I don't really know a great deal about bread or how to make it...but I'd love to be one of those people who can knock up a quick homemade loaf as quick as a flash. So I thought I'd take some tentative steps towards becoming a bread baker by attending a 'Festive Bread Baking' course.
Our host was Anna, a.k.a the Culinary Anthropologist. Anna hosts courses from her gorgeous kitchen in north London, these range from bread to preserves to new Nordic cuisine. We were greeted with a very warm welcome along with tea and coffee, juice and some toasted breads for breakfast. Then it was time to get started as we had four breads to get through in a day.
First up was the festive favourite Panettone. Anna had started us off the day before with the base, from there we worked in teams of 4 to produce our breads. There were lots of delicious ingredients in the panettone including plump rum soaked raisins. There were 7 people on the course altogether and one team had a Kenwood stand mixer and one team had a Kitchen Aid to knead the dough, there was much debate as to which was the best but we didn't reach any firm conclusions. At home I have a Kenwood K-Mix so I'd come down on the side of Kenwood.
Once our panettone's were proved we slashed a cross in the top of each one before baking. Interestingly you can buy something called Aroma Panettone which adds the distintive smell to your bake! Anna recommended the Bakery Bits website for some specialist baking buys. They also sell various sizes of panettone cases.Dresden Stollen. When the dough is ready it is pressed out into an oval which is then folded over on itself but not quite in half. Once baked the whole thing is brushed with melted butter and then dusted with icing.
We used Anna's homemade candied peel in both the panettone and the stollen. I'd never really considered making candied peel before and it is rather time consuming but it was also very tasty, so it might be worth giving it a go. Waitrose describe one method on their website.brioche. This is the bread that I have made before having made a plaited loaf as well as chocolate brioche rolls. Once our brioche dough was ready we shaped it into small traditional rolls called 'brioche a tete' as they look like they've got little heads. We also made loaves, one with three balls sitting together in the tin, as you can see below, and another with raisins and spices rolled up inside.
Our final loaf was the Challah which is a special Jewish plaited loaf eaten on the Sabbath and for holidays. I've never heard of a Challah before but it really was quick to make and it was very light. This loaf was slightly sweet as it has honey in the recipe and overall it is a good multi-purpose loaf. Anna showed us how to plait and my loaf is the one on the left above. The Challah were finished with an egg wash and a sprinkling of either poppy seeds or sesame seeds.sit down to lunch which was a tasty spread of winter coleslaw, pheasant rillette, gravadlax, bread, chutneys and cheese, all washed down with a glass of wine. Lunch was delicious and we even got pudding which was rum babas and brioche bread and butter pudding.
This was a great course and our host Anna certainly knew here stuff. Before we started baking we had a little introduction to the science of bread making, Anna also runs other bread courses which go into this in more detail. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for food were evident throughout the day and we came away with detailed recipes and instructions about how to make our bread at home. In addition there were recipes for the rum babas, bread and butter pudding and candied peel. The ingredients we used throughout the day were also top class, of particular note was the flour which was from Shipton Mill where you can buy it online by the sack.
Anna trained at the Tante Marie Cookery School in San Francisco and then took specialised courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute. She is also currently studying for an MA in the anthroplogy of food and consults for BBC Radio 4's 'The Kitchen Cabinet' so she certainly knows her onions! I'd highly recommend her courses and I've already signed up for a preserves course in the spring.