This Easter I ran a competition to win a Bettys chocolate badger and was overwhelmed by the popularity of the giveaway! I loved reading the responses to my entry question of which woodland animal people wanted to see similarly immortalised in chocolate. Following the competition, I arranged with Kelly Young (Engagement Manager for Bettys) for Pete and I to pay them a visit on the way back from our holiday in Islay.
After overnighting with friends in beautiful Kirby Malham (and visiting their newly acquired farm shop in Airton) we made our way through beautiful countryside to Bettys attractive HQ near central Harrogate.
As I explained in that previous post, Bettys is a family business founded back in 1919 by a young Swiss man, Frederick Belmont. Today, the business is still run by his descendants and they have kept alive strong links to the country of his birth. Indeed current chairman Lesley Wild ensures that several Swiss-inspired recipes are offered on the menus in the Cafe Tea Rooms as well as a selection of Swiss wines. These sit comfortably side by side with the many local Yorkshire specialities that Bettys is also known for.
HQ is situated in a spacious, purpose-built estate in Plumpton Park with several Swiss-chalet inspired low-rise buildings. Even the parking areas impressed me, with pretty trees giving shade to most spaces and gardeners busily tending the green spaces when we arrived.
Signed in, we quickly donned our white coats and attractive hair nets (see below) before setting off on a genuinely fascinating tour of the bakery; it’s here that they make the baked goods sold in Bettys’ six Cafe Tea Rooms and online shop.
To my surprise, virtually everything is made just like it would be in a home kitchen (but on a bigger scale). Aside from a couple of larger-than-usual stand mixers, cakes are iced and decorated, biscuit dough is rolled and cut, pastries are filled and assembled, bread is shaped into loaves, macarons are piped … by hand. Indeed, the two machines they use to cut shortbread biscuits into even flat circles and mille feuille pastry into perfect rectangles, are a rare contrast to the rest of the bakery’s old school methods.
Mostly we just watched, listening to Peter Hartley – one of the bakery managers – explain the various sections and methods used, but I was delighted to have a go at foil-wrapping a large chocolate coin wearing the special gloves used to achieve a smooth and lustrous finish.
The bakery isn’t averse to modern technology where it’s useful and doesn’t compromise the product, such as their vast ovens with rotating racks inside, but I couldn’t help but fall for the modern-build old-design wood-fired oven in which they bake traditional breads.
After the bakery tour, we thought our agenda had us taking a quick peek around the Bettys Cookery School, located on the same site. With no courses scheduled on a Monday, we knew there wouldn’t be much going on.
But to our surprise and delight, Kelly had secretly arranged for senior tutor Lisa Bennison to run a private class just for us, to give us a taster of the cookery school in action.
Lisa taught us two dishes during our class: Zuri-Geschnetzeltes and Spätzle (often written as spaetzle in languages without the umlaut). The first is thinly sliced veal in a sauce of mushrooms, cream, white and onions and the second is little egg noodles shaped by pushing a thick batter into boiling water through small holes – Bettys use a specialist pan. In this recipe, the freshly boiled spaetzle were fried in butter before serving.
We loved Lisa’s enthusiastic, humorous but tip-packed teaching style and there were plenty of giggles to go round as Pete mixed batter, boiled and fried his spaetzle under Lisa’s watchful eye. The proof was in the tasting and the whole dish tasted very good indeed.
You can find the Bettys cookery school recipes for Zuri-Geschnetzeltes and Spätzle here.
After our wonderful class in the cookery school, Kelly had one more treat in store for us – lunch at the nearest Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms in central Harrogate. The interior is spacious and beautiful, full of gorgeous original features. There’s a cafe on the ground floor and the slightly more formal Montpellier downstairs.
Although many fellow diners were enjoying an early afternoon tea, we all chose from the delicious menu of savoury dishes, many with a strong Swiss influence.
Pete’s Original Yorkshire Rarebit was made with mature Cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and Yorkshire ale. Swimming in cheese, it was a rich and heavy dish, but tasty.
My Swiss Rosti was topped with chicken and cheese. It was a delicious combination of caramelised potatoes on the surface and soft, almost steamed potatoes in the centre.
Kelly went for a beautifully summery pea and spinach ravioli which looked very attractive on the plate and certainly earned smiles of appreciation as she ate.
Afterwards, we enjoyed desserts from the cake trolley. Beautiful!
Last, a quick dash around the shop for me to buy some sweet treats to bring home and we finally made our way back to London, regretful that Bettys local ethos makes it unlikely that we’ll see a branch open near us anytime soon.
Coming next, a competition to win some Bettys deliciousness for yourself…
Kavey Eats was a guest of Bettys bakery, cookery school and cafe tea room.