Unaccustomed as I am to an early rise on a weekend morning, I took one for the team for this week’s hobby; a two-hour bread making class.
I reached the Open Kitchen near Old Street in the nick of time and was handed an apron (that I gladly handed back far filthier later). We went upstairs to the kitchen where around 15 of us found our own personal work stations; complete with sink, stove and oven and a few scattered utensils and ingredients.
To my delight, the chef who took us through three bread recipes was from Cape Town, complete with Cape accent, even if I may well have been the only one to follow every word.
He began with the first bread on our A4 recipe sheets; a brown loaf. We watched as he made the dough, then put it in a cling-wrapped bowl above the oven for ‘proofing’.
We returned to our stations and got to work mixing up our first batch before returning for the next demo.
The next one was a Focaccia, later christened with rosemary and salt. Once we’d made the much smoother, paler dough and put that too to proof, we were to unwrap the brown dough and have our way with it.
There’s a common misconception that either a bread maker or magic mixer are needed to make bread. Poppycock. A little kneading and teasing and ‘showing the dough who’s boss’ as our teacher phrased it, is all that’s needed to get the texture right for baking.
Once we’d kneaded the brown dough we popped it in the tin, dabbed it with milk for a crusty finish and set it aside the final rise.
Next followed a focaccia and Turkish flat-bread and knotted loaf. Two hours, four loaves and I was conveniently near Borough Market to pick up some goodies to go with it.
There is something special about creating fresh warm bread from a handful of ingredients and I’ll definitely line up a fresh focaccia when the weather ripens for a braai (barbecue). The breads were slightly on the heavy side and I would have prefered a bit more of a fun loaf thrown in – even just an olive bread to liven things up.
There are multitudes of bread recipes online, but one thing you can’t learn here is how the dough feels when it is ready. Texture is essential to the art of bread making, and while you’re quite likely to stumble across it after numerous attempts, a bread making course is a way of getting there faster. One key thing is to use fresh yeast; most grocery stores with bakeries will sell you a little if you ask.
Want to give it a go?
I did my course at the Open Kitchen for £29 on a voucher, normal price £79 which is steep but understandable given the 4 staff and fully decked out kitchen.
Other places, untried:
- E5 Bakehouse – £95 for a full day course, E8
- Paul – Yummy French Bakery chain – £75
- Bake With Maria – NW8, 3hr courses from £65
- Baker and Loaf – W14, 4.5hrs from £85
Is ‘knotted loaf’ the London term for Challah?
MmmMmm that focaccia looks delicious!