Telford Bake Club cooking up a monthly treat

If you're bonkers about baking or passionate about pies, then this might just be the group for you.

Telford Bake Club cooking up a monthly treat

A group of keen bakers from across Telford has come together to set up the Telford Bake Club - showcasing their skills and testing their talents with a range of challenges designed to get them cooking.

The group, which has just celebrated its first birthday, is now appealing for more people to don their aprons and get involved.

Each month, the group meet in Wellington, with members bringing in bakes for one (or both) of the two challenges set to the group.

The baked treats are made at home before being lovingly taste-tested by everyone - with one member crowned as the month's star baker.

The idea for the group was the brainchild of 46-year-old Claire Bryant.

She said: "Basically, I've always loved baking but now my children have left home I have no real reason to bake. For years I've wanted to try making doughnuts but I couldn't really justify making them just for myself, so I asked a few friends if they would like to start up a bake club.

"You don't have to be a brilliant baker to come, you just have to enjoy baking and want to get involved. We actually quite like the bad bakes because it gives us something to talk about, what went wrong and why, and we can learn from each other what not to do. In fact, in the end my doughnuts were an unmitigated disaster.

"I like baking because it is a really enjoyable process of making something out of nothing, and watching someone else enjoy eating it."

The group works similarly to the style of the Great British Bake Off, where members are set challenges to push their baking skills.

"Each month we have two challenges, a technical challenge which is based on the Great British Bake off, where we try something specific like bread, or Danish Pastries, something which will challenge most of our members," explained Claire.

"Then we have a themed challenge, this month it was party food to celebrate our birthday, where people can make anything they like as long as it fits into the theme.

"Then we vote for our favourite dish, and that baker is named as the star baker."

The housewife, from Warwick Way in Leegomery, writes a newsletter each month which she sends out to members with details of next month's challenges, articles and all the recipes from the previous week - good or bad.

Now, she is hoping that more keen cooks might want to join the social group and get involved in the craze for baking

"We started a year ago with eight people, since then some have dropped out and some new people have started," she said.

"But we would now like to increase membership and get a larger number of core members who can come each month."

The group regularly meets at the Cock Hotel on Holyhead Road in Wellington, which offers them a great base for meetings.

Claire said: "We're allowed to use the room at the Cock Hotel for free and in return, Pete and Liz get to come in and try the cakes.

"I'm very grateful to them because they don't charge us for the room, so we don't have to charge any membership fees to people who want to come. The only expense we have is what we put into our bakes."

And Pete and Liz Arden, who run the hotel seem happy with the arrangement too.

Mrs Arden said: "They're the most jolly group of people and they always invite us round to have a taste at the end of the night and the food's always good."

The group welcomes members of all ages - the oldest current member is 93 - but hopes to get more people of any baking ability to come along.

Claire said: "To try and get new members, we've put up posters around town, some in churches and community centres and in Hobby Craft, also people here are spreading the word to their friends. We also have a Facebook group, so hopefully people can find us on there.

Claire said that as keen as all the members were, there were months that were better than others.

"I think the worst month was America month," she said. "It was July 4, Independence Day, and it was our second meeting - we had tarts that hadn't set, soggy bottoms (undercooked pastry), and a key lime pie with no lime in it, but everyone still brought them in and we still tried it.

"Next month the theme is summer and at the moment our technical challenge looks like it is going to be plaited Loafs but all the members vote and they've still got a few days left."

And the members clearly enjoy coming, with many returning month on month to try out the different challenges.

Kathryn Tracz, 23, of St Georges, runs a playgroup in the area. She said: "I was invited when it started but I was pregnant so I've been coming for just under a year. I think I joined in the second or third meeting.

"I'm rubbish at baking but I've always wanted to learn. Everyone else seems to be able to do it, why can't I? I am starting to improve though.

"I think the best thing is the socialising and the ladies. As a mum of two you don't get much time to get out, but because it is just once a month it is easy to commit to, everyone is really nice and you get to eat lots of food.

"The best thing about being a bad baker is that you get to eat all the great things everyone else has made."

George Huxley, 36, from Wellington, who works as a book-keeper, is one of the founder members and has been regularly attending since the group first started

She said: "Because I'm vegetarian I've been bringing in different things for people to try, none of the technical challenges have been meat based.

"A couple of people have partners with food allergies so we've had to try making things that are sugar free or gluten free, hopefully it encourages people to try different things.

"Everything goes down well. At home I'm the only vegetarian so when I produce these things for the people I live with they look at me like I'm going to poison them, but at bake club people eat them and say how nice they are which is really nice, and makes me feel good.

"I don't eat on bake club days so when I get here I can just eat everything.

"There's good food and good beer and a lovely group of people.

Joining for the first time at the group's birthday meeting on June 12 was 28-year-old Vicky Walters.

The civil servant who lives in Aqueduct brought with her a salted caramel and chocolate tart and was hoping to use the group as a way to make new friends after recently moving into the area.

She said: "My tart didn't set in the middle but everyone seems to be enjoying it, its just a bit messy.

"I decided to come because I found a poster for the group in Hobby Craft.

"I've only lived here for a year. I moved from Walsall because I was already working down here and hopefully I will be able to meet people now.

"Everyone seems really nice, I didn't expect this much food.

"I've only really started baking since I moved up here and I got time to do it.

"I've just been trying things at home and my friends sent me on a breadmaking course as well.

"I think I will probably come again, for the social part and to improve my baking skills."

About 16 people attended the birthday meeting, but the group has only one male member, 41-year-old engineer Bryan Deacon from Wellington, who has been coming for nine months.

He said: "I've always enjoyed baking, it is a nice thing to do. I do it to relax, except baking for tonight was anything but relaxing because I ran out of time.

"I come because there's great beer, cake and really nice people - what's not to like?

"It's really good because there's there's a different range of ages and skills you never know what's going to turn up.

"It would be nice to get a few more guys to come and take part, to prove that they can bake - it is just following instructions after all!"

Anyone interested in finding more about the bake club should contact Claire Bryant by emailing Telfordbakeclub@joatamos.com

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