I rather like making bread. Something magical happens when four basic ingredients come together and after a little wait produces something that tastes amazing. Bread making is very satisfying and really quite easy when you know how. I first made bread when studying for A level Home economics. Every week we had to churn out a batch of white dinner rolls. I progressed from producing rolls that could easily pass as a cricket ball to something my dad classed as quite nice but could he have a slice of Mothers Pride instead please! Those rolls were as adventerous as I got. I did try once to make a seven seed loaf you had to prove for seven days. The end result would have made a good building block or definitely would have siezed up your internal plumbing!

After a long bread making hiatus, I suddenly got the baking bug after discovering through Twitter that there were so many fabulous takes on bread besides a French stick mass baked in a local supermarket. I followed countless little artisan bakeries across the country and longed to bake proper bread just like them. I practiced many times but wondered if my technique was right and was I cutting corners? My end results looked like bread and tasted like bread, but I wanted to make something other than a white Bloomer and discover the mysteries of sourdough!  What I really wanted was a lesson in bread making taught by an expert!

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Some of my own bakes.

Imagine my absolute delight when out of the blue I suddenly discovered that I had the chance to join a bread making class ran by one of those fabulous artisan bakeries that I so admired and better still was only a short train ride away in Bath. I had to be peeled down from the ceiling. I was that besides myself with joy!

So, this Saturday just gone. I found myself trundling down to Bath by train and into the small but perfectly formed bakery that is The Thoughtful Bread Company. (www.thethoughtfulbreadcompany.com) I was nervous and excited at the same time. My five fellow bakering students were warmly greeted with a hot drink and a choice of yummy pastries to nibble on while we were waiting.

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Duncan on the left and his latest graduates and their super bakes!

Soon we were taken into our classroom for the day and gathered around a work station. I loved the fact that we were going to work altogether rather than on seperate tables. We didn’t know each other to start with but working closely together meant that we felt more like a team rather than six seperate individuals. The course is led by the founder of the bakery, Duncan Glendinning. A man totally bonkers about bread, caring for the environment and keeping things local. He pitched the course perfectly to those who knew litlle about bread making and those who had a little more knowledge. He made the day fun and relaxed and his passion wore off on us turning us into would be bakers by the end of the day. We learnt about the science behind breadmaking. My A level cookery teacher had told me that the liquid added to the flour, yeast and salt had to be luke warm..wrong! She taught me that sugar was needed to activate the yeast…wrong again! Duncan taught us how to knead the dough without getting tired arms. I discovered that my way of kneading was a bit old hat. I blame that teacher again for that! We made instant soda bread muffins, a savory dough and a sweet dough with some rather funky coloured Kenwood mixers to take the hard work out of kneading a very sticky dough. We learnt how to tell if the kneaded dough was ready by using the windopane method. This is when the dough becomes so thin when streched it is almost translucent. Duncan gave us a tour of the nerve centre of the bakery down in the basement and talked about the reality of baking in bulk and dispelling any fantasies we might have that being a proper working bakery is anything but blooming hard work.

Lunch was a delicious array of cheese and meats and chutney, all locally made or produced naturally. Salads and of course delicious bread. We ate with recyclable cutlery and cardboard boxes to be used as plates.Later on we had tea and cakes. I was definitely fit to burst ! By the end of our day we had all baked so many goodies that we wondered how we would get them home along with a super goodie bag we each received. You can’t imagine how proud we were of what we had achieved. Our successful bakes were all down to the ever patient, ever knowledgable, ever down to earth  and enthusiastic Duncan who really made sure that we had a super day . The last thing on the agenda for the day was a wee talk on sourdough. We each took a little starter home and were told how to feed and look after it. My starter is now happily bubbling away in the fridge and is called Betty Boo. I can’t wait to attempt to make my first sourdough loaf later .this week,

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A feast fit for a king. The goodies I made and my new baking bible!

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You can buy locally milled flour at the bakery.

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Betty Boo bubbling away nicely!

I came away with new skills and rather than liking making bread as I did before. I now absolutely love making bread. It would be unrealistic for me to say that I now want a bakery like Duncans, but maybe a teeny tiny little artisan bakery in my kitchen is do-able! If you ever fancy learning how to make great bread then I urge you to book a place on one of Duncan’s courses. I bet you will come away bonkers about bread!

 

 

 

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