I love bread. In fact, I would say it’s more of an addiction. I’ve had dalliances with low-carb diets, affairs with gluten-free options, and even tried going cold turkey, but I always return to that delicious glutinous treat; inevitably a freshly baked sourdough.
Adam and I try to bake bread at home as often as we can, because let’s face it nothing beats the sound of a fresh crust breaking open and the taste of it smothered in local Cotswold Butter (our preferred choice). I usually bake with spelt flour as this gives my bread a delicious nutty flavour, and I find the grain much easier to digest as I am mildly gluten intolerant (and dairy – but that is another story).
Recently, I have found myself in something of a bread baking rut. I’ve been busy making cakes and bakes for family, friends and weddings like nobody’s business, but try as I might I haven’t been able to muster my usual bread enthusiasm.
Danielle Ellis blogs over on Severn Bites, where she shares her local foodie experiences and some of her own brilliant recipes. She recently moved to the Slimbridge area of Gloucestershire from Edinburgh, where she previously founded the popular Edinburgh Foody blog. Whilst food is definitely a passion of Dani’s, it is bread baking that really makes her tick.
Dani is a very experienced baker; she dedicated five months of her life to dawn to dusk training at a French cookery school. Now she is keen to set up some baking classes to share her passion. With this is mind, she very kindly invited myself, Adam and two other lovely local bloggers (Roseann from Honeybourne Line and Karen from Stopping at Two) to join her for a taster class to get the word out.
Our challenge for the class was to make a baguette, half a dozen rolls and a boule loaf by hand. After a short introduction and a chat, we got to work.
Dani’s classes are small, no more than five budding bakers at a time, and the whole baking process is done by hand under Dani’s watchful gaze. We were baking in her home kitchen on a purpose built bread table, which allowed Dani to get involved with every step and help us refine the techniques, as well as answer all of our baking questions. This all makes Dani’s classes ideal for amateur bakers hoping to rise to the challenge and prove their loaves can go to the next level.
Dani taught us some great tricks that you’ll struggle to find in most recipe books; such as the importance of the temperature of your ingredients, which really made a difference. Adam and I also particularly enjoyed a spot of healthy competition. This always happens as we are extremely competitive with each other.
Dani’s advice gave us confidence that we could consistently recreate the loaves we made at home in our own oven – though I have to say I am in awe of her excellent Rofco bread oven.
What also really impressed me was Dani’s passion for fresh and local products – all her flour comes from the fabulous Shipton Mill just outside of Tetbury, and she gave us some great tips including asking your local bakery (or supermarket) if you can buy some fresh yeast from them!
After a morning of mixing and kneading we were ready for lunch, and Dani did not disappoint us. We settled down to enjoy bowls of homemade sweet potato, pepper and tamarind soup. And of course hefty chunks of Dani’s freshly baked focaccia bread – delicious! You can find Dani’s baked soup recipe here.
Between us we ended up taking home a veritable bread feast; two baguettes, two boule loaves, and twelve seeded rolls – all of which you can see below.
The baguettes barely made it to the end of the day, as we wolfed them down with lashings of butter. Dani also gave us the recipes to take home, along with a hefty dose of confidence. I’m sure that we could make much more than just a standard white tin loaf from now on.
Dani is running group bread baking classes and individual lessons from her home near Slimbridge. To find out more or sign up take a look at her website.