Last month I was invited to be a guest at Bake with Maria's Healthy Bread Making Class. A longtime breadmaker, Maria Mayerhofer started teaching breadmaking classes out of her home kitchen after she realised that she knew more about the craft than some allegedly professional instructors in big institutions. The good word got around, and her classes grew and grew. Late last year, Maria's venture had grown to the point where she was ready to take on commercial space.
Behold, her lovely Baking Lab in St John's Wood.
Above, bottom right: The first time I've ever seen fresh yeast.
For this particular class, we were going to make a spelt bread, a wholewheat flatbread, and an overnight-dough for a rye bread.
Spelt in particular is an interesting one. It's an increasingly popular alternative for those who are wheat intolerant (though not necessarily for those who are gluten intolerant). Research shows that spelt is an ancient grain, but lost the popularity contest vs. wheat in the 20th century. Fortunately, this means that the structural integrity of the spelt grain has been much less messed about with by the industrial agricultural system. Spelt has more recently made a comeback with the organic farming movement, partly because it requires less fertilisers to grow. More details here.
It suddenly occured to me that I had never made bread before, ever! Growing up, my Mum was the breadmaker in the family. And now, Babs has taken on that role at home. One of the first things I learned this evening was that you need precision to be a good breadmaker (hence the nifty digital weighing scales used in class). Probably the same reason the breadmaking role at home has never been taken on by me! Ah well. There's always a first time for everything, and usually a delightful one if it's food related.
Maria shows us how to work the dough to tease out the gluten the flour, which is what gives bread its elasticity. The technique isn't difficult. You just need a bit of muscle and a bit more patience!
To test if you've worked the dough enough, make a thin dough sheet as below. You want it to be able to hold its shape without tearing.
A not very glamourous but a very effective way to leave your dough to proof in a bowl.
Maria's classes are not a spectator sport. You'll need to roll up your sleeves and get involved. Even with my apron on I managed to get to my next meeting with my camera, fleece and hair dusted with flour, much to everyone's amusement!
In addition to taking home the breads you made in class, everyone also sits down to a light (and might I say GORGEOUS looking) dinner at the end of the session.
For this class we also got to take home a rye-based dough which needed to proof in the fridge overnight. Here are the results of what I knocked up at home from the dough (I decided to play around with seedy and non-seedy versions). Delicious!
What I appreciate most about Maria's teaching style is her peppering of many little tips and tricks which can only be gotten from years of hands on baking experience. I look forward to getting more breadmaking practice at home after this class. In particular, I look forward to using a wider repetoire of flours for our homemade breads in addition to wheat.
Now that Maria has dedicated space for conducting classes, her menu of classes has grown signficantly. Click on the Edible Experiences logo below to peruse and track new dates for them.
Disclosure: I'm the founder of Edible Experiences, and I was a guest at this bread baking class, usually priced at £95.