Bread and baking continue to be hot topics; artisanal bakeries are popping up and even the supermarkets are expanding their ranges to include sourdough and spelt loaves. So, what could be better than to produce your own bread at home? The yeasty smell of a loaf proving is truly addictive as I found after joining a bread-making course at the One Mile Bakery in Pontardawe.
Lesley and Mike Lloyd (left) as well as running bread making classes, deliver artisan bread, soups and preserves to subscribers within a one-mile radius of their micro-bakery – deliveries are made by electric trike. The concept was the brainchild of Guardian journalist Elizabeth Mahoney, who launched the first One Mile Bakery in Cardiff in 2012 after being inspired by her mother’s baking and cooking.
Lesley and Mike’s classes are very hands-on – we all got stuck into the mixing and kneading. My companions for the day were John, Jess and Liz our photojournalist who came along to take the pictures – bread dough and camera lenses don’t mix. We got to know each other over a superb breakfast of hot buttered toast and strawberry and vanilla jam, with bottomless cafetieres of coffee.
Then came the first task of the day. Our aim was to make a white farmhouse tin loaf, a pain de campagne – a French country bread, a wholemeal loaf and some chocolate cookies. It all seemed to be a bit ambitious to achieve in just 6 hours but surprisingly we did it all, and quite painlessly.
The day was punctuated by elevenses of a delicious home-made celeriac and thyme soup and of course some exquisite bread, and a lunch of asparagus tart with fresh vegetables – all made by Lesley who studied catering at Swansea College. Lesley grew up in Gowerton and is from a family of keen cooks and bakers. Mike has recently retired after 30 years working with the Welsh National Opera as a stage technician.
I have made bread before, but here I learnt about the different types of flour and yeast, and how to ‘feel’ when the dough was ready to leave to prove and rise. I also discovered that you really don’t need to add extra flour to knead the dough – it stops being sticky when pulled and stretched to the right point.
We added seeds and nuts to the pain de campagne – each of us opting for a different combination. I think my choice of walnuts works particularly well as they add not just texture but flavour too.
At the end of the day we had all produced some very professional looking loaves, but the proof of the pudding as they say is in the eating, and it wasn’t until the next day that I put my farmhouse loaf on the bread board and took out my serrated bread knife. The texture was perfection – it was soft and easy to slice but best of all it tasted wonderful and made the best toast possible. I spread it with good salty Welsh butter – Green Meadow to be precise as this is my favourite and it is produced locally.
If you want to learn the art of bread making in a relaxed atmosphere I can highly recommend a day course with Lesley and Mike in their beautiful house in Pontardawe. They are natural hosts and excellent teachers – they make everyone feel so welcome. A course or gift voucher would make a fabulous present for a foodie loved one, and we are delighted to be able to offer readers of Bay a special discounted rate on all classes and gift vouchers if they book before 31st August. The next classes available are:
- An introduction to baking 3rd August
- Introduction to sourdough 7th September
- French baking 21st September
- Italian baking 12th October
- Mindful baking 5th October
- Full day classes, with a two-course lunch and wine £125
- Use the code BAKE15 to get 15% discount
Private groups can book a class of 4+ people on a date of their choice at £125 per person, course content and catering can be be-spoke for these. Corporate days and half-days are also available with Bake-Off style challenges and floury team-building workshops.
For further information visit www.onemilebakery.com/pontardawe