As regular readers of our twitter will know, bread baking in TheBigForest has become more and more serious! At the beginning it was about making a loaf as quickly as possible. But over the past eight months priorities have shifted, now it’s a journey to discover great taste and different techniques such as pre-ferments, sourdough, enriched dough and bread from other countries particularly Sweden and Germany. I have also experimented with historic recipes for bread too.
Which is why, earlier this week I was at the School of Artisan Foods (SAF) for several days learning about bread. I also found, thankfully, my own research and experimentation over the past year had steered me in the right direction, I had already learnt a lot.
The School is in Nottinghamshire in the grounds of Welbeck Abbey so a long drive from sunny Sussex. But I wanted a serious course not a quick six hour ‘short course’ and I also wanted to be taught by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Emmanuel’s book ‘How to Make Bread’ started me on the journey from speed to taste.
What did we bake? Ciabatta, white, wholemeal and malthouse bread, white and dark rye sourdough, dark rye sourdough with sultanas, focaccia, baguettes made with polish, levain de champagne and brioche too. All of this was hands learning by doing with some products baked in domestic ovens and some baked-off in professional deck ovens. We also learnt about gluten, flours, yeast and milling.
So what is the verdict, was it worth the course fee, my time, and the drive time and hotel costs? Most definitely, in fact my expectations – which were high – were surpassed. It was the best few days I’ve spent in a very long time and the quality of the teaching and the extras (fantastic lunch time food for example) made it highly enjoyable and very worthwhile. As you can see below, I came home in the campervan with a lot of bread, frozen after each days baking by David the course assistant. I also made sourdough starters – that is what is in the plastic boxes – and I have a copy of Andrew Whitleys book about how easy it is to keep starters rather than the ‘throw away half’ method.
I have strict instructions not to bake anything until all the bread is eaten. My nose has been firmly stuck in Jeffrey Hamelman’s book ‘Bread’ since I bought it a couple of months back so a week without experimentation is no hardship – two weeks, well that would be very tough so the family better get eating!
Next moves? A course about baking artisan breads in larger quantities is definitely on the cards. Maybe the idea of TheBigForest micro bakery will become a reality more quickly than we planned!
By the way I wasn’t very good with the no-baking diktat. Yesterday I made a very yummy Simnel cake for Easter.
Want to find out more?
- How to Bake Bread – Emmanuel Hadjiandreou
- Making Bread Together – Emmanuel Hadjiandreou
- Both available in the UK and the US. Buy the second edition – the first edition has typos in a couple of the recipes although if you google How to Bake Bread errata you will find a list of minor changes.
- The School of Artisan Food website is worth exploring too.