There are few places as evocative as the chocolate room at Bettys Craft Bakery.
It is a delight to all the senses.
First the smell of course, as chocolate pervades the air, then there is the texture of the tempering chocolate, and then there is the sight of the intricately handcrafted morsels which then explode on the taste buds.
I never tire of visiting this place. These sensual delights are in contrast to the rigorous hygiene process before entering the hallowed laboratory where the famous confectioneries are made.
First you have to sign to confirm that you have no infectious diseases, haven’t been anywhere where there might be an infectious disease or gone within a mile of someone who might have an infectious disease.
It is a precaution you have to take when entering any establishment where food is being made to be sold to the public.
You then have to take off all jewellery, except wedding rings, and don the stylish Bettys white coat and the flattering (not) hair net. Then, and only then, are you allowed through the glass doors into the alchemist’s chamber where scores of Bettys craftsmen and women are hard at work creating the treats we know and love from that most famous of Yorkshire brands. It is somewhat ironic though that Bettys has become so synonymous with Yorkshire, considering it was founded by a Swiss gentleman by the name of Fritz Bützer.
The orphan was a baker and confectioner and travelled, penniless to England to follow his dream of creating exclusive tea rooms.
He made his way to Harrogate, married a local girl, changed his name to Frederick Belmont and opened the first of the tea rooms which have now spread across North Yorkshire.
When I visited the impressive Bettys Craft Bakery I couldn’t help but wonder what Frederick Belmont would have made of today’s visitors.
Throughout the bakery there are photos of the founder looking down approvingly on the intricate delicacies created there, marrying Swiss skill with Yorkshire warmth and charm.
Today, however, there are new recruits in the pristine craft bakery.
Life & Style teamed up with Bettys to run a competition offering readers the chance to come up with their own flavour of chocolate and giving the lucky winners the chance to turn their designs into actual delicacies.
“The idea was to give some of our customers the chance to see just what we do here at Bettys,” explains Claire Gallagher, Bettys executive confectioner.
“We are very proud of what we do here and we have a lot of very loyal customers and it is nice for them to see how our chocolates are made.
“We had lots of very interesting entries and it was hard to whittle them down to the final three winners.
“We were very impressed with the flavour combinations the winners came up with. They were traditional pairings, but with a modern twist.”
Teresa Jackson had travelled from her home in Stockport to make her winning entry of Yorkshire Rhubarb and Ginger. “My sister lives in Yorkshire and she always sends me Life & Style and I loved doing the competitions, but I couldn’t believe it when I won,” says Teresa, who was accompanied by her sister Bridget Mellor from Burton Leonard.
The entire family are lovers of Bettys and Bridget sends bread back home to family in their native Ireland.
“I also send a little Bettys hamper every year to a closed order of nuns and they write back to me saying how much they love it, especially the tea.” For Teresa, a keen home cook, tempering and making her own chocolates was a new experience.
“I’ve made a chocolate and Guinness cake before but never my own chocolates,” she said.
Linda Carter’s dream chocolate consisted of a milk chocolate shell, combined with sea salt, caramel and praline with a hazelnut on the top. “I’ve never made a chocolate before in my life – I’ve eaten them but never made them,” said Linda from Rodley, Leeds. “But I thought the combination worked well together.”
Chris Severn from Doncaster decided to base her chocolate around a Caramel Apple Bettys dessert.
“I wanted to combine dark and milk chocolate as I think they taste really nice together. I thought apply and cider went well together and wanted to include that in my filling,” says Chris who was accompanied by her husband Keith.
“I’m chief sampler,” said Keith, who gave his approval to his wife’s chocolates.
Artisan chocolatiers at Bettys worked on the recipes and method for making the chocolate before helping each winner turn their dream chocolate into a reality.
Chocolatier Kirsty Mitchinson helped Chris with her chocolates.
“All the entries were great flavour combinations. We helped them through the processes of making the chocolates from lining the moulds with a thin layer of chocolate, making the ganache filling, making sure the chocolate is at the right temperature, making sure they don’t over fill the moulds and then turning them out,” explained Kirsty,.
“They were all lovely but my favourites was the Rhubarb and Ginger. The colours were lovely, but I liked them all.”
“We tasted the chocolates in order of flavour profile to ensure we had the best palette for all of the great competition entries.
Apple and cider – had a beautiful shine on the crisp milk chocolate shell it had just a flick of gold leaf to finish . It and had a fresh and delicate flavour of apple, the flavour notes of cider perfectly complimented, it worked very well with the milk chocolate ganache .
The textures, just lovely with a little ooze of apple pate de fruit and a soft ganache with a crisp shell.
The Rhubarb and Ginger was wonderful, it had the perfect balance of both the rhubarb and ginger, the candid piece of ginger really added to the texture which complimented the crispness of the chocolate, visually it was a burst of colours that represented the flavours.
The Salted Praline – this really stood out with the bronze lustre finish and a touch of sea salt.
The flavours of praline packed a punch of roasted nuts and was complemented with a whole roasted hazelnut, the texture for a nut lover would be sublime.”
After making their chocolates, with help from the artisan chocolatiers at Bettys, they got to taste not only their own but each others’ chocolates and were given a selection to take home.
After the tasting the winners had lunch with Claire Gallagher at Bettys tea room in Harrogate where they discussed their chocolates, before travelling to Rudding Park for the night.
• For more information visit www.bettys.co.uk