Do you have a bucket list? I do! This week I was able to put a tick next to one of my tasks, attend a bread making course.
Birthdays and most importantly the presents received are taken very seriously in my house and usually the requests (if reasonable) are granted. This year due to my bread obsession I hinted at wanting to attend a bread making course. This wish was arranged and on Wednesday I drove to Waitrose Cooking School on Finchley Road in London and attended a very well-run course.
If I am honest, I was a bit sceptical of what I would learn, I am not an expert, but yet I am not a novice and as this course is open to all, there would be many different levels of experienced bakers on the course. I was correct, there were those who had never made bread, those that had tried and failed, those who had made a few loaves here and there and then there was me, who makes bread at least once a week if not more. It was therefore very surprising how well the Chef was able to differentiate and make all feel that they were capable and worthy of making bread.
We made three types of bread, two of which I hadn’t made before. Ciabbata and Rye Bread were the two I hadn’t made before and bagels were the ones that I had tried my hand at already. They were all such different processes and dough that it was hard not to learn new ways how to handle each dough differently.
The Ciabbata dough was what we started with as this was the dough that needed most attention and proving time. The dough is a much sticker dough as it has a higher hydration count (more water). I am a bit old school and therefore like to make everything by hand. When we were told that we were going to make this dough in the Kenwood, I was horrified. However I very quickly realised there was a reason behind it, the dough would be too sticky to handle by hand and there would be a massive temptation to add more flour which would dry the dough out, which defeats the purpose of this type of bread. Lesson 1 was learnt, make sticky dough in a machine!
Another lesson that I learnt was how to use preferment in your dough. Preferment is a mixture of flour, water and yeast which is left overnight to ferment. There are different forms of preferment, such as Biga, Poolish and Sponge. Sourdough starters are slightly different as these are left for a few days and fed regularly. We used both biga and poolish separately in the ciabbata and rye bread.
The rye dough was harder to work with than I expected, as its low levels of gluten make it sticker and tougher to kneed. Lesson three was taught when we were shown an alternative to scoring the dough before proving it. It is important to score your dough as it will naturally want to have a way of releasing steam when in the oven, and by scoring it you are directing where it releases and keep it from splitting too much. We were taught to create a round shape with the rye dough and pinch the ends together and then place that downwards into a sourdough proving basket. It came out with an amazing effect and looked beyond appetising and very professional.
Lesson four was that if you make a mistake with the quantity of flour – putting too little in and the dough is already formed, you can work more flour into it. We had to halve the amounts of ingredients in our bagel mixture and as I am not good with numbers I put in 25g less flour, though I wasn’t the only one! None of us could understand why our dough was sticker than our chef’s, and when we realised the mistake, we were told to just add the amount on the work surface and slowly work the flour in, amazingly this worked and you would never know.
I truly had a wonderful day at the cooking school and would be tempted to complete other courses (hint hint…). If you are interested in cooking courses and live in the area, Waitrose Cooking School should be one that you consider.
I now need to attend a specialist bread making school to complete another task on my bucket list!