Baking your own daily breadBy Hilary Scott
September 24, 2012
It feels like the Great British Bake-off.
We stand, slightly nervous, by our equipment and behind us there’s a large table which will be filled with our baked goods says baking masterclass leader Alan Waring.
Of course it will be judged – not by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood but by you.
Because towards the end of our four hours the food monthly photographer will arrive to take a picture to use here.
So there’s no faking it (though I do keep my eye out for our ‘star’ baker in case I need to commandeer his – yes, my fellow bakers are all men this Saturday morning – baked goods and pretend they’re mine).
It also is one big table, How on earth will we fill that in four hours? But you know what? We do. We cram it with scrummy wholemeal, focaccia crunchy with seasalt and rosemary and dotted with olives, a dinner party centrepiece of rolls with assorted toppings, a sourdough, a pizza and either a poppy seed plait or a pesto plait.
Now have a look at the picture and tell me you’re not impressed.We did that, us amateurs – and it was all because we had amazing guidance.
When I returned home the family were astonished. Like Mary Poppins I pulled loaf after loaf out of my canvas bag (supplied by Warings along with a pot of fresh yeast, a pack of strong bread flour and an apron),
“You're a proper baker, Mum,” said my son – and, in fact, with a class as informative as this, I really felt like one.
Alan, who leads the masterclass in the family-run company with his sister Janet (the pair are the grandchildren of the founder), is relaxed but incisive and the siblings are the fount of all bread knowledge.
Bread is their daily... well bread.
They live and breathe it and no question, however odd, went unanswered, be it about rising, ingredients and the difference between Canadian flours and others, trends and more.
They are a bit of a double act – but they turn you from a novice or an occasional bread maker into a bit of a craftsperson.
First we tackle a plain dough that we turn into a wholemeal. This is when we learn the most vital skill – kneading.
I have made bread many times but despite some successes most of the time my loaves have had a bit of a leaden quality about them. Yes OK, you could use some of my specimens as doorstops.
This, Alan, explained, is because I just wasn't putting enough elbow grease into my kneading and my technique was oh so wrong.
You need to slightly tear the dough each time you roll your palm over it. It shouldn't tear easily, but it should tear a bit. This means you will get the gluten to become nice and elasticky.
And you need to work your whole arm, not just from the elbow like I was doing - kneading needs a whole shoulder put into it.
Once your kneading's sorted it's a piece of, er, cake.
We get started on the different bread varieties - with Alan patiently explaininbg the differences between the doughs. Some are just floour and yeast, some have added fat like butter or olive oil, some are enriched with egg.
All will behave differntly and all feel different - is it meant to be this sticky/floppy/hard we wail (surrounded by men, at times I did indeed feel like I was in Carry On Baking!)?
The piece de resistence is the dinner roll centrepiece - seven rolls topped with nibbed corn, poppy seeds, nuts and seeds and cheese. We divide the dough into seven balls and Alan showed us some great techniques for getting perfect roll shapes.
And it comes out of the oven looking and smelling devine - and is worth the course cost alone.
The last creations were in the oven and we were finished the hard work. And the reward wasn't just what we could take home - Janet has prepared the most delicious tea for us with lovely sandwiches (Warings bread of course) and scones with cream and jam and a nice cuppa.
We sit and chat and the guys reveal their reasons for doing the course - there's a teacher whose mum bought it for him because she thought "he should" learn to make bread, a couple of chaps who're keen cooks but wanted to know more about bread and more varied tales.
I've just read that that men are so keen on The Great British Bake-off they're even switching off the footie.
If you're one of those, or just have a bit of an interest I would thoroughly recommend the bread course. And now is the perfect time to book one as a Christmas present or buy a gift voucher.
No one has ever said bread making was easy - but Alan and Janet make it as easy as it can possibly be.
And I guarantee at least one of your creations would pass the Berry/Hollywood test.
Courses are at the Sydney Waring Demonstration Studio in Armour Road, Tilehurst.
Masterclasses cost £84 per person and include
- Masterclass of your choice (Breads,Sweet Dough, Buns, Laminated Pastry, Danish & Croissants,Seasonal)
- Master Bakers to share their knowledge
- Warings Bakery Signature Apron to wear and keep
- Recipe cards and ingredients to get you started at home
- Afternoon Tea
Warings Bakery Masterclass gift certificates available for purchase at any of Warings six shops
Children's Bakery parties (Apprentice Baker Party or Design and Decorate Party) are also great value and Warings offers bread demos which are just £12 a person too.
Contact ( 0118) 945 6688 for all enquiries and follow Dan Crumb on twitter @waringsbakery