Bright and early on Sunday morning my boyfriend and I took an Uber over to the Old Fire Station in Gipton for a doughnut-making class run by the Leeds Cookery School.
We arrived early so that we had a chance to speak to the instructor and could take a look around. The building, which was carefully restored after it was no longer needed as a fire station, now homes 6 local charities, all of which are working to make the lives of those living in the City that bit better. One of its occupants, The Leeds Cookery School, is a social enterprise that helps to fund Zest, one of the 6 charities in the building.
The doughnut making course was run for 7 students by one instructor, with the support of another lady who helped to keep things clean and tidy. The course ran from 10am until 12 and included time to make, bake and decorate 10 doughnuts each.
After a brief introduction from the instructor, which included a short history of the building and the purpose of the Cookery School, we got stuck in. We started out with pre-made dough which we cut and weighed into 50g portions. We shaped each of the portions into small balls and let them rest on baking paper. We each had enough dough to create 10 balls.
Whilst we let the dough rest, we set about making our own dough – enough for another 10 doughnuts each. The ingredients had all been pre weighed and neatly presented. Whilst this was a great time saver and probably made the class easier to run, it did take away some of the challenge of baking. I would have liked to have been given the chance to weigh some of my ingredients. However, despite that, making the dough was fun and interesting. We were shown how to crack an egg with one hand, something that I did not manage to master and had to spend a few minutes fishing out eggshells from my egg mix.
The rest of the mix was straightforward and similar to making traditional bread. But, at the final stage of dough prep, we added a large knob of butter, which was unexpected and caused the dough to get really sticky. If I was at home, I would have thought I had made a catastrophic mistake. However, we were told to keep kneading and that eventually it would come together. Thankfully, after about 10 minutes of kneading it did indeed come together, forming a soft, pliable and rich dough ready to be rested for more doughnut making at home. We were each given instructions on how to make the doughnuts so that we could use the dough we had prepped.
Once we had prepared the dough to take home, the balls that had been resting were ready to fry. We took it in turns to use the 3 fryers, which each were able to take 5 doughnuts. Whilst we waited for a free fryer space, we prepped takeaway boxes and decided on our decorations. The frying process took about 4 minutes, so we weren’t waiting long. Once the doughnuts had cooked, we then dusted them with cinnamon sugar or plain sugar and placed them into our boxes ready to be decorated and filled.
The final step was to decorate and fill the doughnuts. I think this was the part of the class that we were all looking forward to most. We were given a range of filing options for the doughnuts, including lemon curd, raspberry jam, Nutella, Baileys cream and Baileys custard. I tried out all of them – filling each of my doughnuts with something different. I went a little rogue on some, combining flavours like Nutella and raspberry jam and Baileys custard and lemon curd. We were also given a range of toppings for our doughnuts, including fruit, hazelnuts and melted chocolate. Again, I went for a range of these.
As we had a few minutes to spare, the instructor used the time to show us all how to make honeycomb. It was great to see and learn about the tips and tricks of the trade, and of course, was brilliant to be able to taste fresh honeycomb, especially as there was still lots of melted chocolate around to dip it into! I also added some of the broken shards of honeycomb as decorations for my doughnuts.
My final 10 doughnuts certainly looked unique, but they tasted delicious. I loved the fresh fillings and the soft dough. They were brilliant eaten warm, but tasted fab even after they had got a little squished after we walked them all home after the class.
Overall, we had a great morning learning how to make doughnuts at the Leeds Cookery School and would recommend the class to others. Whilst we both thought that the price of the class (£70/ student) was steep, especially as most of the students had come as pairs and therefore were paying £140, we did like that the school was giving all profits to Zest, and therefore indirectly we were helping the community. We also appreciated that we were going away with 10 doughnuts each and had spent over 2 hours with a highly qualified instructor.
During the class, the instructor did mention that there are lots of other classes running throughout the autumn and winter, such as Saturday night takeaway sessions, pizza and prosecco evenings, and knife skills, all of which sound fab and I bet would make great gifts for friends or family members. The school also offers corporate cookery packages, which I’m sure are brilliant team-building activities. I also think that many of the classes would make great ideas for parties or hen/ stag dos – something a little different to do ahead of dancing the night away.
More information about the Leeds Cookery School, and their range of classes, can be found on their website. They are also on social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) so you can check them out to know what events and classes are available.