Boutique Loves

Philleigh Way Cookery School – Christmas Baking with a Twist 

Winding grey ribbons hugged by Cornish hedging led me through the Roseland, all the way to the doorstep of Philleigh Way Cookery School. An opportunity had arisen to spend the day baking Christmas goodies with rugby-player-turned-master-chef Rupert Cooper, and I had jumped at the chance to swap pen for pan and unleash my inner culinary genius.

Admittedly, this aforementioned inner culinary genius was buried deep, deep within – entombed under the weight of self-doubt and inexperience. I had never baked anything more ambitious than a chocolate chip cookie before and had yet to wrap my head around many basics. What if my baking had more need than knead? What if my technique was more risk than whisk? What if my baking was worse than my puns? Consequently, I felt a flutter of apprehension as I hopped out of my van upon arrival and made my way over – scenes of flaming tea towels, singed eyebrows and burnt biscotti flashing through my mind.

Needless to say, these momentary nerves were soon forgotten as I pushed open the door to the Philleigh Way Cookery School HQ in South Cornwall – met with a flood of warmth, happy chatter and the heady aromas of fresh coffee and dreamy Christmas spices. Housed in a former stable block, Philleigh Way’s high ceilings, exposed beams, terracotta tiles and open-plan layout combine to create an immediately welcoming aesthetic and atmosphere – at the centre of which is the man himself, Rupert.

 

The owner, Head Chef and creative mastermind behind Philleigh Way Cookery School, Rupert Cooper is a man who knows what he’s doing. Inspired by a deep-seated love of great food, his passion and confidence are palpable, while his friendly disposition and laidback approach make you feel both encouraged and relaxed. He also, as it happens, loves versatile recipes that are low on effort and high on reward. My kind of cooking.

Having settled in and finished off our hot drinks and welcome treats courtesy of Philleigh Way, we turned our attention to the three Christmas-inspired bakes that would keep us busy for the next few hours: stollen, biscotti, and my personal favourite, mince pies ‘with a difference’. Each bake was preluded by a demonstration and coupled with a set of printed instructions – instructions that mercifully required no enigma-style decoding and were nice and easy to follow.

 

Having watched Rupert expertly demonstrate each bake, it became our turns to give each recipe a go and I felt a new sense of confidence and eagerness to get stuck in, spurred on by the support of the group. First up was the classic Christmas favourite of stollen, and soon everyone was busy underway, the sound of conversation and culinary activity broken by occasional snorts of laughter at projectile raisins and misshapen dough.

Next up were the delicious mince pies with a difference, a novel take that transforms the traditional mince pie into something far more eye-catching… and more tasty. Yes, I said it. Having long been a fan of the traditional mince pie, I was thrilled to discover a recipe that was so different in style yet also retained the same authentic, nostalgically familiar flavours. Like all of Philleigh Way’s recipes, it was also one that could be easily replicated at home – a fact that would certainly encourage me to ditch pre-prepared options in future and rustle up my own to impress, nay, astound, family and friends.

 As the stollen dough sat proving in a bowl and the mince pies baked in the oven, a fine lunch was served and glasses of fizz were passed around. Being the resident vegetarian, I was served a dribble-worthy Thai-inspired soup – the depth of flavour of which was so delicious that I could easily have finished off an entire vat. Conversation flowed, anecdotes were shared, and food devoured as we sat as a group around the farmhouse kitchen table, flushed with warmth and contentment. 

Refuelled and ready to get our bake back on, we headed back to our stations – our used bowls and utensils having been whisked away and replaced with fresh wares by Rupert’s lovely kitchen assistant. With our mince pies already out of the oven and cooling on the side, we gathered for our final culinary conquest: the traditional Italian biscuits, biscotti. Tailored to our individual tastes, this recipe, like the others, could be tweaked by adding more or less of certain ingredients based on personal preference. For me, wherever possible, this mostly involved spooning in alcohol-soaked fruit, and more alcohol-soaked fruit. 

Once the biscotti had been prepared, we were given the option to bake or double-bake them, either to achieve a more cakey or biscuity biscotti. In the spirit of authenticity, we all opted for double-baking, and thus after their first oven stint our biscotti bakes were sliced up into biscuit-sized wedges and placed back in the oven to harden up. Once finished, we then turned our attention back to our stollen for some marzipan-related handiwork – which involved enclosing long tubes of strips of evenly rolled marzipan into the middle of our stollen dough. Following more rising time, our masterpieces were popped in the oven to work their magic. 

Finally, with the hours having easily slipped by without us noticing, we found home-time had rolled around. With the support of Rupert, we had all successfully achieved not one, not two, but three incredible bakes – now parcelled and ready to take home. Beaming with pride, we all shuffled out the door into the winter air, bidding our cheery goodbyes and clutching our baked goodies, wondering aloud how many we could eat on the way home. In my case, at least, it would turn out to be quite a few…

Whether you’re a beginner looking to expand your culinary horizons or a seasoned pro hoping to hone your skills, Philleigh Way Cookery School will have something to pique your interest. From seasonal to local to global-inspired foodie courses, you will be able to learn all about the best ingredients to use, flavour profiles, cooking top-tips and techniques, and much, much more. For more information about Philleigh Way Cookery School, take a look here.

Philleigh Way Cookery School, Court Farm, Philleigh, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5NB | 01872 580 893 | info@philleighway.co.uk 

 

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