Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Festive Bread Baking

I don't really know a great deal about bread or how to make it...but I'd love to be one of those people who can knock up a quick homemade loaf as quick as a flash. So I thought I'd take some tentative steps towards becoming a bread baker by attending a 'Festive Bread Baking' course.
Our host was Anna, a.k.a the Culinary Anthropologist. Anna hosts courses from her gorgeous kitchen in north London, these range from bread to preserves to new Nordic cuisine. We were greeted with a very warm welcome along with tea and coffee, juice and some toasted breads for breakfast. Then it was time to get started as we had four breads to get through in a day.
First up was the festive favourite Panettone. Anna had started us off the day before with the base, from there we worked in teams of 4 to produce our breads. There were lots of delicious ingredients in the panettone including plump rum soaked raisins. There were 7 people on the course altogether and one team had a Kenwood stand mixer and one team had a Kitchen Aid to knead the dough, there was much debate as to which was the best but we didn't reach any firm conclusions. At home I have a Kenwood K-Mix so I'd come down on the side of Kenwood.
Once our panettone's were proved we slashed a cross in the top of each one before baking. Interestingly you can buy something called Aroma Panettone which adds the distintive smell to your bake! Anna recommended the Bakery Bits website for some specialist baking buys. They also sell various sizes of panettone cases. 
Our next bread was Stollen which contained crystallised ginger, sour cherries and more rum soaked raisins. We more specifically made a Dresden Stollen. When the dough is ready it is pressed out into an oval which is then folded over on itself but not quite in half. Once baked the whole thing is brushed with melted butter and then dusted with icing.
We used Anna's homemade candied peel in both the panettone and the stollen. I'd never really considered making candied peel before and it is rather time consuming but it was also very tasty, so it might be worth giving it a go. Here is the recipe for candied peel on Anna's website. Waitrose also describe a method on their website.
Next up, brioche. This is the bread that I have made before having made a plaited loaf as well as chocolate brioche rolls. Once our brioche dough was ready we shaped it into small traditional rolls called 'brioche a tete' as they look like they've got little heads. We also made loaves, one with three balls sitting together in the tin, as you can see below, and another with raisins and spices rolled up inside.
The brioche can then be used for a number of other recipes such as the rum babas above or some french toast perhaps.
Our final loaf was the Challah which is a special Jewish plaited loaf eaten on the Sabbath and for holidays. I've never heard of a Challah before but it really was quick to make and it was very light. This loaf was slightly sweet as it has honey in the recipe and overall it is a good multi-purpose loaf. Anna showed us how to plait and my loaf is the one on the left above. The Challah were finished with an egg wash and a sprinkling of either poppy seeds or sesame seeds.
Once all our doughs were made and proving it was time to sit down to lunch which was a tasty spread of winter coleslaw, pheasant rillette, gravadlax, bread, chutneys and cheese, all washed down with a glass of wine. Lunch was delicious and we even got pudding which was rum babas and brioche bread and butter pudding.
This was a great course and our host Anna certainly knew here stuff. Before we started baking we had a little introduction to the science of bread making, Anna also runs other bread courses which go into this in more detail. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for food were evident throughout the day and we came away with detailed recipes and instructions about how to make our bread at home. In addition there were recipes for the rum babas, bread and butter pudding and candied peel. The ingredients we used throughout the day were also top class, of particular note was the flour which was from Shipton Mill where you can buy it online by the sack.

Anna trained at the Tante Marie Cookery School in San Francisco and then took specialised courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute. She is also currently studying for an MA in the anthroplogy of food and consults for BBC Radio 4's 'The Kitchen Cabinet' so she certainly knows her onions! I'd highly recommend her courses and I've already signed up for a preserves course in the spring.
To end the day whilst we were waiting for our last loaves to bake we were treated to a glass of Glogg which is a Swedish mulled wine with a kick of was the perfect way to end a great day!


  1. Bread is definitely my weak point, I would love to go on a course like this. Looks like you made loads of stuff!

  2. I love baking bread and challah is one of my favourites but i'd still really love going on a course like this... beautiful bread and very fitting for this time of year with all those festive spices and ingredients... lovely post x

  3. Looks like you had a lot of fun at your baking class. I'm rubbish at making breads (i've only made 4 this year), but feel inspired to bake more after your blog post. x

  4. What a great course to go on - the bakes look fantastic and it certainly sounds like it was fun. Great post! :)

  5. I've never quite mastered the art of panettone and would love to go on a proper course that taught me how. Your breads look absolutely divine.

  6. I can't even imagine what that roomed smelled like, everything looks so delicious. I love baking my own bread, so delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

    Happy Valley Chow

  7. Your baking is fantastic! I really love it. It looks very professional. So nice to get that for Christmas. I'd love it as a present!

  8. What a fabulous course. Love the idea of all those rum soaked raisins. Keep meaning to get a permanent jar on the go, but along with meaning to make panettone every year and buy a the aroma panettone from Bakery Bits, I never seem to get around to it. I do, however, make my own peel now and it's so much nicer and not that much of a faff.

  9. This sounds (and looks!) like a great little course. Your results are most certainly impressive and what a lot you packed into a day.

  10. nice blog vh yummy recipes..loved dis post..BTW Iam back to blogging..plz visit my space n if gets sum time check out my new FB page dear.Thanks in advance..

  11. Wow, your challah looks amazing. Lovely plait.

  12. Beautiful bakes! I'm making panettone for the first time this year, feeling very inspired now :-)

  13. Yummy baking! They look like our Greek "Tsourekia"!


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