School: Bake With Maria, London Road, London NW8
Class: An introduction to bread-making
Expectation: The prospect of making bread has always struck me as daunting and time-consuming. I hoped the course would introduce me to the basics and eliminate the fear.
On offer: Founder Maria Mayerhofer is heavily pregnant, so the class was run by artisan baker Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, author of How To Make Bread. Emmanuel took us through the various stages of bread-baking and enlightened on the science behind it.
What we did: We made a traditional white loaf, three rolls, focaccia and a seeded soda bread. We measured, mixed, kneaded, proved, then waited for our white dough to rise.
Who was there: Eight novices seated around a workstation in the Baking Lab; Emmanuel had two assistants.
Nosh: Don’t arrive hungry. I didn’t eat before turning up at 6pm, but by the time we finished at 9.30pm, I wished I had. We were offered a hot drink and a slice of soda bread, but no more. Delicious baking smells didn’t help the hunger pangs.
Take away: We were given our baked goodies and copies of the recipes. You can buy a selection of cookware items and cookbooks.
Verdict: Emmanuel was inspiring and gave me the confidence to believe I could try this at home. The bread was delicious but all white — besides the lack of nibbles, that is my only criticism. I would have liked more variety.
Top tips: Heat a second oven tray below the one your bread is going to bake on. As you put your loaf in the oven, pour a cup of water onto the lower tray. The steam keeps the crust soft and allows the bread to expand.
Kosher? No, but almost all of Mayerhofer’s courses are suitable for vegetarians.
Maria Mayerhofer's Soda Bread
200g strong white flour
50g wholemeal flour
7g bicarbonate of soda
55g sunflower seeds
Preheat your oven to 225°C.
Place the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl and mix together. Stir in the seeds and then add the buttermilk.
Gently fold the ingredients together until all the dry flour is incorporated — use a dough scraper to do this.
Once it is all together, remove from the bowl and roll in some flour to make it easier to handle. When the dough is covered in flour, place it on a baking tray and cut it in to 4 pieces with a dough scraper.
Place the bread in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.