Bread making has always seemed like this complicated and time consuming endeavour that I have not spent much time baking my own bread. I have tried making bread with some supermarket mixes with mixed results and once during a gluten free health period, I made a truly inedible loaf out of rice flour. All that was about to change.
Social Change Through Baking Bread
I was recently invited to a Basic Bread Making Class with Jane Mason who runs Virtuous Bread. Jane, an ex Strategy Consultant, started this company to make a difference and as a way to affect social change from the grass roots. The company sells bread to local shops, holds bread making classes and also runs a course called Bread Angels to teach people how to start their own home business by selling bread to their locale. Coincidentally, I was watching the superb documentary “The Prison Kitchen” on the BBC about the Clink restaurant in High Down Prison and Jane had been teaching the inmates there too. Besides prisons, she teaches at old folks homes, schools and some shelters too.
Jane learnt baking from her German mum and the recent financial meltdown instigated this change of path. She holds regular baking classes at her home in Hammersmith and each class is limited to 4 participants which means everyone gets ample time and hands on help. To start, we get to choose what flour we want to use. I was very thrilled to see organic spelt flour available and chose that. Jane sources most her flours from Cann Mills who supply some shops in London.
Good flours for healthy bread
If possible, choose flour that has the wheatgerm in it as this has essential B vitamins which are lacking in a lot of diets . Whole meal flour or whole grain both has the germ in it.
Most industrial flour is processed in huge metal machines which heat up during the process, burning the nutrients of the germ. Industrial whole meal flour is just white flour which has all the bran and germ sifted out and added back after the milling.
The most healthy option with the maximum nutrition value is a cold mill stoneground flour. The germ in the flour makes it oilier and has not been affected by heat during the milling process.
Baking basic bread
Following a very detailed recipe, we kicked off the process with getting the yeast started by adding warm water to the yeast. This process would take about 15 minutes. You can use either live yeast, instant yeast or dried active yeast which is much cheaper. Depending on where you are in the world, the time it takes for the yeast to be ready varies greatly ie. in the tropics they would use cold water to slow down the process.
Next step is to mix all the wet ingredients with the flour and turn it onto the worktop to knead. Jane suggested we knead the dough “assertively” for about 10 minutes and continually wet your hands as you are working as there is no risk in adding too much water . You can’t over knead the bread as well, just keep kneading until the flour starts to become stretchy and the dough starts to feel pillowy. If you are making Rye bread, it doesn’t need to be kneaded as it doesn’t get stretchy.
This dough is then covered and left to rest for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size. At this stage, you take the dough out of the bowl, punch it to flatten out any big air bubbles and put it into a buttered bread tin. These loaves were then baked at 200 degrees for about 45 minutes.
5 Minute Soda Bread
While we were waiting, we made a couple of loaves of soda bread. This was a complete revelation as it took about 5 minutes to put all the ingredients together, no kneading required, plonk it on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes. You can use any flour for this bread. This is one recipe I will be trying again.
While waiting for the bread to bake, we had a lovely lunch with the soda bread that we just made, a good time to get to know your fellow bakers and to chat about old recipes books. Soon, the lovely smell of freshly baked bread lured us back to the kitchen.
Our loaves were ready and they looked perfect. There was a such sense of achievement all round. We made home made bread and it was quite simple.
We all go home with our freshly baked loaves and part of the express soda bread. If you have ever thought that you can’t make bread, you really should take this class. Jane is a very knowledgable and patient teacher. It was a really fun class and the mission of Virtuous Bread is very inspiring.
Get more information about Bread Making Course in London at http://www.virtuousbread.com/