Nottinghamshire is a county I’ve lived in for TWELVE (count them) years now, but as I get around mainly by bike or train, I haven’t explored it as much as I would like to. I so enjoyed visiting Welbeck. It’s a beautiful part of the world! If you don’t know Notts much, you might not be aware that we have this amazing foodie paradise here – the school is a not for profit organisation which teaches practical skills and emphasises local and sustainable eating (and there’s really nothing else like it anywhere else).
So what do you learn on the French Bread Baking course? For me, it helped me really get to grips with bread and learn how to make delicious loaves (like the one below!). I’m absolutely thrilled that I made those (and they were sooo yummy!). I’ve dabbled at making bread but never really felt that I mastered it reliably (lots of doughy loaves!) – I always found baking cakes, brownies and cookies WAY easier.
A day course at the school lasts from 9:30 – 5 and there’s tea, croissants and a chat with your fellow baker friends before you get started. Our teacher was Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, a baker with almost thirty years experience and two bestselling books to his name.
(Of course I took an ‘about to make bread’ selfie. Not weird at all)
I already have one of Emmanuel’s books – How to Make Bread, but I hadn’t persisted in trying the techniques he uses in his book. Seeing them in person was so helpful! We made three types of bread – baguettes (proper artisan French ones!), country bread and brioche.
Emmanuel’s method involves uses a poolish to get the fermentation started overnight (kind of like a faux sourdough) and frequent bursts of kneading (10 kneads every 10 minutes) that cut out the work of kneading for long bursts of time. He also showed us tricks like how to get the amazing shaped baguettes like the one below, and how to work butter into brioche dough.
Did you know that French baguettes have an odd number of slashes (done expertly with a razor blade) because of superstition? You’ll never see an even number on a proper baguette, and each bakery has a unique way of marking its bread.
Even though we used some HUGE industrial ovens, we were also shown how to make smaller baguettes in home-sized ovens using the same methods. I’ll definitely be giving the country bread a try at home soon (I’ll report back!) – Emmanuel recommends baking your bread then slicing and freezing it so that you always have fresh bread on hand! (I kind of feel validated as this is what I’ve always done!).
Lunch is included in the £165 cost of the course, and it’s delicious (of course). It must have been the lowest food mile meal I’ve ever eaten, with the cheese made in the Welbeck Dairy, bread from the Welbeck Bakehouse, greens from the gardens…!
I loved the hour sat chatting to the other bakers – it’s unusual to meet new people who you have so much in common with (food at the least, but lots more too!).
The course finished a little before five, so we managed to visit the Welbeck Farm Shop, selling foods from around the estate, including artisan chocolates, cheeses, desserts, meats and fresh vegetables. I stopped myself from buying everything (just!). It’s both a bad and a very good thing that I don’t live closer to Welbeck!
If you love food, you would adore going on a course at Welbeck! There are so many, from ice cream making to food photography (next on my hit list) and even cheesemaking and butchery. Many students go on to open their own bakeries or other food businesses after coming to the School. Has that crossed my mind? Yes but you have to get up very early in the morning to be in the bakery business!