Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pretzels

Tried these at the weekend; part of our planned ‘Bread to impress’ course.  The shaping is not too difficult but getting the skin forming and the chewiness is a challenge.  Bicarbonate of soda is added to the water in which they are boiled and they swell a good deal in the pan and then an egg wash is applied before they go in the oven.  As well as the traditional salt, I tried cumin seeds and brown sugar.

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Taste and texture were good but not perfect and I think I need to make them thinner next time.  Had not realised how much they swell!

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Flour

I forgot one of the better sites for home baker: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/.  Lots of advice, recipes and you can buy from their UK store too.

As far as flours are concerned, bakers can get very passionate about the flour they use, insisting on organic, stoneground for example.  I am not a great fan of anything organic, partly scientific and partly because of cost and, particularly if you are adding strong flavours or filling your dough, I don’t believe it is worth buying expensive flours.  I admit I have not done a side by side comparison but these are the ones I tend to use:

Strong white: any supermarket own brand

Wholemeal/brown: Sainsburys own brand especially good

Allinson Country Grain and Seed and grain: not cheap but great to work with.  http://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/products/

Waitrose Love life: the bright red, green or orange packets.  The flour is milled by Marriages and each is a very different combination of grains, seeds and malted flour in one case.  Although more expensive than many other flours they make a very nice loaf for a special occasion.  http://www.waitrose.com/shop/ProductView-10317–151014-Waitrose+LOVElife+seeded+malted+bread+flour.  You can also buy Marriages flour direct from their mill in 1.5Kg and 18kg bags: http://flour.co.uk/buy-our-flour

If you want to buy organic Shipton Mill has a very broad selection of bread flours: http://www.shipton-mill.com/flour-direct-shop/flour/bread-flour.

Advice, inspiration, help

For baking accessories: Bakery Bits is tops; http://bakerybits.co.uk/

I buy my Panettone cases from here as well as the Panettone essence so essential to making this loaf.  Also the Bannetons for sourdough are good; pricey but last forever.

For advice on baking, videos of techniques etc

http://www.weekendbakery.com/ is very good.  Although American, it has a lot of hints and tips, plenty of videos and is well worth a look;

http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/; doing a lot to promote better bread and has lots of advice;

http://www.virtuousbread.com/how-to-make-bread/ is a great idea, teaching people to bake bread and then starting a community micro-bakery;

Twists and Bialy

Two of the breads featured in our ‘Bread to impress’ course:

The twists are very similar to cheese pastry twists but made with dough so slightly less rich.  There were flavoured with garlic, rosemary and cheese and taste as good as they look.  I find the older the cheese the better or some strong blue gives a really strong flavour.

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The Bialy are Polish and similar to a bagel but are not boiled first and the central hole is filled with caramelised onion in this case.  I should have made the onion mixture a little more jam like so it didn’t spill out of the hole as they rose but a really good flavour.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bialy

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New courses, demonstrations, dates and times!

We have added lots more dates, times and courses to respond to growing demand and suggestions from those who have attended our courses.  More details and photos on the Courses and Demonstrations pages but the new ones are:

Breakfast breads; Australian fruit loaf, Brioche and Danish pastries

Bread to impress; Bread twists, Bialy (Polish bagel like roll), fougasse, epi, pretzels/silzers

Flat and flattish breads; Panini, Turkish Pide, flavoured focaccias, stone baked flatbreads

Meals in one; Panini imbottiti (Italian stuffed buns), stuffed and flavoured focaccias, calzone

Course dates go through to December and we have added a mid-week course for those who cannot make a Saturday.  As always, there is some flexibility in dates, times and what we cover so email or call to discuss.

Check out the Feedback page to see what pupils have said about our events and see the Gallery for lots of photos of students bread and happy faces!

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Feedback; new courses

Over 30 people have been on one of our courses now and over 20 have attended an evening demonstration.  Feedback is overwhelmingly positive with scores over 4.9/5 for the courses and over 4.8 for the demonstrations.

Comments from the classes:

“A wonderful day.  Not just the breadmaking (which was great-v. hands on) but the coffee and the lunch too.  Highly recommended” Helen

“Totally recommend the course; learned the mysteries of panettone and had a wonderful time” Dri

“Fabulous day-thank you!  As a novice breadmaker, I learned a lot and had great fun.  Thanks for your welcome hospitality and lovely lunch/afternoon tea” VM

“A truly fantastic day.  I havn’t seen Dad laugh so much in  ages-brilliant!.  You could not have been more welcoming-what a great day” Penny

“Loved the day.  Highly recommend it to anyone new to baking.  Small group so lots of attention given to all” Leo

“Such a good day-so much information delivered in a practical and fun way and some really delicious breads to take home” Caroline I.

“This was an excellent course!  I could not believe how easy it was to make the bread.  Neil was a great teacher and I would recommend this to anyone.  Great gift”  Tegan

“I am a complete beginner but found the course easy to follow, very informative and useful and delivered in a relaxed style” David

Comments from the demonstrations:

“A wonderful evening”  Sian

“Great fun for a group of friends; brilliant value for money”  Helen

“A big thank you from Royston Ladies Circle – we had a fantastic fun filled evening and baked a lovely selection of breads”  Alex

“Very proud of what a bunch of novices could achieve with the right guidance”  Anon

Pupils have made suggestions for new classes and we will now be offering:

Breakfast breads; Australian fruit loaf, brioche and Danish pastries

Bread to impress; Bread twists, Bialy (Polish bagel like roll), fougasse, epi, pretzels and silzers

Flat and flattish breads; Panini, Turkish Pide, flavoured focaccias, stone baked flatbreads

Meals in one; Panini imbottiti (Italian stuffed buns), stuffed and flavoured focaccias, calzone

Details to follow

Oldest pupil is star baker

Saturday saw our oldest pupil to date when 84 year old Joan attended a course with her daughter Helen and another student, Denise.  Having always wanted to bake bread and particularly DSCF4034focaccia, Helen bought a place on the course as a birthday present for Joan.  Although a keen cook and baker, Joan had never quite mastered bread.  After starting with a basic granary loaf and knot rolls, Joan went on to bake a great looking sun-dried tomato focaccia and then an impressive pesto swirl.

Helen and Denise produced some excellent loaves too and both enjoyed the coffee, tea and lunch as well as the tuition.  Helen chose to make a stuffed olive focaccia and pesto swirl while Denise was keen to make a loaf she had been buying from our market stall: spiced apple and marzipan.

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All in all a fun day with three excellent pupils!

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