Bread making in the New Forest . . .

By 6:20 pm ,

I've been on countdown ever since I opened a loaf of bread on Christmas morning with a sheet of A4 paper in it, with the details of a day long bread making course at the New Forest Cookery School (based at Brockenhurst College) that Jason had booked me on to. 

I, along with nine other keen bakers spent the day with Allen Collier; a patisserie chef at The Ritz in London, as well as a tutor at the college. I wasn't expecting to make quite so many different varieties of bread during the day, I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I left with my two crates and handbag stuffed full of baked goodies!

There was a marked difference in using fresh yeast as opposed to the dried yeast that you can buy in supermarkets, the proving time was halved, we left ours to rise for around 20-30 minutes compared to the standard hour or more. It was also interesting to learn that you can prove a dough in the fridge overnight, provided you leave it for at least 7 hours that is!

We started off by making a batch of white dough which was halved, one half for a rosemary focaccia and the other for 16 white dinner rolls. We were shown a variety of ways to twist, tie and roll the dough to make some very interesting shapes. I stuck to traditional circular, three strand plait, pinwheel and ram knot rolls, I also attempted a cottage loaf roll, although these didn't prove too successful.

All of the rolls were egg washed and then rolled in either sunflower, poppy or sesame seeds, with the exception of the cottage rolls which were dipped in strong white bread flour. Using the sharp blade of a knife I then slashed the round circular rolls for extra decoration.

Next on the list was a batch of wholemeal dough, which was again halved, one half for two plaited baguettes and the other to make five walnut and sultana baguettes. The plaited loaves were also egg washed, left to prove for 20 minutes, egg washed again, then rolled in bran and popped in the oven for 20 minutes.

Whilst the plaited loaves were in the oven we enriched the dough with some chopped walnuts and sultanas, and then divided the remaining dough into 5 equal lumps and rolled out, egg washed, rolled in bran and then slashed the tops. Apparently they are the perfect accompaniment with some nice cheese, so we've popped them in the freezer for when we go to Wales, and visit loads of cheese shops!

After lunch our next mission was to make dough for some sweet treats, Chelsea buns and doughnuts, yum! these were a lot easier than I thought, as with the other bakes we divided the dough made in to two batches. For the buns we coated the rolled out dough with clarified butter, then sprinkled on some mixed spice and raisins, rolled it all up and then sliced it into eight, arranging in a circular ring, and then left to prove and fill out the ring. The smell was amazing, and we all tucked in to our instructor's whilst preparing our next bake of the afternoon . . .

 . . . doughnuts! I'm not a fan of doughnuts at all, just the smell of them on the seafront or at a fair makes me feel a little ill, but these were just delicious! The remaining dough was divided into 7 equal lumps and then rolled out into a rectangle and then rolled up like a Swiss roll. We then deep fried them for 5 minutes on each side and then coated in a sugar and cinnamon mix. Definitely not the healthiest cakey treat in the world, but most certainly one to make again!

Our last bake of the day was a soda bread, again a lot easier to make than originally thought. After kneading the dough the blunt edge of a knife was then pressed down into the dough to make the cross shape, the dough was then dipped in strong white flour and baked for 20 minutes. I didn't have a chance to taste this one, so for now it's safely stowed away in the freezer, which is now bursting with all the baked goodies I came back with.

I cannot recommend this course enough and had a thoroughly enjoyable day, and learnt so much. All I need to do now is find a bakery that will let me have/buy some fresh yeast!

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