One of my Christmas presents this year, a result of some pretty heavy hints from me, was a voucher for a bread making day at The White Cottage Bakery. Although I have made my own bread for many years I have only ever followed recipes in books and magazines so I was looking forward to actually learning from a pro... I wasn't to be disappointed! There were several courses to choose from but I opted for an Italian Bread Making Day... it turned out to be a wise choice.
We were welcomed to Helen's cottage in the Cambridgeshire village of Kingston with a breakfast of toast (bread homemade by Helen, of course) and homemade marmalade or jam, while Helen explained what we would be doing throughout the day. It wasn't long before the six of us on the course were getting stuck in learning how to make and handle a very wet ciabatta dough.
While the ciabatta dough was left to prove we got to make some wild garlic pesto to use later in the day as Helen had been foraging just the day before. We then made some more dough, a pane all'olio which again was left to prove before we got around to shaping the ciabatta.
After all that hard work kneading we stopped for a coffee break... accompanied by some delicious Ricciarelli, a type of almond macaroon that originate from 14th centuary Siena, again made by Helen of course!
It was then back to work shaping the pane all'olio - some was left to prove in tins ready to become Focaccia, the remaining dough was rolled out and covered in a variety of toppings... wild garlic pesto and pinenuts...
Slow dried tomatoes, marinaded garlic and basil...
Peppers, olives, cheese and basil.
These were then cut and twisted to make a variety of filled and shaped doughs.
They all look so good and the wonderful aromas filling the kitchen were absolutely mouth watering !
With all our breads made and shaped and ready to bake we then got around to making our lunch. Helen had prepared some pizza dough for us which she then showed us how to shape into perfect circles. We each got to cover our our own pizza with our choice of toppings. Peppers, mushrooms, tomato, olives, pesto and plenty of mozzerella for me.
Others chose to add Italian meats to their pizza toppings.
It was fabulous pizza...
Together with salad prepared by Helen's husband Mark who had looked after us at all of our breaks, it made a wonderful lunch, which we ate while our breads baked.
And these were the amazing breads we all made during the day.
Fantasic focaccia topped with pesto or rosemary and sea salt, soaked in fruity olive oil.
Wonderful pillowy ciabatta...
A lots of lovely filled pockets and twists...
All of which we got to take home at the end of the day. It was a brilliant day, I learned loads and as an added bonus I've a freezer full of fabulous homemade bread. Not only that it's another sixty x sixty ambition realised as I've always wanted to learn to make bread properly.
I can certainly recommend a day learning to make bread with Helen, who is a great teacher and very generous with her knowledge. And as for me I will be putting my newly learned skills into practise and I can't wait to go back for a day learning more bread making techniques... sourdough next I think, although French breads... or maybe even sweet doughs also sound tempting. Maybe all three!