Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Art of Bread Baking: Sourdough Secrets at E5 Bakehouse



The other month, I went along to the E5 Bakehouse, an East London artisan bakery and cafe, to learn pretty much everything there is possibly to know about sourdough bread. 

On an exceptionally wet and soggy day, manhandling my oversized umbrella and mounting excitement onto a packed commuter tube, I traveled across the city to London Fields, where, tucked away under the railway arches, is the bake house. On arrival, the scent of roasting coffee and warm, freshly baked bread tickled our senses; I immediately understood why there are often long queues on a Saturday of patient locals waiting to pick up a loaf of the specialty Hackney Wick.

                                          

Together with my nine classmates we learnt the secrets to successful sourdough. Here are just a few tips I gleaned along the way:

  • Although it may seem a very complicated, intimidating way of producing a nice loaf, Sourdough is pretty straightforward. But it is not to be rushed; it can take up to three days from putting together the leaven* to making your lunchtime sandwich
  • When baking bread at home, create as much steam as possible in the oven. This creates a lovely crusty loaf and allows the loaf to reach full size. There are several ways to do this: put a baking tray of boiling water or ice cubes at the bottom of the oven; use of a water sprayer to douse the opened oven or bake the loaf in a cast iron pot (pre-heating the oven with the cast iron pot inside before placing the loaf inside)
  • Use semolina flour to dust your baking tray or baking/pizza stone rather than flour as this prevents the dough sticking 
  • Use a serrated knife when scoring the loaf before baking
  • Going away for a few weeks? Your sourdough starter can be placed in the freezer. The yeast and bacteria will become dormant and, on your return, can be reactivated by defrosting and refreshing the dough
  • If you've baked a homemade loaf but haven't got round to eating it after a day or two, first ask yourself why on earth not, then you can pop it in hot oven for around five minutes to 'refresh' the loaf
  • Bread baking books that were recommended included: The River Cottage Handbook No.3: Bread by Daniel Stevens; The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard and Bread: A Beginner's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman 

*A small amount of the starter fed with flour and water that forms the basis of any sourdough loaf

                                

Between weighing, stretching and folding our own dough we were able to have sneaky peaks at the work of the bakery team, who we were assured were simply doing exactly what we were learning but on a much, much bigger scale; the bakery make over 1000 loaves a week to sell in the cafe and to local businesses.

And at the end of the day we each heaved bags full of the bread we'd been baking: ciabiatta rolls, bagels, a rye loaf and the famous Hackney Wick.

A combination of informative, relaxed and knowledgeable teaching, combined with plentiful supply of delicious coffee and sweet treats from the attached cafe plus more tips and advice on bread baking than the number of holes in a world-class sourdough loaf meant it was a really, really enjoyable day. 

                 


My husband bought me the Sourdough Baking Class at E5 Bakehouse as a Christmas present. And as you can probably tell: I'd highly recommend it!

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