Felix Mendelsohn runs Quiver Tree Bakery, an online Mecca for bread making tips, advice and equipment. I've known Felix for something like 10 years but today I saw him doing his thang with bread and it was ace.
It follows that being a close family friend I have been lucky enough to sample much of Felix's cooking at family gatherings and events (he also taught me the basics of cocktail making once, at 2am in a cheap nightclub in Lancaster. But that's a whole other story - bar mats are a standard mojito ingredient right?).
Simply put, Felix is a culinary master. However it is his passion for baking, and in particular bread-making, that has always stood out to me as being his real food love.
This is why when I received an invitation to attend his first ever bread making workshop I was really rather excited.
I love bread, but like most people I buy it mainly from the supermarket.
I've always been scared to try bread-making. I do cook and bake pretty regularly but bread has always been the 'big scary' for me. The Quiver Tree Bakery Workshop was my chance to learn from a pro and I couldn't wait.
We were given simple instructions on what to bring.
- An apron
- A tin or box to take our bread home in
I forgot both (doh). So after a quick detour to Home Bargains en route I had all that I needed for my day of baking at Wood Lane Countryside Centre.
Once I arrived and informal introductions were made (there were 5 of us on the course) we got started right away.
The workshop was to cover:
- What is real bread and how does it differ from supermarket bread?
- Making a simple dough that forms the basis of all good bread
- Different kneading techniques
- How to shape your loaves
- Using different techniques for proving your loaves
- Heat and how to bake your loaves properly in a domestic oven
Felix began with a scene-setting introduction to the Real Bread Campaign. A great insight into supermarket bread and the fact it is basically full-of-shit and we shouldn't buy it.
In some cases the same stuff that is used to make Yoga mats springy is added to bread - to help it last longer!
We discovered that real bread has just 4 simple ingredients:
The simplicity of Real Bread explained my confidence was bolstered. I mean seriously, how hard can it be to sling that lot in a bowl, swish it about a bit and whack it in the oven? I was just about to find out.
Felix had a busy morning planned for us with 4 different breads on the menu.
- Classic white loaf
- Wholemeal loaf
Baking the bread
The workshop was very hands on and interactive. We all stood around a large stainless steel workbench with Felix at the front and the ingredients and utensils in the middle.
With a steady supply of tea and biscuits on tap we got stuck into our first loaf.
In a relaxed but informative way Felix demonstrated how to mix the yeast (you can get fresh yeast from supermarkets if you ask) with the water then add in the flour and salt.
Next we kneaded the dough then left it to prove covered with cling film.
Once proved we kneaded again before shaping and
popping it in a baking tin. We then baked it in the oven for about an hour.
At his first ever pilot bread baking workshop Felix taught us how to transform 4 simple ingredients into really tasty bread. It was a great day and I recommend you book onto a future workshop.
This is a silly video I made on my iPhone just for fun!
A few links below to websites related to the day: