Forget everything you think you know about baking bread.
Think you need warm water? You don’t.
Think you need a warm place to prove dough? You don’t.
Think stirring sourdough starter with a metal spoon will kill it? It won’t.
I headed over to The Thoughtful Bread Company in Bath to take part in a sourdough baking course in their new school. Thoughtful Bread both bake on site and have a cafe which has recently extended to provide seating for patrons. Everything from the sandwiches to the pastries are made by a team of dedicated bakers and served by friendly staff.
Duncan Glendinning, the owner of Thoughtful Bread, is passionate about local, sustainable and slow food and I was looking forward to picking up on some of his enthusiasm for bread, baked with respect. He has featured numerous times on television and written a cookbook so we knew we were in the safest, most knowledgeable hands possible. We also had help from the lovely Marion who was Duncan’s’ right-hand woman.
As part of a group of six, we were given a coffee and pastry for breakfast before being led down into the newly developed school kitchen. With a large table set in the centre, we were all allocated a bowl and Duncan got to work with explaining that we were going to make a white sourdough loaf, sourdough bagels and two types of rye bread.
During the course, we learned about the fermentation process and how the “rules” of bread baking I had always known and adhered to weren’t rules at all. We added cold water to our flour and sourdough starter. We didn’t knead the bread, add salt at the beginning or even prove the dough in a warm place, it went in the fridge! We talked through the differences between white and rye flour and made a 100% rye loaf and a second loaf with added ingredients. I went for sunflower seeds, cumin and raisins.
The lunch was incredible, with a spread of meat, cheeses, salads and bread (of course!) that rivalled many lunches I have had before.
After lunch, we made bagels and were allowed a choice of toppings that included herb and salt mixes from Barts Spices, a Bristol based spice company. I went for a Herbes de Provence mix with a mind of cracking these babies out on Sunday night to make use of the leftover beef from the planned roast.
The entire day was packed with learning and baking and we were given ample opportunity to ask questions throughout the day. We had a fantastic tote goodie bag with a cookbook, apron, printed instructions, our own bread scraper and our own couche cloth for proving bread. We were given some starter to take home and care for ourselves and the dough we worked on that day ready to bake the next morning.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Bath with The Thoughtful Bread Company and have to go back on my word from a few years ago when I said I wouldn’t ever make sourdough again. With Duncans’ expert tutelage I have made three loaves and another six bagels with ease! I am even experimenting with the amount of water I am using to change the texture of my loaves, something I never thought I would have had the confidence to do!