Customers are driving for miles to buy crullers from this Suffolk cafe

Alice Norman has caused a stir at Pinch at Maple Farm, selling her unique crullers

Alice Norman has caused a stir at Pinch at Maple Farm, selling her unique crullers - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Ever heard of a cruller? Unless you’re a die-hard pastry fan, the answer is likely ‘no’. 

The best way of describing them is thus: a profiterole-style doughnut. Originally a Dutch creation, but popularised across Canada and North America, the sweet treats see a light choux paste piped into a fancy round, fried (there’s the doughnut link), and drenched in toppings – usually a sugar glaze or chocolate. 

And you can get your mitts on the rarely-found-in-the-UK delicacy right here in Suffolk, at Maple Farm in Kelsale, where chef Alice Norman says their popularity has been completely unexpected. “I’ve got customers driving for miles and miles to try them,” she giggles. 

Born in south Suffolk, Alice flew the nest quite quickly after university, spreading her wings to London where she worked as a chef for almost 10 years in high-end restaurants – most recently at an Italian spot in Mayfair. Until Covid struck the UK. 

Alice Norman at Pinch in Kelsale

Alice Norman at Pinch in Kelsale - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

“The restaurant had to close, so I decided to move back home,” says Alice, adding that her dream was to set up a little fish hut on the beach at Aldeburgh. Alas, it was not to be, with lots of red tape to wade through. But hope for her own business was not lost. 

“I got talking to William Kendall, who’s a family friend and owns Maple Farm, just for advice really. He was so helpful with his thoughts and ideas, and actually told me he’d just done up a kitchen on the farm, and I could use it if I wanted. It was all very serendipitous.” 

Alice began making pasta kits for customers to finish at home, using eggs and flour from the farm, and found herself very busy. But she missed having human contact. “Customers were just doing click and collect and I got zero feedback which, in restaurants, is usually instantaneous. I’d go to bed thinking ‘did they like it?’.” 

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Despite her success Alice stopped the meal kits and, almost exactly a year ago, opened a bijoux café at the farm, serving premium coffee and cake. 

Pinch at Maple Farm in Kelsale

Pinch at Maple Farm in Kelsale - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

And that’s where the crullers came in. 

“I’ve got a tiny oven here,” she says. “There’s not enough room to make croissants or pain au chocolat, and so many other places locally do those very well. I had to think outside the box when it came to what I could offer. 

“It had to be something completely new for the area, and using flour and eggs from Maple Farm. Most regular pastries don’t contain eggs, so I figured I’d need to use choux pastry. And I couldn’t use the little oven...but I knew I could fry. Crullers were the way forward. They’re much less labour intensive – they don’t need proving or laminating, and I don’t have to get up at 3am. I can cook them as I go, meaning there’s less waste too.” 

Alice says people have been “going nuts” for them. 

Flavours at the moment include Maple Farm rhubarb with custard-flavoured crumble on top, Tosier chocolate, and Maple farm honey with bacon, which is the most popular. Flavours change every couple of weeks. 

Handmade mint chocolate chip ice cream made with local chocolate and fresh mint by chef Alice Norman

Handmade mint chocolate chip ice cream made with local chocolate and fresh mint by chef Alice Norman - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Something that’s just made a return is Alice’s homemade ice cream, inspired by Suffolk’s plethora of local producers. “I prefer to have a limited choice on a menu,” she says, reflecting on her decision to offer just three varieties at a time. “I find it overwhelming when I go to an ice cream shop and there are 20 flavours to choose from. I’d rather do a few ice creams really well, made with the best ingredients, and focussing on combinations people might not have had before.” 

The chef uses as much local dairy as possible for her ice cream, and, of course, eggs from Maple Farm. “At the moment flavours I’ve got include Fen Farm mascarpone, which always has some sort of fruit running through it, there’s mint chocolate chip with Pump Street chocolate and fresh mint which is lovely, and the most popular is St Jude cheese with Maple Farm blackcurrant ripple.  

“It’s going down really well. It might sound a bit wacky but it just works.” 

Alice makes her own cones, using Maple Farm spelt flour, as a finishing flourish. 

She says, in fact, she’s been amazed at the ingredients she’s found on the doorstep, having been out of the Suffolk foodie loop for a decade. 

“My main ethos at Pinch (and I know everyone says this) is to use the best ingredients, without being super worried about staying too local. I’ll never not use a lemon because it’s imported from Spain. But I’ve found such a bounty here, and of ingredients I don’t normally use. In London kitchens you’d be spoilt for choice, with 200 fruits to pick from every day. Now...I’ve never used so many blackcurrants in my life. Being here as definitely made me think differently as a chef.” 

Pinch is open Thursday to Saturday from 9am to 3pm, possibly with longer hours during the summer months. Keep an eye on Instagram @pinch.suffolk for the most up-to-date times