Cooks at Carlton Towers – Review
By Emily Lawley
Carlton Towers is a truly stunning country house that is home to Lord and Lady Gerald Fitzalan Howard. It nestles in the small village of Carlton (past Selby and just before Snaith). The house truly is a hidden gem. A short drive through the surrounding grounds brings you to the breathtaking building. Ii fact, I am so in awe with the stature of the building that I stop my car to take a photo before continuing through the entrance gates to the park.
Along with private events such as weddings, dinners and balls, Carlton Towers launched Cooks, The Carlton School of Food in May this year. If I hadn’t been told that they have only been running the courses for around four months I would never have guessed. The whole day is impeccably well run. We are all made to feel very welcome in their wonderful kitchens.
I chose the Better Baking with Brendan Lynch full-day course (£170). Partly due to being a massive Great British Bake Off fan, but also wanting to expand my baking knowledge. I bake regularly (I did win my office Bake Off – I have always wanted to tell more people about that!) but tend to make the same few cakes and treats. So I am looking forward to learning some new skills and recipes and picking up some hints and tips. Plus, I am hoping for a bit of behind-the-scenes information about the Bake Off from Brendan!
“Lessons won’t be forgotten”
As you walk into Cooks at Carlton Towers the decor continues to impress. You are led to a cosy sitting room to enjoy a cup of tea with the course tutor and the rest of the budding chefs. This informal introduction to each other is a great way to start the relaxed atmosphere. It helps you feel comfortable when asking questions throughout the day.
I am then excited to see the kitchen we would be based in for the day. Each chef has their own section on the large island in the middle of the room. There are dedicated mixers and equipment that definitely get you thinking about investing in some new gadgets at home. Along with the top quality equipment, the ingredients for each recipe are all pre-measured and set out for you. This makes everything far easier (and had me wishing for a sous chef in my kitchen). It allows you to really concentrate on the steps of each recipe.
We are tasked with baking three recipes during the day: a Pear and Frangipane Tart; a Chocolate and Mint Marble Loaf Cake and a Baltic Cinnamon and Orange Kringle. As well as learning some new skills and techniques throughout the day, Brendan tells us lots of different ways that the elements of each recipe can be used or adapted to make many more delicious treats. Like Bakewell Tarts, where you can use the Frangipane and add Nutella to make a gorgeous chocolatey Kringle. Taking away the confidence and ability to adapt the recipes easily at home is invaluable. It means that the lessons you learn won’t simply be forgotten.
The idea of making a Frangipane tart has always seemed too daunting to me. So I really enjoy getting over my nervousness with Brendan’s help. I have made shortcrust pastry before, so learning how to make rough puff is interesting. We are shown how easy it is to multitask and get started on other parts of the recipe, or even new recipes completely, whilst making it. This is because it takes time to chill down in the fridge between folding and rolling it multiple times. I have to admit that juggling all three recipes does seem very easy when you have top-notch mixers to use instead of doing it by hand. But I feel that the complexity level of the recipes is just right. Not so difficult to be off-putting, but simple enough to genuinely send you away with three new achievable recipes in your baking arsenal.
After we all complete the first few steps of the recipe we start to relax a little. We chat and ask questions and a slightly competitive edge starts. We are all vying for that elusive Star Baker accolade. Thanks to the small group (just six of us) it is all friendly and good fun. In fact, we all help each other throughout the day. Twelve is Cooks’ maximum number of attendees on any one course which guarantees a nice atmosphere and a level of personal attention from the chef leading the course. This is, ultimately, what you are looking for.
“A mouth-watering meal”
To my surprise the Frangipane takes just minutes to make and whilst everything for the tart is chilling we quickly whip up the batter for the marble loaf cakes. Again, the recipe is fairly straightforward but the result is an impressive-looking cake that would go down very well at a birthday party. And they taste really good.
We go to two of the impressive old store rooms to make the Kringle bread dough. This is one of the parts I take most away from as I have not made bread by hand before. Brendan and Chef Richard’s input and tips whilst I am kneading are really helpful. I am even planning on making more very soon.
Whilst the dough is proving we have lunch in the impressive dining room. It is full with antique furniture and crockery. We have a mouth-watering meal of creamy fish pie, salad and steamed vegetables and are treated to a glass of delicious English sparkling wine.
Course attendees’ husbands/wives/partners can come along, not take part in the course itself but enjoy the surroundings (or book in for a treatment at Carlton Towers’ Lusso spa). They can then join the group for lunch for a reduced fee of £25. This option is ideal for people who have travelled to attend as it gives them a chance to bring a guest along too to make a holiday of it. There is also the option to stay over before or after the course with beautifully decorated double (£125 including breakfast) and single (£95 including breakfast) rooms available.
“Top baking tips and secrets”
We finish all of the bakes off after lunch and I have to say that the tart and the Kringle bread look really impressive. Even Brendan and Chef Richard think all of our finished products wouldn’t look amiss in a top bakery’s window. It is great to feel that sense of achievement at the end of the course after successfully baking three quality products. I am so chuffed I send my mum photos of what I have created!
Along with the new skills to make all three recipes with relative ease, I also take away a host of top baking tips and secrets. Such as how to make Brendan’s amazing scones that had Mary Berry lost for words.
With a mixture of classes run by their own talented Head Chef, Richard Walton-Allen (ex-Leeds Harvey Nicholls) and guest chefs such as Stephanie Moon, Lionel Strub and Simon Thomas, you can attend a variety of half (around £70) and full-day courses (from £140). With options ranging from children’s classes like spooky Halloween ideas (£30) and learning how to make artisan bread, to preparing game and making Christmas dinner stress-free. There is a great selection to choose from and definitely something for everyone. Brendan is back in November with a Christmas-inspired baking day and I would definitely recommend attending his course to anyone with an interest in extending their baking skills and knowledge.
For more information or to book a course, please contact Cooks:
Telephone: 01405 861662
Email: Nicola – [email protected]
Cooks, Carlton Towers, Carlton, South Yorkshire DN14 9LZ
Painting and writing courses are also available – the first painting course is residential and is on October 14 & 15 with acclaimed botanical watercolour painter Bridget Gillespie – Price £350.
For more info visit: cooksatcarlton.co.uk/courses/botanical-watercolour-painting