Food feature: Rising demand for bread is catered for at school
'Remember, its only bread', joked baking tutor Emmanuel Hadjiandrequ as the tension rose slightly in the room.
Our class at the School of Artisan Food was at one of the trickiest stages, that of shaping individual malthouse rolls into pleasing and even structures.
It was much harder than Emmanuel, who trained in South Africa and has worked for Gordon Ramsay, made it look with a few quick flicks of the wrist.
Evenly rolling out the centre was fine, but when it came to making the slimmer edges by applying pressure one side would end up coming out larger than the other.
In one of many top tips on the day, Emmanuel explained how to flip each roll over to make sure both sides had equal treatment from both hands, even if one was stronger.
I’ve made bread before, and most food-lovers have likely given it a go, especially with the rise of artisan bakeries and television shows dedicated to the craft.
But it is fair to say baking is not my forte.
Unlike cooking where an extra five minutes here, or a substituted ingredient there, hardly makes a difference or even improves the end result, baking is a precise science.
My measuring by eye approach is often a disaster - and few who ate my passionfruit and strawberry roulade will ever forget the melted, soggy and colourful mess presented at dinner. It tasted good, though.
Within an hour at the school - located on the grand Welbeck estate near Worksop - I knew exactly where I had been going wrong.
Every ingredient was carefully measured, down to the water. Each individual roll had to come in at 76 grammes a piece, and the class concentrated as we added in or took out a gramme here or there.
“The most important thing about baking is having a decent set of scales”, said Emmanuel.
The class was taught about bread from the very beginning, learning about its production, the different types of yeast, flours and gluten in between kneads of the farmhouse white.
And kneading turns out not to be fifteen minutes grappling, but just ten seconds of flattening, ten neat folds of the dough into a circle, then ten minutes rest, no less than four times.
Emmanuel added: “People think the more you knead it the better it gets - but it is the less that you knead it.
“Take all your frustration out on the dough for ten seconds, it is like anger management!”You c
We could feel the dough becoming more elastic and see it taking shape as the gluten was slowly activated.
You may have wondered how bakers produce such beautiful patterns on their crusts.
One of the answers is a proving basket, which had slight ridges all around it to create a circular groove on our white loaves while we ate lunch upstairs.
Not only that, but Emmanuel displayed no less than three ways in which to proove bread, including sticking a shower cap on top of the tin and allowing the warm air to do its thing.
We learned how to neatly fold our brown and malthouse loaves to the right shape for the tins, before the challenge of the rolls.
Top patterns were scored in to the top of the white with a sharp blade - which also created a weak point for air bubbles to escape.
Dusting (too much, in my case) flour on top of the rolls made for decoration, as well as camouflage in case of burning.
The shortest part of the process was the actual baking, with water added in to the hot pans to create steam, and then voila: I had an entire basket of pretty, artisan bread that looked, smelled and tasted fantastic.
“People find baking very soothing - especially those in the corporate world because they are making something out of nothing”, said Emmanuel.
“It is magic.”
Magic is the right word.
The Introduction to Artisan Bakery course costs £175 per person. Visit www.schoolofartisanfood.org or call 01909 532171.
If a dough is too dry, dip your fingers in water and shake off the excess before kneading rather than adding extra water
When slicing hot bread, cut from the edges rather than the middle as it may still be moist in the centre
Clean dustpan brushes and unusued toilet brushed are ideal for taking off excess flour and cleaning proving baskets