Dale and I spent a very lovely day at Sheepdrove Farm this week learning how to make bread. Now I like baking as you know and I love all things homemade, natural and healthy. So this was like Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one.
Suzi is the very lovely chef at Sheepdrove and she welcomed us to her ‘office’ (the most beautifully airy kitchen) with coffee, homemade biscuits and chit chat. She had prepared three different bread types for us to make and got us started in a way you just don’t get taught at school…going to mill your flour!
There is a wonderful flour mill at the farm which you chuck grains in and out comes warm, ready to use wholegrain flour. However, at the crank of a lever you can separate the bran and get a finer, whiter flour if you wish. It’s all very rustic, large and quite noisy. But the freshness of the ingredients cannot be called into question! The wheat we used was the Red Fife grown on the farm.
Suzi had already made up some ciabatta starters that we would work on last, so they were already resting and proving nicely in the kitchen. So we started with a traditional wholemeal loaf. There was lots of kneading, discussions on ratios of white vs wholegrain flours (it didn’t matter) and discussions on the precision of bread making. I was pretty pleased that it came down to my long used approach of using your initiative. A book or recipe is merely a guide, using your instinct is best. Hooray! Most of my cooking is a journey of discovery anyway.
Part of this dough was to be used for making a mini-pizza which we baked in the bread oven.
This bread oven is brilliant, every kitchen should have one, because although it is called a bread oven it can be used for anything that needs really, hot cooking. So using a proper pizza paddle thingy we had to whoosh our pizzas into the oven and ta-daaaa! 2-3 minutes later it was cooked and bubbling ready for testing. Damn fine it was too!
Then we made a Ploughmans Soda bread. I make soda bread fairly often at home, but never like this! Basically there were 3 rules. Get flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then you could do what you liked! I used beer as the liquid, added cheese, chives, chunks of apple, onion and garlic and mixed it all together. Turned it onto a tray and cooked it. Simple, rustic and (when we got it home to taste) very lovely!
The final bread was the ciabatta (slipper in Italian apparently) and we had the chance to finish off what Suzi had started. It was very sticky and took some work but 3 slippers later we all had bread ready for baking.
One of the attractions of this course was that it included lunch! We weren’t disappointed. We had a flan with a salad from the garden all decorated in flowers. I thought, how nice that will do me nicely. Then out came steamed chard and some ratatouille dish which I couldn’t eat as I was already over-stuffed. However I did manage to try some fruit sorbet and blackberries before feeling like I would burst!
It was a great day, and I thoroughly recommend it, however having two people from the same house on the same course means a lot of bread and Dale and I came home with 10 loaves! Not bad for people who don’t normally touch the stuff!
If you like baking, using good quality ingredients and picking the brains of someone who loves her job, is happy to share and give her time and answer questions then this is probably for you! If you’re happy with your Warburton’s … it might not be quite your cup of tea, but then again you never know how it might inspire you!