This month I was lucky enough to meet Danielle Ellis. Danielle is part of the team at Edinburgh Foody, and she also runs monthly bread making courses in our capital city.
I’ve tried my hand at various times making bread, including by hand and also using a bread maker. While I’ve had consistent results with my bread maker, my results when making bread the old fashioned manual way … have always been varied ! So when I found that Danielle was running courses, I decided to give it a try. The courses are run from Loudon’s Cafe and Bakery in the fountainbridge area of the city. Courses are usually run on a Monday evening.
Danille is a trained baker, she recently qualified after living in France where she studied in 2014 the art of making bread in a French bakery.
Well as you would expect, Danielle starts off by teaching the basics, so how to mix flour, salt and yeast in the right quantities and at the right temperatures to get the yummiest bread at the end of the process. I now realise after spending the evening with Danielle why my own bread making has been so inconsistent in the past, it seems we need to pay close attention to the temperature of the flour, the temperature of the water we mix with and the temperature in the room when we are doing the mixing. All these things are important to get consistent results with bread making.
During the evening we made two different types of dough, which we later used to make lots of different kinds of bread. Danielle showed us how to make a wholemeal dough, with sprouted seeds and a dough made with white flour. At the start of the evening we spent a good bit of time learning to mix the dough, our teacher said that we can do this in a bread maker or mixer if we want but we should learn to do it by hand – this would allow us to understand how the texture and elasticity of the dough would change as we knead the dough to make our bread mixture.
One of the key things we learned during the course of the evening was that the dough mixture needs to be proved. Proving or blooming the dough is the process of allowing the yeast in the dough mixture to ferment, this creates ‘leavened’ bread at the end of the process. The process essentially creates ‘gas’ bubbles that rise within the bread allowing it to expand in size, but more importantly leavened bread has a lighter and softer texture when compared with un-leavened bread.
There is evidence to show that bread has been around in various forms for at least 30,000 years. At this time bread usually took the form of flat-breads, with many different kinds from all over the world e.g. Armenian lavash bread, Iranian sangaks and taboons, Mexican tortillas, Indian chapati’s / roti’s and naan. It wasn’t until 10,000 years ago that bread became a common staple diet for many, this happened when in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ (which we now know as modern day Iraq, Syria and Kuwait) we learned to cultivate and grow wheat and barley, and from this how to mill flour. It is believed that from their the techniques for bread making spread across the world.
In the middle age period, before we knew what yeast was, the most common starter for making bread was a sour-dough based mixture. People at that time found that the foam skimmed from the top of their beer mugs produced a lighter kind of bread (not so surprising when in those days it was safer to drink beer and wine than water).
The process of bread making is something that should take a reasonable amount of time, and this is where the skill of the baker comes in. In 1961, the way that bread was produced in the UK changed, due to the introduction of the ‘Chorleywood Bread Process’. This is a process, developed at the time by the British Baking Industries Research Association, which allows bread to be made in bulk from start to finish in about three and a half hours. With this process it is only possible to use ‘low-quality’ proteins. In recent times, it has been possible to speed up the bread making process by the addition of various ‘chemical additives’.
During the course, Danielle mentioned that she had heard many people complain that they feel un-well after they eat bread. This may be more due to the modern methods for bread making, and the use of chemical additives which make it difficult for us to digest much of the bread we buy in stores and shops today. It is for this reason that Danielle supports and promotes ‘The Real Bread’ campaign, which aims to promote awareness and provide education to people who want to get back to basics with bread making.Visit 'The Real Bread' campaign on Facebook
During the evening Danielle taught us to prepare and shape several kinds of bread:
– Granary Tear and Share
– Brown loaf (cooked in a flower pot )
– White loaf (plaited of course !)
Danielle takes time to explain the basics, and you don’t need to worry about taking notes during the class. A written summary of the ingredients used, techniques used, measurements, percentages etc. were provided for us to take away so we didn’t need to worry about scrambling and taking notes. One of Danielle’s aims when running this course is to teach people how to make wholesome, simple and nutritious bread without using any additives or preservatives.
What a great experience to learn how to make real bread with Danielle. If you are in Edinburgh and get this chance, then why not arrange to attend one of her bread making workshops.Learn how to make bread with Danielle