I love bread but I’ve never been entirely successful in baking it myself. I’ve been blaming it on my crap oven but I can’t hide behind that excuse forever. So instead, I tend to seek out good bakeries and buy my bread from there. One of my favourites is E5 Bakehouse in East London, just by London Fields. I first wrote about it here.
The E5 Bakehouse is an East London artisan bakery and coffee shop. They use organic, locally-sourced ingredients in all their daily-baked breads, lunches and homemade cakes.
The last time I was in there I noticed a class being taught behind the counter in the bakery itself. When I got home I looked up their website and saw that they hold a bread-making course every Saturday from 11am til 5.30pm, costing £99. Luckily for me, my wonderful friends clubbed together and bought me a place on the course for my birthday earlier this year. The class is booked up months in advance so the day finally came on Saturday.
I got there just before 11am and was given a coffee while I waited for the rest of the class to turn up. When they did we were shown into the bakery, given our aprons and instruction sheet and our teacher, head baker Eyal Schwartz, explained how our day was going to pan out. You could tell from the way he talked about bread, just how much he loves it. It always comforts me to know that the person teaching me is passionate about their topic.
We found out that we were going to make 4 different types of bread, using a variety of sourdough leavens, kneading techniques and hydrations.
Eyal explained that a leaven is also referred to as production dough, made from a sourdough starter. He advised us that when you make your leaven, it makes sense to make a bit more and keep the extra in the fridge. This will be your ‘mother’, and you can use for future baking.
I could go into all the detail that we learned but this post would be way too long. I will put the details up, bread by bread over the next few weeks. For now, I just want to explain the course itself.
I have been to my fair share of cooking classes over the years and I must say that this is probably one of the best. It was hands on, everyone worked together as a team and at the end we all got to take home everything we had baked, and even a raw dough that we could bake at home. I have been to lots of courses where the chef cooks, the students watch, and then we get to eat the meal at the end, and you leave not knowing much more than if you’d watched a cookery programme on TV. In this instance Eyal explained what we were going to do, then he’d show us, and then we would have to do it for ourselves.
Soon enough, we were measuring flour, water, leaven and salt and getting our hands dirty mixing the sticky dough. Due to the time that we had and the amount of kneading and proving that we had to do, each loaf was made in stages…a bit of sourdough mixing, followed by starting off the ciabatta while the sourdough was resting. When the ciabatta was resting we started on the bagels, and so on. My photos were all mixed up when I downloaded them but I’ve arranged them in some kind of order below so you can see it properly…
During the course of the day we were given a fabulous lunch of polenta with parmesan, roast cabbage and squash and a portobello mushroom. It gave us a really good chance for the class to talk and get to know one another.
Mid-afternoon, once the bread was prepared and proving, we were given coffee and cakes whilst we looked through baking books and bombarded Eyal with questions. I must say, the cakes were fantastic. Especially the pecan pie and the cheesecake.
Once our coffee break was over it was time to bake. The bagels were poached in water and the doughs were placed into the industrial ovens. Eyal explained exactly how the breads should be baked and passed on some handy tips such as spraying the oven with water just before the dough goes in to create steam and produce a better crust.
The baking trays were marked with our names which meant that we got to take home our very own creations. There is something very special about seeing the finished products emerging from the ovens, knowing that you made that yourself.
Once the loaves had cooled, we all parted company, armed with our treasure…a 66% rye, two ciabattas, four bagels and a “Hackney Wild” loaf. We were also given a variety of leavens to take home with us too.
This really is a fantastic course and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you would like to try it out, you can book it here. The waiting list is a few months long but Eyal told me that they are thinking of starting evening classes soon.
It is also a great gift…something to think about with Christmas coming up. I am so glad my friends treated me to this. I think it is great value for money considering what you learn, the lunch, the cakes, the bread you get to take home and the starters you get to take home in order to carry on making the bread at home. I have been to classes that cost more than this one where I have learnt nothing and had nothing to take home.
I would like to thank Eyal for being so patient with us, for being so enthusiastic and for allowing his passion for bread-making rub off on all of us.