National Baking Week: Ready, steady, book a break

'Bake Off' is not only changing our habits in the kitchen, but altering the way we holiday, too. In National Baking Week, Sarah Baxter rounds up the best breaks that won't cost too much dough

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Indy Lifestyle Online

What's the attraction?

Sick of your soggy bottom? Wishing for a good wobble? Well, now's the time to address such kitchen concerns. BBC's The Great British Bake Off has turned us into a nation of aspirational cake-makers; at Currys, kitchen mixer sales are up 65 per cent. And catering for the baking boom, there are now dozens of possibilities for improving your skills on holiday, too. So raise your game and embrace National Baking Week (until 20 October;, with a great baking break.

Meet Paul and Mary

Book quickly to quiz the main man: Paul Hollywood and his eight-strand plaited loaf will be guest-starring on Warner Leisure Hotels' 18-20 October Nidd Hall foodie weekend (0844 871 4523;; three nights from £299pp). As well as a Q&A with Paul, there'll be cupcake sessions and a chance to relax in the North Yorkshire countryside.

If you miss that, head to Cyprus instead. Hollywood spent three years honing his skills at the island's Thanos Hotels; one of its properties, Annabelle, runs regular two-day Let's Bake Classes (00 357 26 885 000;; €90pp course only; rooms from €110), which teach how to knead and nurture a range of traditional Cypriot breads beside the seaside near Paphos.

To meet Mary Berry, plan a mini-break around Birmingham's Cake International Show (8-10 November; 01425 277988;; from £12) or London's BBC Good Food Show (15-17 November; 0844 581 1361;; from £25.75), where she'll be taking her baking to the stage.

Past masters

Edd Kimber, winner of the first GBBO in 2010, runs monthly three-hour macaron Classes in central London (; £75pp), promising expert tips and tasters of his own meringuey delights. John Whaite, crowned 2012's best baker, runs classes in Greenwich, south-east London; the next batch is sold out but 2014 dates will be announced on the website soon.

Steal secrets from Jo Wheatley, 2011 winner, by enrolling at her Essex Cookery School (, which features homely classes in her kitchen. The upcoming Hamper Day (27 October, 4 and 10 December; £155pp) involves learning to bake and box up mincemeat loaf, festive shortbread, cupcakes and cranberry sauce, ready for Christmas.

European flavours

The Alentejo is the breadbasket of Portugal and at Hotel Convento do Espinheiro, a converted monastery in medieval Evora, guests can gatecrash the kitchen to knead dough and then bake their spoils in the wood-fired oven. Sunvil Discovery arranges tailormade trips (020 8758 4722; Seven nights' B&B costs from £793pp, including flights.

On Authentic Adventures' A Genuine Taste of Puglia trip, you explore the southern Italian region around Lecce, gain tips from matriarchs then learn to cook local favourites: regional breads, pasticiotto (custard tarts) and pizza (4 May and 5 October 2014; 01453 823328;; seven nights from £1,399pp, excluding flights).

A taste of France

Go Gallic in the Herefordshire Black Mountains. Boutique one-bedroom B&B Little Trewern Farm is offering intimate two-hour viennoiserie or pâtisserie sessions (01873 860749;; workshops £110 per couple; B&B £85 per night) – classes are run by hostess Rhiannon, who's picked up cookery tricks from her French family.

For a fancier feed, enrol at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School at the chef's Oxfordshire hotel. The Pâtisserie & Desserts one-day workshop focuses on recreating dishes from Le Manoir's Michelin-starred menu (24 and 25 October, 12 and 13 November; 01844 278 881;; £360 course only; doubles from £675 B&B).

Or learn in situ: Go Learn To's French Pastry and Baking Cookery Course, based at a farmhouse in the bucolic Lot-et-Garonne includes English-language lessons and visits to local bakers to see and sample the experts' work (020 8144 5990;; four days from £456pp, excluding flights).

A bit Moorish

Get an authentic taste of Morocco on a Traditional Cooking Day in Fès. Specialist tour operator Lawrence of Morocco offers the day-long experience, on which you join a local family, shop at the souk, bake briwat pastries, learn the secrets of bread-making and deliver the dough to the neighbourhood oven (01672 500 555;; from £92pp, experience only).

Fleewinter's new Journey through Culinary Morocco (020 7112 0019;; seven nights from £895pp, including flights) mixes simple Berber cuisine, cooking lessons, fine dining and Moroccan pastry-making at the Rebali Riads, near ocean-side Essaouira.

Cook up classics

The Austrian city of Linz is so proud of its signature sweet – allegedly the oldest cake in the world – that it gave it its name. Incorporate a quick Linzertorte lesson (; €18pp) into a trip to this vibrant city; Hotel am Domplatz offers a stylish and central sleep (00 43 732 773 000;; doubles from €130). Alternatively, watch how traditional apfelstrudel is made at Vienna's Café Residenz (00 43 43 1 24 100 300;; daily, on the hour; €9.60pp).

Across the Atlantic, New York's International Culinary Center (001 888 324 2433; runs classes in almost everything, including the Bagels, Bialys and Pretzels workshop (four hours, $195pp/£130). Or think Thanksgiving pumpkins and head to Oregon for a Holiday Pie Oh My! course at Portland's Culinary Workshop (23, 24, 25 and 26 November;; $65pp/£43).

Insider information

"Baking's a great way to relax – I had a stressful job and it was my way to chill out at the end of the day. Baking courses are beneficial as many people learn better visually; it's also more fun. My top tip? Weigh out all the ingredients into small bowls before you start: prepping means there's no chance of forgetting an ingredient." Edd Kimber, 2010 GBBO winner (

Five Christmas classes

Hone your Christmas Baking at Wiltshire's luxurious Lucknam Park (0800 089 3929,; 14, 22, 28 November and 10 December; day course £175pp).

Learn to cook up a Scandinavian Christmas – from spiced pepperkaker to Norwegian tropisk aroma – with Signe Johansen in Bath (01225 427938;; day course £160pp).

In Harrogate, make your own pud "Betty's way" on a Christmas Cakes & Puddings course (19 October, 7 November; 01423 814016;; day £185pp).

Bake festive breads from around the world in East Sussex (7 December; 01580 831271;; day £175pp).

Join a Christmas baking class with 2012 GBBO finalist Brendan Lynch in south Derbyshire (4 December; 01283 810275;; day course £149pp).