One of my favourite weeks (or was it two?) of the chef’s course I did in the first half of this year was spent making bread. White bread, brown bread, wholemeal bread, random grain bread, bread with bits in, rolls, baguettes, loaves, pain epi, fougasse, ciabatta, focaccia, sourdough, brioche, rye, blah blah, blah blah blah.
I found bread making to be soothing, stress relieving, productive, gratifying, remarkably accessible and easy. I basically bloody loved it. Indeed, at the end of that part of the course, I swore I’d bake bread at home at least every weekend, if not more often.
I have made the grand total of no bread since.
So I was glad to rekindle the flames over a wet and windy weekend in Cornwall whilst staying at Bedruthan hotel, about halfway between Newquay and Padstow.
The course was run by a young guy called Baker Tom. Clearly his parents have a fondness for nominative determinism.
Tom was great. Young, very likeable, modest but clearly skilled and knowledgeable – what you want in a teacher, really. Over the course of a relaxed morning and early afternoon, we made a basic white dough into fougasse, rolls and loaves; a spelt dough into various different loaves, flavouring them with poppy seeds, oatmeal and honey, and fennel and anise; and a killer focaccia with about four gallons of rapeseed oil and two tonnes of Cornish sea salt (as is required). That picture at the top is my haul for the day.
For me, it was an excellent opportunity to refresh my technique, ask questions about the science and basically get a kick up the bum to start making bread again. The novices on the course got to learn everything they needed to to catch the bread bug, make promises to themselves and maybe, just maybe, begin to bake regularly.
I really think the best way to start making bread is on a relaxed introductory course like this. Bread making is not difficult and is so rewarding, but to try and start by simply reading even the best books can be a bit mind boggling (though I recommend Richard Bertinet’s Dough and Crust if you were wondering). Just to be able to get a quick pointer or check whether the dough really should be that sticky, whether you’ve kneaded for long enough, etc etc, is invaluable.
It was good to mix the course with a stay in Cornwall – it’s miles away, but it’s beautiful and full of seriously good produce. As mentioned, I stayed at the course’s venue, Bedruthan, which is a great hotel (Cornwall’s hotel of 2012 nonetheless), with stunning views over the coast, friendly staff and exceptional locally sourced breakfasts. I have to say that I didn’t find the beds particularly comfortable, and preferred eating at the “Wild Cafe” in the evening, rather than the slightly too try hard “Herring”, but overall still very much enjoyed my stay. I heartily recommend it to families and to active couples looking for a base to explore the region. If you’re in the mood for a more luxurious and kid-free stay, The Scarlet, just down the road, is the place to go.
Driving home from Cornwall, I promised myself (again) that I’d bake a loaf every weekend from now on … Saturday and Sunday have passed, and (unsurprisingly) I’ve failed at the very first hurdle. But next weekend. Definitely next weekend.
Booking Details and the Bill
A day of baking with Baker Tom costs £95. There appear to be a number of dates lined up for 2013. Rooms are in the £150-200 bracket per night with breakfast, but Bedruthan sort out packages to include accommodation, the bread course and dining options. Look out for other tempting break packages too – bee keeping, outdoor oven making and sea fishing caught my eye.
When I went, the bread course was comped and some of my stay subsidised.
www.bedruthan.com – Trenance, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4BU – 01637 860860
Baker Tom has shops in Truro and Falmouth and his bread gets delivered by Riverford and Cornwall Food Market.