GUEST BLOG: Bread heads

By guest blogger CORIN BELL

Our full-day bread-baking course came to a new home this week, at Prestwich Arts College, and it’s great to be doing some more work in the north! The ever-amazing Rob Tomlinson was on hand to tell us everything we ever wanted to know about yeast, sourdough, flours, processes and myths in breadmaking.

The day started with a nice fresh coffee and some discussion about the breads we were going to make, different types of flour, different types of yeast, and the additives and ingredients that can sometimes pop up in shop-bought breads.

The group started by making a classic white loaf, keeping the recipe nice and simple to focus on techniques, the right steps to take and timings. There are so many books, websites and blogs about bread, and all of the experts have different tips and steps they swear by, so it’s great to have Rob on hand to explain why how they all fit together, and how you can devise the perfect bread-baking process to suit you.

While the participants cracked on with kneading, myself and our delightful volunteer Marcello made some pizza dough and a lovely thick tomato sauce to whip up some pizzas for lunch. Although the group didn’t make the pizzas themselves, myself and Marcello talked them through the process (the dough is very similar to the basic loaf recipe), and everyone got the recipe so they could have a go when they got home. The end result four different pizzas, a beetroot and farro grain salad, and a well-earned break.

Over the course of the day, with lots of time for coffee and questions, the group also made a beautiful black olive, sun-dried tomato and rosemary focaccia, and a light rye bread bloomer. It’s great to be able to compare how the different types of flour behave, and how different additions to the basic loaf (the focaccia is an enriched dough, with olive oil in the basic recipe) affect the rising time, and how you treat the dough to get it light and airy.

The course also has a strong environmental and sustainable focus, reflecting the values of Cracking Good Food. Rob spoke passionately about organic flour, and how real bread shouldn’t be full of additives. One of the things I love most about being involved with this course is the almost philosophical feel it has. Conversation flows from traditional skills, to the satisfaction of creating your own bread, to the practice of kneading as meditation… what a bunch of hippies!

The full-day breadmaking course is a delightful, engaging workshop with a lovely relaxed pace… as Rob tells every group, great bread has five ingredients: flour, yeast, water and pinch of salt – and lots of time.

More photographs from this session, our first in Prestwich, can be viewed on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page here. Please “like” and, if you were there, send us your photos for out Facebook album!

Our next full-day session in Prestwich is on Saturday 27 September. In the meantime, we’re running a full-day session in Flixton on Saturday 12 July (and again on Saturday 8 November), plus a half-day session in Chorlton on Saturday 13 September (and again on Saturday 11 October). We’re also running a special Festive Bread session in Chorlton on Saturday 22 November. Full details of all these sessions and how to book can be found here. Spread the word!

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