Learning not to Dread Bread when it comes to Baking!
I find as Autumn sets in I like to spend more time in my kitchen making hearty home cooked food. As I’m also hooked to the, sadly, final series (as we know it) of Great British Bake Off, I also find inspiration to bake. However, bread fills me with dread and I’ve always thought it looks far too complicated to try. So I was delighted when the lovely people at Currys PC World & Hotpoint invited me to a bread making course at the Jamie Oliver Cookery School.
The school is located in the Jamie Oliver restaurant at Westfield, Shepherds Bush. Upon arrival I stepped through to the dining part of the school where freshly brewed coffee and some rather tempting biscuits awaited us. Here, we were given a brief talk about the importance of your oven when it comes to cooking and in particular baking.
The school use HOTPOINT SI4854CIX Electric Ovens which benefit from heat technology and deliver an even temperature throughout your oven, which means everything cooks at the same time. This is particularly important when baking, so you don’t get a burnt top and soggy bottom!
We were then invited through to the kitchen part of the school where we were greeted by the chefs. As we gathered around for the demonstration, we were educated about the different types of flour and yeast and given some very good advice for mixing and kneading our dough. After watching the professionals make it look easy, it was our turn. What I liked was that we were each given our own workstation which was far enough away from our neighbour so we weren’t bumping into one another but close enough to enjoy some banter while we got to work. The chef was also on hand to help and remind us what to do next.
We started by making a wholewheat dough and left that to prove while we then got to work on a white dough. We had some fun shaping this into different sorts of baguettes and rolls and popped them straight into the oven so we could enjoy them with our lunch.
We were surprised at how quickly our wholewheat dough doubled in size (or proved to give it the technical term) and with the wonderful smell of our crusty rolls cooking in the ovens around us, we got on with shaping and filling our wholewheat dough to make a “bread doughnut”. This was actually a ring of bread filled with caramelised onions and walnuts.
Our last task was to make and work a focaccia dough and form a rosemary salt topped loaf. We actually mixed the rosemary and salt together in a pestle and mortar and again the room was filled was a fabulous aroma from the fresh rosemary.
By this time our white rolls and baguettes had cooked and as we put our second batch of bread in to cook we went back to the dining room to enjoy our lunch. The tables looked lovely and after all our efforts in the kitchen, we were delighted to also find a glass of Prosecco waiting for us! We were then served a very tasty pumpkin soup which packed a bit of a punch and some very indulgent but extremely tasty fondue to accompany our bread (recipes below).
I think we were all pretty pleased with ourselves by the time our whole wheat and focaccia loaves came out of the oven and even more pleased to be able to take these home and show them off.
This was a lovely way to spend a few hours and learn a new skill (bread making definitely feels less scary now!) The price for this course is £65 and there are a selection of dates which can be found on the Jamie Oliver Cookery School website.
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme or marjoram, leaves picked
- 50ml cider
- 400g Cheddar cheese
- 400g Gruyere cheese
- 150g blue cheese
- 2 tablespoons crème Fraiche
- 1 perfectly-chosen pumpkin, with the inside, scraped out
- Olive oil
- Garlic clove
First, slowly heat a glug of oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Make a bain-marie by filling a large saucepan with an inch or two of hot water, and placing it over a low heat. Then, put a large heatproof bowl over the saucepan.
Add the chopped shallots to the frying pan and cook them gently for around 5 to 10 minutes, adding in a pinch of salt and pepper, and the herbs. Once they’ve softened but not coloured, add them to the bain-marie with the cider and all of the cheese.
Leave the cheese to slowly melt, only stirring now and then to help it along. Once it has mostly melted, stir in the crème fraîche, and then add a swig or two of hot water to loosen the mixture a little.
Roasted pumpkin soup
- 5kg edible pumpkin
- Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 carrot
- 1 sticks of celery
- 1 LTR hot vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F.
Halve the pumpkin and remove the seeds (you can keep these for roasting), then chop into wedges.
Place the pumpkin on two large baking trays and drizzle a little olive oil over. In a pestle and mortar, grind the chilli and coriander seeds with a pinch of salt until finely ground. Sprinkle the spices over the pumpkin with some black pepper.
Roast the pumpkin for 1 hour, or until soft and slightly caramelised at the edges.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. In a large saucepan, heat a glug of olive oil over a medium heat then add the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes, or until soft and sweet but not coloured.
When the squash is soft and golden, add to the pan with the hot vegetable stock. Blend with a stick blender or food processor until you are happy with the consistency. You can always add a little more water if the soup is too thick.