Friday, 17 April 2015

Something a Bit Special #1 Artisan Bread Making at The Weekend Club

Everyone loves the weekend right?! Two whole days to do as you please, do more of what you love, and do it all in good company. Well Gloucestershire College have taken all of that on board and created The Weekend Club: The best club going if you ask me!

The Weekend Club is a series of one-off classes running at their Cheltenham campus on the first Saturday of every month between 9am and 4pm; and last weekend I was one of ten, keen foodies, to nab a place on their Artisan Bread Making day.

Having made two (or three at absolute tops), types of bread in my whole entire life, I was a tad worried that I might turn up to a class full of expert bread makers; and I also felt uneasy with the word artisan, I turned up without googling it, so didn’t really have a clue what I was letting myself in for! Fear not, for those of limited vocabulary like me, I have now looked it up, here you go: Made in a traditional way using high quality ingredients.

Our expert for the day was Dominic Salter (multi-award winning mind!) from The Sandwich Box in Cheltenham. He showed us how to make sourdough bread, focaccia and Chelsea buns.

Who knew that making bread could be such good exercise for those bingo wings?! Pah, who needs a bread maker when you can put your heart, soul, sweat and toil into a loaf?!

Starting with the sourdough, we really took our aggression out on that dough. No flour needed to keep it sticking to the surface like many might suggest, we threw that dough, folded it, threw again, and folded repeatedly until ready to prove. We got to use a wood pulp proving basket giving the bread circular markings, then turned it out onto the baking sheet and waited patiently whilst it was in the oven. Dominic gave us each a tub of his sourdough starter to take home. This is simply a mixture of flour (good quality stuff, Shipton Mill was recommended) and water, and is a way of cultivating the wild yeast in a form that can be used for baking. You feed the mixture and it grows, and can be used for years and years; I’m planning on handing mine down to the next generation.   

Onto the Chelsea buns, these are made with a flying sponge (flour, yeast and water) which is left at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. This sponge is then added to other ingredients, including sugar - to make it into a sweet dough - and a healthy handful or so of butter. After turning out and tearing down the dough until it was silky, we rolled it out and added all the other component parts of the Chelsea bun, rolled it all up, and cut it into individual buns before proving for a final time. When they came out the oven, we brushed them with icing. I hadn’t been home for longer than 15 minutes before Kingsley announced he’d eaten three of them; so you can imagine, they were pretty good.

And finally, my favourite, the focaccia: This is made with good quality bread flour, warm water, fresh yeast and salt. This is a very wet mixture so can get pretty messy during the ‘working it’ phase. Someone in the class ended up with it on their glasses, and I managed to lose some to the floor, as well as a good dollop all over my recipe sheet for the day! Nevertheless, I got there in the end, and the dough went onto an oiled baking tray before topping with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Coming home with such a huge amount of bread I happily (at the time) cut the focaccia in half and dropped a piece of it round to my parents, but when we tucked into it for dinner, I felt like going back to my parents to pick up the other half so I could devour it all to myself. It really was the scrummiest ever!

These one-off courses cost £60 per person, and include pastries and coffee on arrival, as well as a particularly delicious lunch (I even had a glass of Viognier to accompany mine). Just some of the classes include: fashion and upcycling, sushi for beginners, Asian cookery and BBQ. To find out more or to book a place call student services on 0845 155 2020. Thanks to the team at Gloucestershire College and Dom for a fantastic day.

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