Salt, Pepper and a Dollop of Cream

One Woman's Journey through Her Cookbooks

A Lesson in Bread Baking

Tomato and Fennel Bread

Why is making bread such a challenge? I’ve made those pre-packed versions which have worked out fine 99% of the time but add yeast to the mix and that’s where the challenge – or fear – begins! Years ago I bought a cheap bread machine and had varying results. Given that the basic loaf takes 3 hours of electricity to run, having a mushrooming, pushing out of the lid bread experience, it’s reliability that you want! So, I haven’t pushed the boundaries in bread baking beyond the packet – until now!

I recently turned to my local cookery school, Robyn’s Nest for assistance and signed up for Damien Cusack’s bread baking class. Damien is a master baker with over 20 years experience working for Patrick Gilbauld and La Maison des Gourmets until opening La Boulangerie Française. With aprons donned and cups of tea in hand, we watched as Damien worked his magic. He made it look so easy and within minutes he had rolled out fougasse, epi, tomato bread and bacon and onion bread as well as butterfly and crocodile shaped loaves for the kids! MINUTES!

Then it was our turn to make dough – with fresh yeast! Having never kneaded dough before let alone use fresh yeast, it was an interesting experience and I learnt how soft and springy the dough was when kneaded, pillow soft. I hadn’t expected that. And as promised by Damien, our bread rose and baked beautifully under his careful supervision of the ovens.

When I arrived home, mine lasted less than 20 minutes before it was completely devoured by the kids. Hubby couldn’t partake as he was fasting for a blood test the next day {yes, I admit to torturing the man with the sight and smell of warm, fresh bread!}.

Having now got the bread baking bug, I whipped out my Lékué silicone bread baker that I’d purchased some time ago and promptly put on the top of my cabinets to gather dust. The baker looked like a great idea when I bought it and it turns out that it’s more than that, it’s actually fantastic! I’ve baked four loaves in it so far this week, three tomato bread and one granary which I’m determined to perfect and I have to say, I think I’m there with them both.

The blurb on the Lékué marketing material says that “you can weigh, knead and bake in just one product.” And you can. Kneading was a bit tricky as the sides of the bowl move being silicone but you find a way and ultimately, you can tip the dough out onto your counter if that’s the way you prefer to knead – like me.

The Lékué works “as a partially closed bowl, allows steam to circulate inside, making the dough moist and preventing the bread from drying up. The side openings allow hot air circulation, giving bread a crusty and golden texture.” I left my dough to rise in the closed bowl with a tea-towel over it and after an hour, it had doubled beautifully. At this stage, your bread is ready to bake, no need to knock bake and knead again. I cut slashes into the bread {but not deeply enough in retrospect} before adding a dusting of flour. Re-closing the bowl, I baked it on the middle shelf with a bowl of cold water on the lower shelf to add moisture {mainly because I don’t have a mister. If I had I would have misted the oven with 30 sprays like Damien}. The bread was ready after 30 minutes and looked like a professional, artisan loaf. LOVE IT!

So what I have learned?

  1. Going to a professional cookery class is a great idea to help you face your culinary fears and realise they’re not real fears at all! And Robyn’s Nest Cookery School was a great school to go to. The atmosphere is lovely and welcoming, and you immediately feel that you’re amongst friends. All fears vanish! Damien gave us a host of helpful tips and advice and I know that I’ll be baking bread the Damien way for a long time to come.
  1. My investment in the Lékué bread maker is up there with best of 2013! I highly recommend it. Apparently, it works in the microwave too. Next on my to-try list…!


Click here for more information on Robyn’s Nest Cookery School
Click here to learn more about the Lékué bread baker {although I bought mine from Lakeland for much less}

2 comments on “A Lesson in Bread Baking

  1. Lorna Sixsmith
    August 24, 2014

    I bought a cheap breadmaker in Aldi a while ago and haven’t been impressed. On the other hand, Kate (10yo) takes a notion every now and then and makes us bread (yeast) and it’s always scrumptious. She made pizzas last week too. She would love a bread making course sometime.
    Your bread does look scrumptious

    • Thanks Lorna! Good on Kate for mastering bread as it is a bit tricky! I’m determined to make pizza dough this week after getting a new book on artisan pizza – cooked in a frying pan and finished under the grill!!! Perhaps Kate can give me some tips! She should definitely do a bread making course. It is so worth it and the advice you get is excellent. Xx Paula

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2014 by in Baking and tagged , , , , , , .

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