Reviewing a course at Leiths is my idea of a heavenly day out, so I was really excited to be invited to attend their one day bread workshop.
Leiths School of Food and Wine is based in my old stomping ground of Shepherd’s Bush, so I always get a bit nostalgic when I go there.
I’ve taken quite a few courses there over the years which inspired me to change the focus of my career from news to food. You always come away feeling like you’ve had the very best instruction and it further fuels my unrealised dream of doing the one year Diploma if I had my time again!
Anyway back to bread… The very knowledgable and fun Andrea Hamilton, along with two super efficient assistants led our group of 8 people through some basic bread techniques.
Who’s the workshop aimed at?
I would say it’s pitched perfectly for home cooks who have always wanted to try making bread from scratch but have either never had the courage, or not got the results they were hoping for on their own.
It’s a really brilliant hands-on grounding in the essential techniques involved in the bread making process, with thorough explanations and hints and tips for a successful loaf.
Here’s the agenda:
10am – 2:30pm
- Sesame seed loaf – enriched white bread plaited
- Italian bread
- Fougasse using a starter/biga
- Italian bread
- Enriched white bread
- Fruited soda bread
What’s included in the course?
Along with a lot of expertise and confidence to have a go at bread making at home, you get to take home all the bread you make in the practical sessions, and you’re given pastries and drinks as a welcome, along with a very generous spread for lunch including wine.
You’re gently eased in by watching the instructor demonstrate the recipe, and then you’re let loose to have a go yourself working on benches of four people.
We were given booklets to keep containing the recipes, along with technical tips and explanations of all the terminology.
Andrea was very approachable and always on hand to help you if you got stuck.
Bread making is quite a physical experience. You do need to have a bit of upper body strength to cope with kneading dough for 10 minute stints.
The first three hours of the course are quite demanding as you move quickly from one recipe to the next, so that while one dough is rising you get on with preparing the next, then getting something in the oven, etc etc.
But then once you’ve got everything in the oven you can relax and eat lunch, have a glass of wine, soak up the atmosphere and have a chat with everyone.
I was really happy with all three of my loaves. I really put the effort in the with kneading and was rewarded with a soft and tasty enriched white loaf perfect slathered with butter on its own, and delicious toasted the next day for breafast. The Italian loaf is very simple to make I customised mine with sundried tomatoes, olives and roasted onions. Again, delicious and perfect for taking along to a picnic or barbecue. The fruited soda breads were quite heavy, but a lovely afternoon treat with a cuppa!
It’s the not cheapest at £140 per person, but this is one of the most prestigious cookery schools in the country and feels like a special and professional experience.
I’d not made bread at home much in the last year or two, apart from pizza bases, so I felt like I had my knowledge and enthusiasm revitalised in a small space of time. I’d forgotten how good home made bread can taste, and what a fab thing it is to bake and take along to a party or barbecue.
Top tips, recipe and a Leiths giveaway!
Here are the top tips I gleaned from the day along with recipe for the delicious enriched white loaf which I urge you to try at home.
I’m also delighted to be offering one lucky Feeding Boys reader a place on the Leiths One Day Bread Workshop on 28th August – Click here to find out how you can enter my exciting competition>>
Top bread making tips
- We used fresh yeast which has a slightly better flavour than dried. You can buy this online, ask at your local bakery, or even the bakery counter at the supermarket.
- If the recipe lists fresh yeast in the ingredients and you don’t have any simply use half the stated amount of dried yeast, or half again for fast action yeast.
- When adding liquid in bread making, always make sure it is lukewarm/body temperature, and don’t add it all at once – two thirds to start with and then see how much the dough needs to come together.
- A dough scraper is brilliant for getting rid of sticky patches of dough when kneading.
- Handle wet dough quickly to prevent it from sticking too much to your hands or surfaces.
- Don’t wear perfume on your wrists if you’re going to make bread by hand – your loaf will end up tasting of your fragrance – yuk!
- When kneading, you’re looking from transforming your dough from a lump of cellulite to a lovely smooth and elastic texture that springs back when you stick your finger in it. This is called the press test.
- Once you’ve shaped your loaf and are leaving it to prove, it should double in size and when you do the press test, the indentation should stay there and not spring all the way back. The dough should look soft and pillowy.
- To prepare ahead, make the dough in the evening, place in an oiled bag and allow it to rise in the fridge over night. This allows more flavour to develop. Simply leave it out of the fridge to come to room temp before knocking back, proving and baking.
- Always bake your bread in the top third of the oven.
- For a glossy glaze use beaten egg, for a matt looking crust use milk.
Enriched White Bread
Recipe from Leiths Baking Bible by Fiona Burrell and Susan Spaull published by Bloomsbury
You will need a 1kg/2¼lb bread tin. If it is old and used, you may need to grease or flour it, but if it is new and non-stick, brush it out lightly with a flavourless oil and dust with flour.
You can also make it without a loaf tin like we did on the course, and simply shape it into a round, divide into bread rolls or have a go at plaiting!
Makes 1 Loaf
15g/ ½ oz fresh yeast
scant 290ml/ ½ pint lukewarm milk
1 teaspoon caster sugar
450g/1lb strong plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
To Glaze: 1 egg, beaten
1. Dissolve the yeast with a little of the milk and the sugar in a teacup.
2. Sift the flour with the salt into a warmed large mixing bowl and rub in the butter as you would for pastry. (we melted the butter into the warmed milk instead)
3. Pour in the yeast mixture, the remaining milk and the beaten egg and mix to a softish dough.
4. Add a small amount of flour if the dough is too sticky. When the dough will leave the sides of the bowl, press it into a ball and tip it out on to a floured board.
5. Knead until it is elastic, smooth and shiny (about 15 minutes).
6. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover it with a piece of lightly greased clingfilm.
7. Put it in a warm, draught free place and leave it to rise until has doubled in size (at least 1 hour). Bread that rises to quickly has a yeasty unpleasant taste; the slower the rising the better – overnight in a cool larder is better than 30 minutes over a boiler!
8. Knock down and knead for a further 10 minutes or so.
9. Shape the dough into an oblong and put it into a 1kg/2 ¼ lb loaf tin.
10. Cover again with oiled clingfilm and prove (allow to rise again) until it is the size and shape of the loaf. Brush with beaten egg.
11. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Bake the loaf in the oven for 10 minutes then turn the oven temperature down to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 and bake for a further 25 minutes, or until it is golden and firm.
12. Turn the loaf out on to a wire rack to cool. It should sound hollow when tapped on the underside. If it does not or feels squashy and heavy, return it to the oven, without the tin, for a further 10 minutes.