Recipe for success- the boom in baking

Barbara Crick from Emsworth Cookery School (left) with Siriol Seabrook and Velma Parker
Barbara Crick from Emsworth Cookery School (left) with Siriol Seabrook and Velma Parker
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Last year, 13.4 million people tuned in to watch Nadiya Hussain win the Great British Bake Off.

It was one of the most-watched shows of 2015 as people around the country held Bake Off-themed parties at home to celebrate the finale.

So it’s no wonder that Bake Off fever has seen more of us dusting off our aprons and digging out the kitchen scales to test our baking skills.

Emsworth Cookery School is one establishment which seeks to encourage others to embrace their skills in the kitchen.

Started five years ago by Barbara Crick, the school offers a range of classes with different cuisines whether it’s a bread masterclass, a Chinese banquet or an Indian takeaway.

But at this time of year, an Afternoon Tea class is, for some, the most tempting, as people sample tea and cakes in the sunshine, ahead of the hotly-anticipated return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens.

Barbara started Emsworth Cookery School five years ago. With two boys, she was looking for a job that enabled her to fit around her busy life as a mother.

‘It was something that I could fit around them,’ she says.

‘I was looking at running a coffee shop, but the more I thought about it the more I realised that the attraction of my old job was teaching.

‘I was a project manager and I was teaching project managers.

‘I’ve always liked eating. I went to lots of cookery lessons and enjoyed it, so I thought I could do that.

‘The focus is on cooking anything that people can cook at home.

‘I like clean cooking, so people can make a takeaway without as many calories as you might get in a real takeaway.

‘We focus on cooking everything from scratch so that it’s more about cooking.’

Barbara also runs children’s parties where youngsters can learn how to make pizzas and cupcakes and she does hen and stag parties too.

Teenagers preparing to move away from home for the first time can learn to cook independently with a University Survival course.

Each year, the most popular classes are repeated, but there are also classes which run to celebrate special occasions such as Christmas, Pancake Day, and even the Queen’s Jubilee.

‘I get to make nice things and meet new people. It’s a good way of turning a hobby into work,’ Barbara adds.

‘It’s nice to imagine people recreating these things at home.

‘I have a lot of people who are regulars.

‘Now that people understand what’s going into the food, I think it’s become more popular. We don’t do anything that is overcomplicated here.’

So what does the Afternoon Tea class involve? Well, students make a batch of macaroons, some Portuguese custard tarts and either sweet or savoury scones.

Barbara says she feels that the interest in baking has grown since the Great British Bake Off first hit our television screens for the first time back in 2010.

‘I think people watch it on television and would like to try it, but would just need a bit of assistance the first time that they do things,’ she says.

‘I think once you understand how much sugar goes into something you appreciate it and have a little bit less.

‘People like to share it with their friends and family and like that they are creating something that they are proud of.’


Siriol Seabrook, 64, from Nutbourne near Chichester, says: ‘I am almost retired and I have never really had time to cook properly.

‘My husband and I went to a cookery school before and I had a bad experience. I ended up working on my own and I was pressurised the whole day and lost confidence to be able to branch out.

‘But I saw Barbara demonstrating and I saw how easy it was. So I brought my husband along to do a course together. I love it and feel really at home here.

‘The people are really nice and my creations are getting a bit better. I pick up tips all the time.

‘It’s lovely. It encourages people. I am really interested in cooking and inviting people home because I can now present an afternoon tea that looks appetising.’

Velma Parker, 61, lives in Port Solent. She says: ‘My friend gave me a gift certificate for Emsworth Cookery School and I have been coming since then.

‘I love baking and cooking. I like coming here because it helps me to relax and meet new people and I learn a lot of things.

‘There is always something to learn. I’m thinking about retirement as well and what I want to do later on.

‘Since coming here I have been brave enough to make my own biscotti. You realise that things that you thought were hard are easy.

‘Under Barbara’s teaching you can get tips and ask if it’s the way that it’s meant to look.’

Julie Turnbull, 51, from Portsmouth, says: ‘One of the ladies from work brought some cakes in and said she had made them here.

My first class was the pasta masterclass which was amazing.

‘I’ve tried quite a wide variety of classes and some of them are things I haven’t tried before, like Thai food. It all looks so delicate to make.

‘But you just learn so much and and once you have got the bug you come back for more. The bread one was really good.

‘It’s about seeing how things all come together. There is always something to learn.

‘I love to cook. If I am stressed or anything, then I go and cook. It’s my escape.’

Julie says she finds the Great British Bake Off to be a form of inspiration for many.

‘It’s shown people that over time you can get better and get more adventurous,”’she says.

‘When they make cakes they put in ingredients that you might not have thought about.

‘I think everybody looks forward to Bake Off. Everyone is talking about it.

‘I don’t think you can beat an English Afternoon Tea.’

My view

It’s no secret to my family and friends that baking is my hobby.

It’s a regular occurrence to see a batch of cupcakes being whipped up and decorated intricately with swathes of buttercream.

But although I am a confident cake maker, there are so many other elements to baking that I have yet to master.

So when I was given the opportunity to practice a little more, I couldn’t turn it down.

Barbara’s teaching was straight forward and she puts you at ease and breaks everything down into easy to follow steps.

Making macaroons is something I’ve always wanted to do and they were surprisingly easy and quick to make.

It may have helped that I have experience with a piping bag but I was pleasantly surprised with my bright pink raspberry flavoured macaroons when they came out of the oven looking like they could, potentially, be on a shelf at a bakery.

A little buttercream in the middle and there they were, ready for me to take home and indulge, much to the delight of my other half who devoured them within minutes of discovering them sat on the kitchen table.