I HAVE a confession to make. I’m not a fan of The Great British Bake Off. Here’s another: I don’t often bake. So I’ve never discovered the unbridled joy that some people have of weighing out flour and sifting it, cutting up cold butter, whipping in eggs and adding tons of sugar to create nothing more than a sweet confection that messes up the kitchen and is eaten within seconds.

Nor can I get excited by the prospect of watching others undertake such tasks and witnessing all the angst involved in creating delicacies which are, I reckon, one of the reasons the British diet gets a bad reputation.

The reverence afforded to the GBBO mystifies me. Perhaps that’s because it suggests Britain had never had a baking culture before this irritating programme arrived on the scene to nab, at its peak, 13 million viewers per episode. When it relaunches on Channel 4 later this year, I have no doubt a whole new generation will be similarly glued.

To my dismay I find TV baking has captured the hearts and minds not only of the all-important new demographic – the hallowed millennials, who largely missed out on home economics at school – but also of a generation of older Scots who were taught practical cookery, and for whom watching GBBO is an exercise in pure nostalgia.

The only thing I remember about home eccies (it was called domestic science in my time) was learning how to iron sheets and fold them, hospital-style, over a mattress. I have no memory of learning how to bake in class: I learned what little I do know from my mum. Perhaps deep-seated ignorance is where my aversion to GBBO springs from.

So when I heard that Iain Campbell, a seventh-generation professional baker in Crieff, was giving lessons in traditional baking at his shop and bakery, I thought I’d give it a go.

Pinnies on and hands washed we start off, rather ambitiously to my mind, with Selkirk bannocks. This buttery, fruity bread is a favourite of mine, and Campbell tells me it was reportedly the only thing Queen Victoria would eat during her visit to Sir Walter Scott’s home at Abbotsford in 1867. It used to be baked on a girdle when most Scots didn’t have an oven.

Campbell is giving a series of Selkirk bannock masterclasses at the Royal Highland Show later this month. He also helped design the set for the very first series of Bake Off in 2010 when it was filmed at Scone Palace. The theme was biscuits and it had a budget of just £90.

“We had to make giant jaffa cakes for the set and it was painstaking work, but we never got a credit,” he says with a grin. On that episode, pastry swans, chocolate profiteroles, pink macarons, cream eclairs and meringues with whisky cream were the showstopper entries. But here in Crieff, we’re going back to basics,

What strikes me immediately is that there’s quite a lot of science behind baking. That, and a load of elbow grease.

The bannock requires fresh yeast, and the dough has to be proved twice, for an hour each time, to help it rise. Proving the dough lets the yeast ferment and form carbon dioxide, which you need to make the dough rise before it goes in the oven. “But you must use the right flour – that is, strong, containing 13 to 14 per cent protein,” says Campbell.

The sultanas should be soaked in water overnight to rehydrate them and stop them absorbing too much liquid while kneading.

We have to work very quickly on kneading the dough by hand so that the butter doesn’t melt and stick to the stainless-steel worktop, even if it is scattered with flour. “Keep it moving to develop it and stretch the gluten,” says Campbell. “Be as rough as you like. Stretching the gluten strands during the mixing and kneading process gives the dough the ability to expand when the fermentation process starts.

“It’s not like being careful as with meringue, when you want to keep the bubbles and air. Think of this like a punch-bag. Get all your frustrations out,” he says. Phew. My arms are killing me. Ten minutes of this and I’m already thinking of cancelling my aerobics class. Who knew baking could be so physical?

Cutting the proven dough rounds into four with a scotch scraper requires two hands. Even chaffing – pushing and pulling each quarter with the heel of the hand to create a round shape with an even surface where the fruit is covered with dough to stop it burning and charring in the oven – is tough work.

While the bannocks are in the oven we tackle oatcakes, which seem like a walk in the park compared to the bannocks because they are much easier to knead – at first. As the water goes over the steel basin measured with oatmeal (Campbell uses Grampian oats), wholemeal flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and white vegetable fat, it is very soft and tacky. Again, we have to move quickly, for the oats absorb the water very quickly and expand – making the dough much more difficult to handle. We leave it to expand, roll it out and start to cut it into rounds and squares in larger and cocktail sizes. Again, this is painstaking work, and makes me consider with some sympathy the daily effort made by ordinary women over the centuries to make this most traditional – and healthy – part of our diet.

Campbell – who is 45 and has two young children with his wife Ailsa, a designer who formerly worked with Graven in Glasgow – starts work every day at 5am. Clearly the demand for his goods is high. But it’s not all sugary: artisan bread and savoury pies are his bestsellers.

We discuss the problems of obesity, diet-related health statistics and the sugar tax. Cutting sugar in baked goods is tricky because alternative sweeteners such as chicory root are relatively expensive and more difficult to source, so it pushes up the price. Reducing the size of cakes and biscuits is an option, which also means reducing the price per item.

The fact is, sugar is necessary for baking. “It’s a difficult issue for bakers because as well as being a sweetener, sugar is a functional ingredient,” he says. “It contributes to the texture of the cake by breaking down the egg structure during the mixing stage, and this helps with the aeration of the cake, which makes it lighter and closer in texture.

“Eating a bit less of the good stuff is probably the best advice.”

Campbell says part of the reason he started giving classes was interest sparked by the GBBO. “It’s served a few people well, but I don’t think it’s done anything for the national diet,” he says. “However, it’s been great for raising the profile of baking as a profession. People have a new appreciation of what I do, and I hope it remains a spectator sport and that people will keep coming to the shop.”

He also devotes time to teaching S3 and S5 pupils at Crieff High School, but says not enough time or budget is allocated to practical home economics.

“You really need a full morning to do it properly but timetables have changed and the budgets for buying in raw ingredients is shocking,” he says, adding that he takes his own flour to the school.

Then it’s time to remove the oatcakes and bannocks from the oven, wrap them in his wife's lovely designer paper bags and take them home. I leave with a feeling of deep satisfaction. Campbell’s baking class has taught me a lot.

And though it pains me to say it, I have The Great British Bake Off to thank for leading me to him.

Iain Campbell’s Selkirk bannock baking masterclass takes place at the Royal Highland Show, Ingliston, near Edinburgh, at 11am and 3pm on June 23. Visit royalhighlandhow.org. To book a baking class at Campbell’s Bake School, visit campbellsbakery.com

Selkirk bannock

Begin by making a ferment with:

325ml milk heated to 38C

10g sugar

25g fresh yeast or one sachet of dried yeast

65g strong flour

Whisk the ingredients together in a food mixer bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow to stand for 30 minutes then add the following ingredients except the sultanas to the food mixer bowl:

500g strong flour

85g unsalted butter

85g sugar

7.5g salt

500g sultanas (washed)

Using a dough hook, mix the dough on first speed for two minutes and seven minutes on second speed.

Add the sultanas and blend carefully without breaking too many. Once incorporated, cover the bowl with a wet tea towel and allow to rise for at least one hour.

Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knock back.

Weigh out four 400g portions. Mould them into rounds and press them on to baking trays. Brush with an egg wash.

Allow the bannocks to rise again by covering them loosely with a damp tea towel for at least one hour (longer if the air is cooler).

Place in an oven preheated to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6 for 22-25 minutes.