By Karen Carruth


If you fancy yourself as something of a Mary Berry but don’t have the skills to back it up, you can now enhance your baking superpowers at Scotland’s only baking school which has recently opened in Crieff.
Iain Campbell of Campbell’s Bakery in Crieff, has just opened his doors to clients who want to learn how to bake, and as a seventh generation master baker, he has impressive baking genes to back up his credentials. 
The Campbell family have been baking since 1830 in Callander, and almost 100 years later in 1929, Iain’s grandpa Bob and his wife Cathy moved to Crieff to run the bakery business that was purchased for them as a wedding present. The shop is still there, thriving as an essential element of Crieff’s town centre.
The first class kicked off with four students – he can take up to six – concentrating on learning how to produce Scottish-based classics, consisting of oatcakes, morning rolls and Selkirk Bannocks.   
Iain is a natural teacher, he loves sharing his knowledge and is recognised within the baking industry as a highly skilled craftsman. 
He has won many awards including the prestigious British Confectioners’ Association Challenge Cup in 2012 as well as training two of his apprentices to win Young Scottish Baker of the Year in 2009 and 2014. 
The classes take place in the afternoon, in the bakehouse, and it’s a hands on experience for everyone. 
The recipes and full instruction sheets were on the worktop, ready for us to start. We put on our white cotton Campbell’s embroidered aprons (which we get to keep) and I’m feeling very professional now. I’ve got the gear, but no idea! 
As some of the recipes needed the mixtures to be proved for a time, Iain had put together a batch of dough already and proved it for the morning rolls, and the Selkirk Bannocks initial mixture was sitting on the counter waiting for us to come along and add the rest of the ingredients.
First up was mixing up the ingredients for the Selkirk Bannocks, kneading them until the mixture has stretched enough to go into the proving drawers. While they were proving, we started on the morning rolls. 
Slight cheating as the dough had already been organised and proved, though all the instructions are on the recipe sheet on how to do it yourself. It was just as well really, as it took long enough for us to perfect – I use that term loosely, kneading the dough and shaping them into something of a round, roll, shape. Iain’s demonstration of swirling the dough on the table with your hand in the shape of a spider looked easy. It is if you are a master baker, for us, not so much. 
My little sausage shaped rolls looked pretty pathetic, but without fuss and while passing on instructions to everyone as he chatted, Iain moved around the table reshaping most people’s dough into recognisable roll shaped balls.
Off they went for proving too. 
Now for the oatcakes, which were my favourite recipe. Simple to put together, and with the option of adding many different ingredients to flavour them to suit your palette. 
I opted for half of my oatcakes having garlic added, and the other half had cracked black pepper and pumpkin seeds. The mixture when cut out made around 40 oatcakes, or 60 if you go for the little cocktail sized one… but who wants little oatcakes anyway, surely the cheese would just fall off? 
Oatcakes in the oven, it was time to knock back the Selkirk Bannock mixture and weigh out equal portions to mould into rounds to go back in to prove again. 
The rolls then needed rolled into a flatter shape to be placed side by side into the oven so that they join up in the oven. 
Time for a quick cup of tea and a chat, as the Selkirk Bannocks went into the oven too. The other ladies at the class were a mixture of skill levels. I was by far the least experienced I would say. 
One of the ladies had even managed to get onto the early stages of the first Great British Bake Off programme, the other two were clearly experienced home bakers. 
One of the ladies was given the class as a Christmas gift, which she was chuffed about. While we waited for everything to bake, Iain had time to give us a quick demonstration of how to construct a plaited loaf. 
He chatted about how he is always learning new skills too. He has recently returned from a trip to Switzerland where he was finding out about their expertise with chocolate, and that is something that he is thinking about incorporating into some of his recipes. 
I ask if the local customers are open to new loaves and recipes, and Iain confirms that he offer samples, which lets the customers try the new tastes before buying. 
Some sell really well, and others don’t take off, but that is the secret behind the success of local shops like Campbell’s, always experimenting, offering new tastes to keep customers coming back, in this case since 1929. 
Iain, and his wife Ailsa, have future plans for the bake school. A disused hotel next door to the bakery would be an ideal premises for a large, custom made school, allowing more pupils in each class which would help fulfil the demand for these sought after skills.
Meanwhile, Iain also teaches at the local High School, giving the kids an insight into the skill and chemistry involved in creating perfectly baked, tasty products, and it lets them see that bakery and cooking skills have an important role in the workplace, that there are career opportunities to investigate in this sector. 
Ovens off, and it’s crunch time. Astoundingly, everything looked quite professional, maybe some of the rolls were a little bigger or smaller than their next door neighbour, but they had that amazing waft you get when you open the door of your local bakery shop. 
I’d totally underestimated how many things I would need to carry home. I had four Selkirk Bannocks, 18 morning rolls and another bag full of oatcakes. Two and a half carrier bags of baking, all created between 2pm and 5.30pm. 
It was a fun day, it trotted along at a steady pace, and the amount of baking that I went home with was very satisfying. Iain has an encyclopedic knowledge of baking and has a relaxed way of passing on tips and information.  
I was quite smug taking my home-made oat cakes to a party that we were going to that evening.  I was feeling very Mary Berry-like with all the compliments.  
I’m home with my recipe sheets and a new sense of confidence of tackling more baking projects. Which I am sure is exactly what Iain is aiming for his students, that they are confident enough to give a new recipe a go. 

Future classes: 

  • Introduction to bread making
  • Introduction to sourdough
  • Easter baking
  • Introduction to pastry
  • Summery berry favourites
  •  Scotch pie shells and how to fill them.

Check the website for dates for specific classes, all classes are on Saturday afternoons. Cost £80.00, vouchers can be purchased as a gift.