Phoenix Bakery Sourdough Course (2)

I left the previous post at lunchtime of the Phoenix Bakery’s excellent Monday Baking School, with Jean and me enjoying our pizzas.

Much refreshed, we rejoined Aidan Chapman in the bakery, where our beetroot and spring onion loaves had now proved. Here Aidan is demonstrating how they should feel when they’re ready for the oven:

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Having turned the loaves out of their bannetons, they’re slashed with a “lame” so that the dough springs nicely in the oven.

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Intense concentration is called for, as you can see!

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Jean cut a Zorro in hers:

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Earlier, Aidan had shown us how to prove baguettes on a floured cloth “couche”.

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A few more minutes rest were needed before the round loaves went into the oven, so we practised our dough slashing skills on the baguettes.

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Then the round loaves and the baguettes were baked.

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Our next exercises were to create some grissini and to finish off the focaccia that Aidan had mixed in the morning.

Many years ago, when our children were very young, we used to go food shopping on Saturday in Berwick Street, Soho including Camisa’s fabulous deli (now gone but Camisa’s is still a thriving business). The children’s snack of choice was a slice of focaccia and a carrot from Dennis’s stall. I now understand the olive oily and salty goodness that is a good focaccia.

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Our tray was savoury, with traditional salt and rosemary. Our two fellow course members made a sweet focaccia with fresh plums and almonds.

Our last bake was an apple soda bread. Not a sourdough, of course, but a quick bread and straightforward to make.

Finally, while the last items were being baked, Aidan demonstrated one of the holy grails of breadmaking, the Poilâne miche. It’s a two stage process which I shall try when we’ve gained a bit of confidence with the simpler formulations.

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As we were packing up, I couldn’t resist buying a “salt pig” which Jean had admired. They’re hand made by Dale, one of Aidan’s assistants.

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We can home absolutely laden with beautiful breads, dropping some off with family and friends, since as much as possible deserved to be eaten fresh. But we still had to freeze some. Here’s a selection:

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Clockwise from left: Beetroot and spring onion boule, beetroot baguette, jars of white and rye culture, cheese-topped apple soda bread, apple soda bread, and on the board rosemary focaccia and plum focaccia.

What more can I say? It was a fantastic day. I’ll sign off with a poster in Aidan’s shop:

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“I loaf real bread”. He does indeed.

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