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Today’s loaf is brought to you by … hmm, that should be despite. Today’s loaf is brought to you despite the challenges  of buying a new phone half way through the breadmaking process and finding it trickier than expected to get pics out of an old phone that no longer has a connection and a new one that didn’t have email set up. Well, it does now, and here we are…

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A few weeks ago I spend a wonderful afternoon making bread on an apple farm south of Sydney. Spending five hours or so making bread is always always going to be fun for me, but this was extra special. I was attending a breadmaking class run by the lovely Tara Mills of Mill Lane Workshops.  The workshops are held at Glenbernie Orchard, a farm run by the Fahey family, with a lovely rustic shop selling apples from the farm, potatoes, eggs, honey and more.  You can read more about how Tara found the right place to realise her workshops dream here.

The classes are held in a tin shed just a very short stroll from the farm shop – very handy for wandering across and picking up some fresh produce during a break in the breadmaking! There are hay bales with padded hessian seat-tops around a wooden table in one corner; apple crates along the walls; long wooden tables for work benches; boxes of preserving jars for sale; and flowers and herbs from Tara’s garden tucked here and there.

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We were welcomed with a cup of tea and a slice of cider fruit cake – a recipe I tried to wangle from Tara as it was superb, just the sort of old-fashioned, hearty fruit cake, not dry, not too moist but just right that I love. It’s an old family recipe apparently, and I hope that if Tara ever writes a book, she’ll share it there!

 Tara – a self-taught cook who previously ran a micro-bakery for a year – teaches breadkmaking and pastry classes, as well as a one-day workshop on creating an edible garden. She’s planning to add others later in the year. She’s an excellent teacher, reassuring to the beginners in the class, full of good advice, funny and knowledgeable.

I was there for the a class in making French breads. Essentially, a dough made using a poolish (a pre-ferment, where some flour, fresh yeast and water is mixed up and allowed to ferment for 12-18 hours; the rest of the flour, water, yeast and salt is then added, before kneading, rising, shaping and proving). We turned two batches of dough into fougasse (that’s Tara showing us how to do it, below), epi and an eight-roll loaf. There was kneading instruction, tips from Tara on fitting breadmaking into your day by using the fridge and freezer, shaping, baking, chatting and eating (more tea, more cake).

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The day ended, while the last of our loaves baked, with a cheese platter, bread Tara had baked earlier in the day and glasses of bubbly or cider (made using apples from the farm). And we were sent on our way with a bag with class notes, flour (in a lovely little branded calico sack – you can see that above, ready to be put to use in my own kitchen), some fresh yeast, a dough scraper and all the bread we’d made during the day. Those are my loaves below.

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So today I used Tara’s recipe to make a plaited tin loaf – started the preferment last night, made up the dough this morning, let it rise while I went shopping for the new phone (which took a lot longer than expected – a good thing it was a coolish day and the dough didn’t hurry along too much!) and shaped it when I got back.

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Above you can see the preferment at the top, and then the dough mixed up the next day, before kneading.

Tara taught a method of kneading I haven’t used before, a kind of grabbing and slapping down on the bench. It’s very satisfying, and effective, although I’d best not test the neighbours by using it if I’m making bread late at night or early in the morning! This is the dough, below, after several minutes of slapping, and then several more minutes of stretch-and-fold kneading.

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After the longer-than-planned rise, it was actually at just the right stage for shaping – divided into three, rolled into three long pieces and plaited, then tucked into a tin.

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And there we have it – a loaf created either side of a shopping expedition and posted here despite camera tech challenges! I thoroughly recommend Tara’s bread class if you’d like to learn how to make bread, or if you love breadmaking and would like to pick up some new tips and tricks. If you’d like to see more of Tara’s baking, you can also find her on instagram as @mysouthcoastkitchengarden

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