I received this lovely email and photos from Anne yesterday and I asked her if I could share it with you all. So she has kindly agreed to let me post it as a guest post.
Much to tell !
On Sunday, I attended the first Sourdough course held at the loaf in Crich, my first bread course ever.
And what a day it was !
it started with the drive to Crich in Derbyshire. After leaving the hustle and bustle of the A38, we followed quiet, narrow, windy roads, past Heage and its working windmill and up the hills to Crich. The village was still sleepy, enveloped in a blanket of fog. As I stepped through the threshold of the café, I thought I had entered a new world.
It felt as when I go back to southern France my home: as the plane lands and the exit doors open, I am engulfed in a warm comforting blanket of warmth, light, smell of my Garrigue and noise of crickets with one thought forming and dominating in my head: “I am home!”.
The café was inundated with light, cosy, the happy chatty community enjoying their breakfast.
Although the team was busy with an already important clientèle on this Sunday morning, they quickly served us with a choice of fruit juices, hot drinks, croissants and brioches.
Seven bakers were present to follow a day-long course on sourdough orchestrated by Andrew. Indeed, Andrew organised, planned the day and directed the bakers as a real conductor.
A very nice person and teacher, he passed on to us more than techniques and knowledge but his passion for the art.
Andrew was patiently demonstrating, correcting, encouraging and complimenting the bakers through each step of the bread baking process – weighing out, mixing, autolyse, kneading , rising, folding, shaping, proving, slashing, steaming, baking, and cooling.
I really benefited from being shown how to knead the French way: until now, I had a tendency to ease my frustration at working wet sticky dough (usually 70% hydration) by adding a bit of flour on the counter. Here, Andrew even added more water to our baguette dough (!!!) so we would understand how our vigorous slapping and kneading would start the gluten development and with it the elasticity and stretch. Reaching the point when the dough is smooth and silky was more obvious than any book description read so far.
The Crich dough with both rye and wheat leavens was prepared using the no-knead bread method. At 79% hydration, the dough was easier to work that way.
Understanding the pre-bulk was demonstrated by the 100 % rye bread: no vigorous kneading required, but learning to work with rye and judging the critical moment when the dough is ready to be shaped.
Bench rest followed by shaping: we formed bâtards, baguettes, boules and rolls.
I have recently followed several times a Spelt and Corn rolls recipe from Dan Lepard adapted to sourdough but the polenta makes firmer dough and therefore facilitate the shaping. Rolls with the baguette sourdough excess were a different matter: I had to understand the dough more and look at it: its aspect, its elasticity and how these are affected by how long/how we shape, how much flour on the work surface and our hands.
Slashing: That takes practice ! and practice and practice ! and obviously, I have not practiced enough on wet dough.
Many questions were asked always answered with expertise and honesty: bread baking is a science and who knows exactly what those millions and millions of wild yeast and bacteria will do! It was obvious that Andrew had more than techniques and books to share but also true passion, He presented different ways to work: machine or hand-knead, low / high hydration levain and its effect on flavour and acidity, wet dough or not depending on how aerated you want your bread to turn out. Never too technical or overly scientific but always all easily explained.
It was after 5 by the time our loaves were out of the oven and cooling. Andrew had been up since 5 o’clock in the morning but was the only one still alert: all seven amateur bakers were exhausted!
On Monday, his day off, Andrew will be busy baking in preparation for Christmas. With cafés in Crich and Matlock, supplying to wholesale, participating in weekly markets and Christmas market, organising many bread courses, one wonders what is next!
For me, I will wait impatiently all week until I can finally on Friday evening take from the fridge this magical starter and as it feeds on flour and water, it will come alive again.
In the meantime, I will enjoy savouring those lovely loaves baked at The Loaf !
Enjoy your week!
All text and photos taken by Anne and shown by permission.