Hello, Evie again. What a couple of weeks! First I went Alpaca Trekking, then the following Saturday I was lucky enough to go on a fabulous bread-making course in Greenwich with my colleague Helen. Any experience involving food is a winner in my book, so this was just perfect for me, who can beat home-made food, let alone bread?
We set off on the train Saturday morning to get to Greenwich at around half past ten, the class started at eleven. On arrival we were greeted by Salvadori, the assistant chef, who was exceptionally friendly, he immediately offered us refreshments and told us where to leave our bags and coats. In the kitchen we met Stephen, the chef and our tutor for the day! We were two of nine people taking the class, and in a large professional kitchen, there was plenty of room for everyone to get stuck in and have a go.
I never knew until I took this course how simple it is to make basic dough, then add different elements to create fantastic breads. We were shown a special kneading technique, that didn’t involve any kneading at all! It took a while to get the hang of, but once you get a momentum it’s really good fun, and quite a work-out too. The first batch of dough was plain, and the second involved maize and olive oil, which had a great smell. You may be thinking ‘what do you do while the dough is resting?’, but the only time we had to rest ourselves was during a quick tea break in the middle, then it was straight back to mixing and getting very sticky hands!
The first type of bread to come out of the professional ovens was a lovely batch of poppy seed and sesame seed rolls. Immediately the room was full of the gorgeous smell of fresh bread, which made it slightly harder to keep making more! Next up was a bread called fougasse, which had a rich history that Stephen told us about in great detail, really fascinating stuff. This type of bread was extremely fun to make, as it was messy and “artisan” (code word for ‘not quite right’). Adding olives to one ball of dough gave the basis for some crispy bread twists (or gressini, to the trained person). Everything took such a short amount of time in the oven, it was unbelievable! Finally we made some delicious focaccia (my favourite!), which was flavoured with grapes and sugar, tomato and truffle salt, and rosemary and rock salt, it was nice to get a mixture of sweet and savoury when it came to the focaccia.
After a couple of hours in a kitchen filled with the smell of baking bread, lunch couldn’t come quickly enough. The bit everyone was looking forward to most (or at least I was); the tasting! My preconception of the day had me thinking we would get a sample of each bread we made, but it was so much more than that. Stephen had put on a fantastic spread, there were different cheeses, ham, spicy chicken, roasted vegetables, salad, a delicious home-made rocket pesto, and wine! It was absolutely fabulous, topped off with, of course, our gorgeous fresh bread. We were so stuffed by the end of it we thought explosion was imminent, thankfully Stephen provided goody bags to take what we couldn’t eat home.
If you’re worried about remembering the recipes as you go, Stephen has the answer to that. The recipes are emailed to all participants soon after the class, so you don’t have to write everything down while you’re there! The guidance we got was so useful, it was simple but never condescending, and we got some fascinating information about the cultural history surrounding the breads we were making too.
Altogether a very enjoyable day with friendly people in a relaxed (and great smelling) atmosphere. Would definitely recommend this class to anyone with an interest in cooking and culinary history. For those who want to grow their knowledge further, there’s also advanced bread-making and a pasta-making class!