Monday, 5 May 2014

SHWI Mad Skillz: Myth Busting Bread Making

Mad Skillz is one of our spin-off groups organised by Di and Anna T. They organise bespoke sessions where SHWI members can learn a new skill in a smaller-sized group. Last week, two groups of five members went along to Forge Bakehouse on consecutive evenings. Committee member Ruth tells us all about it....
A beautiful loaf of freshly baked bread is one of my all-time favourite things to eat, but alas my limited baking skills (and my dodgy oven) have put paid to any attempts at actually making it myself. I tell a lie, I made focaccia once in 2008. So anyway, I was in need of some bread-based education and I was thrilled to be one of the lucky few to secure a place on the oversubscribed SHWI Mad Skillz 'Myth Busting Bread Making' session at Forge Bakehouse.

It was a thoroughly damp day in Sheffield, but there was a warm glow from the oven in the shop and Martha, the young owner and all round baker extraordinaire, greeted us with freshly brewed tea and one of the most amazing brownies I have ever tasted. Having trained at the School of Artisan Food, she clearly knows her stuff. After the obligatory SHWI catch-up over said cuppa, it was time for the session to kick off.
Anna is amazed by the fermenting dough
It was a very hands-on lesson and we started off by mixing our own dough. I think we were all expecting a serious upper arm workout from all the kneading (we've clearly been watching too much Great British Bake Off), but Martha shared an absolutely revelatory tip with us: the ‘Ten Second Knead’ technique. Forget pummelling your dough for an age. Oh no. Kneading the dough in a circular motion for just ten seconds, then leaving it to prove for ten minutes and repeating a couple of times is just as effective and far less exhausting. Win! Whilst the dough was proving, we learnt lots of other interesting snippets about all of the different factors that can affect the success of your bake.
Plaiting the dough
We then went on to shaping and slashing a whole variety of loaves. Martha had kindly prepared lots of dough for us to practice on and I was disproportionately pleased with my baguette. My poor plaits left a lot to be desired though. Other members of the group were far more successful - there was some very impressive plait action going on - but my Great British Bake Off application will have to wait for another year (or four), me thinks.
Jen, Ruth, Di, Cat, Anna and Vicky
I know I speak for the rest of the group when I say what a great evening this was. Martha was knowledgeable, interesting, and thoroughly lovely. A great teacher. Some left with their own sour dough starter to bake for themselves at home. I left laden with some of Mr Potato Bread (it was delicious) and my very own scraper (essential baking kit apparently). I definitely won’t be leaving it another six years between bakes from now on.
If you’re a Forge Bakehouse regular, don’t fear – our loaves were not made to be sold to the paying public. All of the waste products from the shop are given to the pigs at Heeley City Farm – such lucky piggies! That gesture reflects the overall ethos of Forge Bakehouse. They use locally sourced organic flour in all their loaves and provide lots of local cafes with their goodies. Best of all, everything is really reasonably priced. It's only been open for a couple of years but this place is going to become a Sheffield institution, I'm sure of it.
To find out more about what SHWI Mad Skillz have got coming up, speak to Di or Anna T at a meeting or search for the Facebook group 'SHWI Mad Skillz'. 
Ruth Kirkman
SHWI Committee member

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