Sunday, 23 February 2014

Bread, Bread, and More Bread

Completely unexpectedly, I found myself at a bread-making class this week, thanks to my lovely friend, Lynne, who is quite the expert cake-baker, and one of her friends. I jumped at the chance to join them at the last minute, when another friend was no longer able to make it - and I'm so glad I did, as the class was absolutely excellent.

Run by The Cookery School, which is hidden away down Virginia Street in Glasgow city centre, this was an evening class that taught the basics of making your own bread by hand. No fancy gadgets or bread machines here! We were shown how to mix and knead our dough (thinking of the gluten as the 'scaffolding' which would stop our beautifully risen loaves from collapsing), and advised that kneading is not so much about the pummeling and punching of the dough that I somehow always thought it was, but more about stretching it out (building that scaffolding a bit taller!). We then got to work at our stations, and all produced a wholemeal loaf and four white rolls with various delicious toppings by the end of the night. It was brilliantly done - taught in a fun but informative way, and with expert bakers there to help out as you test out your new skills (we had a lot of questions and moments of minor panic - 'is my dough too dry?; 'is this kneaded enough?'; is my water the right temperature?'!).

The Cookery School offers a variety of different courses and cookery demonstrations, ranging from evening cocktail-making classes (might be the next one to try, I think!), to five-day cookery courses, and even classes for children. There are also specialist courses in knife skills, working with herbs, and the like. Prices vary depending on the course you choose, but the bread making one I attended would usually cost £50 (we got vouchers from one of the daily deal sites - though I'm not sure which one - so these are worth looking out for in case they run a similar deal in the future). I would highly recommend this class and The Cookery School (although they don't appear to do any specifically vegetarian cookery courses, which is perhaps something they could consider for the future).

As a result of my dalliance with bread-making, I decided that I had to practise my new-found skills this weekend, and so made a batch of 6 bread rolls last night. These are so easy to make once you are familiar with the basic techniques, and there's something so satisfying about baking your own bread, not to mention the delicious aromas that waft through your home as it's in the oven!
The finished product!

Simple White Bread Rolls

(makes 6)


350g strong white flour
1/2 tsp sugar
a 7g sachet quick-acting yeast
two pinches of salt
250g tepid water (don't worry if you have to use a little more or a little less)
extra flour to prep surface and your hands with
1 egg yolk
a little water
toppings of your choice to sprinkle on top - I personally LOVE pumpkin seeds, or you could try some mixed spices, sesame seeds, or sunflower seeds (optional)


Sift your flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and yeast, and mix well. Add the salt and mix again. Add the water, a little at a time, stirring as you go, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl in one ball of dough. It should be a little tacky to the touch without actually sticking to your hands.

Lightly sprinkle some flour onto a clean work surface and put the dough onto it. Lightly flour your hands. Now comes the fun part! To knead your dough, use the very back of your palm to stretch the dough out - first one way, then bring it together in a ball again, then stretch a different side of the dough, then bring it back. Like I say, it is more about stretching every part of the dough to make it really supple than it is about beating and pressing it, which is what I'd always thought you were supposed to do! Knead it this way for approximately 10 minutes, or until your dough is lovely and soft and supple. Place it back in the mixing bowl and cover with cling film. Leave in a warm area to prove for about half an hour or until doubled in size.

Proving for the first time

Once it has doubled in size, gently punch (see, I knew there was punching involved somewhere!) the ball so it collapses. Take it out of the bowl and knead for a further 10 minutes. Roll it out into a long sausage shape and divide into 6 even pieces. Form each piece into a little ball, and place on a lightly floured baking tray. Mix your egg yolk with a little water and, using a pastry brush, brush this glaze over each of the balls. Make sure you don't use too much, or the yolk will run onto the baking tray and you will end up with baked egg attached to your rolls - not so appetising. Once you have glazed the rolls, you can add toppings if you wish, or just leave plain. Leave to prove a second time, for about half an hour. Towards the end of that half hour, switch on your oven at 200ÂșC to pre-heat.
Proving for the second time

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the rolls sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Ta-dah! You have just baked your own rolls! These are delicious fresh out of the oven, or can be kept tightly wrapped in tin foil for a day or two - or frozen, if you want to keep them for longer.

Do you bake your own bread - and if you do, do you have any delicious toppings or flavours you'd recommend I try? Or have you been tempted by this post to try your hand at this for the first time? Let me know how you get on!

Homemade pumpkin seed roll with brie

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