violet (ice cream heaven – North London) and Blackbird Bread (for working magic with gluten free loaves and running a micro bakery in Twickenham). Prices tend to start at c£50 for two hours. I hope to blog and post pictures of creations from these bakeries soon.

The Waitrose Cookery School off Finchley Road in London is purpose built, with 24 work stations, a demo theatre with flash shiny black cupboards and giant screens, and a break-out area with tables, shelves of cookery books and proper coffee.

Things always seem a bit competitive to start with on these courses, so lots of ‘What are they doing first?’, ‘Does hers look better than mine?’ and ‘Why on earth is he spraying his pecan nuts all over the floor as he’s cutting them up?’ racing through my head. This time it all calmed down quickly as we realised how we could help each other out  – a classic case of teamwork with strangers round our hobs.

lining ingredients up for the stollen dough waitrose slice waitrose stollen Waitrose cranberry dough

We had giant mugs of mulled wine for our elevenses (with what looked suspiciously like bought Mince Pies) and big bowls of creamy and very moreish celeriac and parsnip soup for lunch.

Waitrose mug

We were also shown how to make Fig and Blue Cheese Brioche but I found it a bit too rich, didn’t realise I’d ever say that. I think the filling would have suited a puff pastry better than the cakey texture of brioche.

I came home laden with:

Sesame seed bread – Cypriot style, very easy to tear chunks off and delicious

Stollen twist – cue much OMGs from the kids – an enormous circle of dough filled with marzipan and apricot yumminess anointed with glace icing

Pecan and Cranberry Wreath – with a whole Camembert to bake and place in the centre of

In the spirit of Waitrose’s #bakeitforward challenge I popped over to my neighbour with some of the stollen. (I am afraid it wasn’t the whole thing as we are too greedy and selfish.)

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