I have always thought I would gain international recognition in one of two ways. A) Marrying Prince Harry (noted not going to happen). B) Being the champion of all champions on the reality tv show The Circle (putting all my chips on this one). I 100% know that my rise to international stardom will not be on any primetime baking show. Why? Well, because my baking game is weak.
It’s not for the want of trying - but it is everything about my lack of patience and technique. So imagine my ultimate delight, shortly followed by a small panic, when I was invited to attend Perrys Field to Fork Cookery School - to try out the Patisserie course.
I remember feeling quite smug once when I created a Lemon Drizzle Cake without burning the sides. French Pâtisserie is another level.
Perrys Field To Fork, opened just before the pandemic, and thank god survived through the pandemic, is a cookery and artisan butchery school in rural Staffordshire, nestled next to national award-winning Perrys of Eccleshall, Master Butcher and Game Dealer. The school offer a wide variety of courses for a mix of levels throughout the year. Opportunities include traditional bread making, artisan butchery, cuisine cooking such as Italian, Greek and Indian and of course patisserie.
So, armed with several perspex boxes and comfy shoes I headed to the picturesque cookery school to learn how to become a baking goddess. The venue is intimate, bright and airy and due to COVID restrictions, there were six of us on this course, all equally spaced and at all times safe.
The course was run by development chef, baker and food stylist Steph Clubb who was warm and welcoming from the start, alongside her assistant Jenny. After a welcome chat and a good brew we began. Today we are going to prepare three delicious classics including a rich dark chocolate French celebration cake Chocolate Moelleux filled and topped with ganache and decorated with mouth-watering fresh fruit. There’s also the sensational seasonal fruit and all butter Frangipane Tart and delicate Puits d’Amour made from flaky pastry, topped with choux pastry and filled with crème Pâtisserie.
Each recipe had been weighed out and the ingredients set out to use. Recipe sheets were available to follow but the “show and tell” method Steph used throughout the day kept everyone at the same pace and allowed us to physically see preparation before trying it ourselves. And trust me, we weren’t left to flounder at any point.
One of my big fears, like most people I imagine, is to turn up to these things and be the weak one lagging behind, burning her milk or splitting her creme patisserie. Fortunately, none of these things was ever going to happen as the teaching here is informal, supportive and at the right level. This was not MasterChef, but creating and learning with new friends.
I’m not going to bore you by going through every single stage of my cookery day (for one, I don’t think that will be a great use of your reading time, and two, you should really book on the next one. There are no huge spoilers here). I will let you into one secret though, I came away with not one, but three highly edible and professional-looking and tasting creations.
When reflecting on the day and driving home praying I wasn’t going to hit a pothole and my Puits d’Amour, or ‘Love Puddles’, would be smashed to bits, I realised how far I had come in the space of six hours. I felt confident in my baking skills and I felt as though I had learnt a lot, and not gone through the motions of some cookery classes.
This was true learning, and no question was too small. I also found out if you cover chilled butter with flour before you grate it, it stays in nice shards (and not in one big lump in your grater). THIS WAS REVOLUTIONARY, I felt my jaw hit the ground. You see, simple honest tips, that will stop you from getting grumpy and giving up at the first hurdle.
Another reason I will be back at Perrys Field to Fork is that the nature of these courses has collaboration at its core. I walked in not knowing anyone, and I came away with a sense of almost friendship. It is encouraged to talk, help and engage - not compete. They take the time to ensure they pick the right tutor, that really fits with their ethos- and Steph no doubt was that tutor.
As mentioned previously, they run a vast amount of courses, which means you really are spoilt for choice. My recommendation - get yourself on one, and just start. You’ll become hooked to the thrill of the skills you learn, the warmth of the welcome, the friends you’ll make (and the epic lunch). We have been hidden away in our houses for so long, now is the time to step into the light and enjoy life. And Perrys Field to Fork will absolutely help you with that.