Back in October I entered a purchase necessary competition at Waitrose to win a Paul Hollywood themed cookery day. To enter you had to purchase any Paul Hollywood baking product, I chose his famous scones (spoiler alert I think my own homemade ones tasted better, sorry Paul!) In November I found out I was a winner and earlier this month the day was finally organised for all the winners to attend.
The day was organised at the Waitrose cookery school in Kings Cross, which fortunately for me is less than a 20 minute ride on the high speed train. Travel wasn’t included as part of the prize but the cost of the train ticket was tiny compared to the prize value.
Although it was a Paul Hollywood themed day I had to laugh that almost every single email I received about the prize kept highlighting Paul Hollywood wouldn’t be in attendance. Almost to the point that I thought maybe he would pop out as a surprise.
The Cookery School
We arrived at the cookery school and was greeted by one of the friendly members of the team. We were both given lockers and told to go through into the kitchen and help ourselves to whatever we wanted. There was a brilliant spread of pastries, fresh fruit, muesli as well as a plethora of drinks to choose from, smoothies, lattes, a massive selection of herbal teas – it was an awesome spread and I took the chance to fill up on breakfast as I hadn’t had the chance to eat yet.
We had to fill out a questionnaire about any allergies we had probably just to keep a record on file (I had already emailed ahead to advise them that my friend is lactose intolerant) and then met some of the other competition winners as well. There were a few members from the Compers News boards and then some non compers too in the mix. Before we knew it we were being called over to our workstations to grab an apron and watch a demonstration.
First up on our list of things to make was carrot cake. We started b watching a demonstration then were sent off in our pairs to have a go ourselves! Rather importantly I learnt the best way to crack an egg was on a flat surface – not on the edge of the bowl!
We added ingredients and mixed before putting them in the oven. It wasn’t just any oven – it was the Neff ovens they use in the Great British Bake Off. Thus we felt the need to get on the floor and spend ages looking at our ovens.
When they were cooked we then set them out to cool before icing and moved on to our next bake of the day..
Chocolate Almond Cake
This bake really got my mouth watering! For ours we substituted cream for soya substitute and started by melting some dark chocolate. We then added our dry ingredients before folding. We learnt the importance of folding in the ingredients instead of just hammering it with a mixer – this stops gluten from forming. Too much gluten in the cake would make it a rubber texture and is something you don’t want.
Cakes poured out into moulds we then popped them into the oven to bake and was treated to a lunch made in the kitchen by the chefs who up until now had been cleaning up after us.
Lunch was a vegetarian curry, now I’m not a fan of curry at all but I didn’t actually mind this too much – although I had to pick the coriander off, I’m sorry but it tastes of soap to me!
Lunch was accompanied by a glass of wine of our choice as well as any other hot drinks we wanted to have.
Whilst eating lunch our chocolate almond cakes were removed from the ovens and set to cool before glazing with ganache.
Our last recipe of the day was a very Paul Hollywood inspired bake – Soda Bread! I’ve not eaten soda bread before but do bake a lot of my own bread at home, in a machine though because it does it all for you, I’m lazy).
We learnt that the soda bread doesn’t need the proving time that regular breads do as it doesn’t contain any yeast. It uses bicarbonate of soda to rise so buttermilk is used with it which is acidic. The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and causes it rise when cooked in the oven.
We had both pumpkins seeds, olives and feta cheese to add to our soda bread. I decided to omit the olives because – bluerugh. I loved how quick and easy the bread was to make and will be making this at home as well on the days when I’ve forgotten to put a loaf of bread on in the machine!
Glazing & Frosting
Whilst our bread was cooling it was time to frost and glaze our carrot and chocolate cakes. The piping bags of icing required a real knack to get right – which I did not manage to master….case in point….
The chocolate almond cakes were super easy to glaze – just poor on the genache and then let it cool – super simple!
End of the day surprise
At the end of the day we were given bags and boxes to take all of our bakes home and all of the winners were given a massive hamper – which none of us were expecting at all!
I got to open mine on the train to find it filled with Paul Hollywood baking products and some baking gear to use at home. Husband and the kids really enjoyed eating all the treats I brought home from the day and I’m definitely going to be making everything again – it was so delicious!
Going to a cookery school day isn’t something I would normally book to do, It’s probably my fave prize i’ve enjoyed so far this year, so much that I would consider paying to go back again and do another day in the school. It was fabulous to share the day with my friend and get to share my spoils with the family after a day of baking.