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John Whaite’s Kitchen School – a Fabulous Cooking Course

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Thursday 15 December – and I ventured north into deepest Lancashire to Wrightington, to the John Whaite Kitchen for a one day cooking course making delicate afternoon tea delights. See here for the link.

And this was a really big adventure for this quirky writer – I had travelled all the way from Sydney, Australia to do this course! And of course I’ve also been doing heaps of foodie stuff in the UK along the way, to be featured in later posts.

John was the winner of the Great British Bakeoff 2012, and I am a huge fan of Bakeoff.

“Festive Afternoon Tea with John Whaite” was held in a converted barn on John’s family property, and the vibe from the get go was warm, welcoming and very pre-Christmas festive.

Wonderful smells wafted my way as I entered and sat down with 9 other jolly and eager cooks! Coffee and cinnamon rolls began the day at the big communal table.

John introduced the day in the way he continued throughout our course – friendly, knowledgeable and with a boyish grin. And his naughty sense of humour made the day very entertaining…

Under John’s guidance we made three recipes with a Christmas twist, as well as having John demonstrate an additional recipe.

So Gingerbread Latte Cakes, little Mont Blancs and Fig Prune Port and Stilton Tartlets, plus John’s Cranberry and Orange Scones were created by the class and John during the day. And to add to the Christmas cheer there was mulled cider, its heady scent permeating the cooking space.

What was so impressive about the course was the balance between learning through demonstration and actually using the techniques, as well as John being on hand to troubleshoot our queries.

We made the recipes together, utilising the blast chiller, fridge and ovens to prepare the different stages of each recipe concurrently.

We learnt how to make genoise sponge, short crust pastry and sablé, frangipane, mousse, chocolate ganache and buttercream, all basic techniques of patisserie making.

I have a pretty good understanding of cooking – but this course showed me so many additional techniques, tricks and really good tips!

As readers of this blog know, refinement is not my thing – but John showed me how finessing patisserie is not as difficult as it looks.

One of my culinary aims is to pipe accurately and well. While this is a work in progress, I  think that John’s instruction and demonstrations have given me a lot of confidence to get this skill under control.

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After all the rolling, mixing and piping, and flour, sugar, eggs, cream, chocolate and spices were all fragrantly combined into our afternoon tea delicacies, we sat down at the communal table for our own afternoon tea washed down with glass or two of prosecco. This was a lovely way to finish the day – plus we got to take our beautiful bounty home!

I had a ball! My partner for the day, Kathryn, was delightful and very patient with my piping efforts. The rest of the group were fun and  very supportive too.

I loved the whole thing. Hats off to John for being a great cook, teacher and host!

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