Our latest baking session was a bit of the old and the new. Our trainees revisited making loaves, both tin and banneton, with any combination of flours of their choosing. It was nice to see many of them opted for wholemeal and spelt. They also made more of their beloved focaccia with toppings of their choice: red onion, rosemary, olive and tomato.

We have specifically revisited the loaves and focaccia because the park has invited the women to come in and bake bread as well as sweet items like brownies and blondies to be sold at the café after their graduation. This would both further build their CVs until they find proper jobs and put the park’s community kitchen to good use. It is an exciting proposition. And they are considering the invitation seriously. We are looking into how to best set them up for success. Stay tuned.

Before moving on to the new, we’d like to share a little episode which conveys the spirit of our women when they come together to bake: Early on in the session we were interrupted by a fire alarm test, which set one young mother dancing to the “beat” of the bleeping alarm as she kneaded her dough. The technician told us the next time he’d run it longer for her. Funny!

For a bit of shaping fun and something new, they learned to make brioche-like buns and shaped them like gingerbread men studded with currants. The results were amusing and generated a lot of laughs. Getting sticky, soft enriched dough to conform to your will is no easy feat when you want to make a symmetrical chap with proportionate head, I can tell you!

Bread Collection And now for one of the more exciting aspects of the course, which we have been building toward from day one: An introduction to sourdough. They learned about the principles behind making the starter, the development process, and proving times. In order to get a sense of what they are working towards making, they sampled a gorgeous fresh loaf of heritage wheat sourdough make with rye starter. It came from Richard, the friendly neighbourhood baker down the road at The Old Post Office Bakery. It is a small gem worth a detour. He has invited us in for a visit and will provide a work placement for at least one of our trainees after she graduates. She will be a lucky woman, indeed, as the bakery is open to the shopfront for a lovely synergistic experience for both the bakers and customers.

Towards the end of the baking session, we all enjoyed some fresh mint tea and banter, made possible by Myatt’s Field Park’s lovely gardener, Fabrice, who keeps our lunches extra healthy with a heaping bowl of freshly picked salad greens from the greenhouse.

Then each trainee went home with a recipe for rye starter, kilner jar and a good amount of rye to get them through their first week and beyond. They’ll bring their week-old starters back to the next session. We’ll assess the development of their starters and they will make dough to take home, prove and bake, after they bake up an assortment of breads, including sweet and savoury sourdough sticks.

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