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Wednesday 11 May 2011

Bread baking in Bedruthan

We Sluts travel all over to bring you the UK's finest treats. This Saturday morning there was no lazy lie in - Sian and I were packed and at Paddington station ready to head to Cornwall. The reason we got ourselves out of bed? To sample one of the bread baking classes held at the Bedruthan Steps Hotel.

This large and family-friendly hotel has worked out a clever way to capitalize on Cornwall's artistic and foodie reputation, running several day and weekend courses. Our bread baking day was with Tom Hazzeldine, more locally known as BakerTom. We found ourselves in a friendly class of eight of varied age and enthusiasm - we were definitely at the lower end of that scale as neither of us had tried our hand at proper bread making since school. Nothing to worry about there, as Tom proved to be a calm and good-humoured teacher.

We started early in the morning (well, for a Sunday), and got stuck in straight away by preparing various doughs for white bread, a spelt loaf, sourdough and focaccia. And I mean really stuck in, hands straight into the mixture and learning to properly knead the dough.

It was fascinating to learn the alchemy of bread-making. There was points when I looked at my dough and I know if I'd been trying it at home, I'd have looked at it and wanted to give up. Worst still I'd have probably added more flour or water and completely mucked up the delicate balance of the mix. Under Tom's watchful eyes, instead I persevered and learnt to recognise the moment when the dough changed and became ready - and, invaluably, to realise exactly how long it took to knead something properly.

Our delicious lunch was accompanied by our sourdough fresh from the oven, the first sign of encouragement that what we were producing wasn't just edible, it was pretty tasty too. In the afternoon we moved onto more complex breads, such as focaccia, ciabatta and bread. We also got to play with our own recipes - our olive rolls were some of my favourite breads from the day - and I'm looking forward to experimenting more at home.

I picked up lots of tricks from the day, like how to know when my dough was ready, or how to shape my loaves and rolls so they kept their shape in the oven. I'm sure even more experienced bakers could have learnt a few things to finesse their bread. We left the Bedruthan Steps Hotel weighed down with a huge variety of breads, a fine bounty, especially when balanced against the cost of the course.

Our weekend was dominated by the bread making but it would be easy to extend your stay and enjoy some of Cornwall's other delights (though you'd have to work out what to do with the huge amount of bread you'd baked). The hotel is close to Watergate Bay, home to Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, for example, or there's the surfing to try out, or even the very intriguing sounding Gnomeworld. If I wanted a break, I'd definitely be tempted to do one of the other courses which include sewing with Poppy Treffrey, simple knitting and bee keeping. Or, one I master my rolls, there's the follow-up bread course which includes rye bread and croissants. Yum.

The course costs £224 per person, based on one day baking and two people sharing a room for two nights, or the course on its own is £75. Take a look at the Bedruthan Steps Hotel website for more information.

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