Our third week into the Just Bread bakery course and each week the students seem to blossom more and more into their new environment in the e5 Bakehouse. As friendships start to form and we become more accustomed to one another, the atmosphere takes on a warm and friendly air as questions arise and are clarified about ingredient temperatures, flour types and other such concerns as the dough is moulded and transformed in our hands.
This week we worked with two quite different doughs; the ciabatta and the bagel. The ciabatta is very elasticated and airy while the bagel is denser and has a rather tight consistency. Each bread has roots in different European traditions of baking; the ciabatta meaning “the slipper” in Italian due to its shape, while the bagel hails from Eastern Europe and before that the Far East. The unique way of preparing the bagel before baking it, by dropping it into boiling water is a culinary tradition that was first adopted in China and what today resembles the dumpling.
As we can see, these traditions of baking have deep reaching roots and intersect in interesting ways with one another. It is not unlikely that our students, coming from all over the world, will also start to see parallels with their own traditions with what we are seeing on the shop shelves around us today in London. We will be expanding on this theme next week when we begin making two of our students’ recipes. Mina from Iran will be instructing us on the traditional Naan-e Sangak bread which is cooked in a tunnel shaped wood-oven using hot coals to lay the bread on, while Sara from Eritrea will be bringing her Hembasha recipe which is a flatbread with an array of spices mixed into the dough. Both recipes will be an experiment not only for the students but also for the e5 Bakery as we integrate new ingredients and ways of cooking the bread into the Bakehouse’s repertoire. We will be using the beautiful method of wood burning to fuel the outside oven which gives the bread a unique and delicious taste.
By the end of the session, the table was bursting with the fruits of our labour as each loaf had taken on a particular touch unique to the student who had baked it. The table top amassed with fresh bread indicated what, as a group, we are capable of creating and it truly looked irresistible. The scattering of sesame and poppy seeds on the bagels and the Zaat’er on the focaccia looked like the work of real craftsman and gave the students confidence in their capabilities.
We are at a very exciting stage in this year’s program as the direction of where we are heading is yet to be defined but with so much opportunity and so much enthusiasm and goodwill from the students and teachers alike, it feels like a very promising time. In such secure and keen hands, Just Bread has a bright future ahead developing into a self-sustaining business providing delicious breads to the people of London and beyond.