B&B guests, friends, family and regular blog readers will know that Keith and I are pretty self-sufficient.  We raise our own animals for meat and grow all our own fruit and vegetables.  Our breakfasts at Spillers consist of our own sausages, bacon, eggs and preserves (made by Keith from our own fruit, picked by me). Naturally, all these home-made, hands-on elements make these breakfasts absolutely delicious.  But, I'd been thinking lately that there was one element missing.  Bread.  At the moment our bread is supplied by a local bakery in Seaton, delivered fresh from the ovens and bringing a lovely just-baked smell to the kitchen as it arrives.  Whilst it's good to support another local business I'd long had the urge to make my own bread and bring another home-made, hands-on element to the Spillers breakfast.

Now, I have actually attempted breadmaking before.  I'm not a bad cook and I thought how hard can it be?  Well, as my loaf turned out, pretty damn hard.  It was like a brick and if it had been dropped on you from a height it would have done you some damage.  If I'd made any more loaves I'm fairly certain UN Weapons Inspectors would have classified them as Weapons of Mass Destruction. So, I realised I needed help. 

And so it was with immense excitement that on Tuesday I joined a small group of other dough enthusiasts at nearby River Cottage HQ for their Breadmaking Course. The course was run by the amazing Aidan Chapman of the Phoenix Bakery in Weymouth.  His passion and enthusiasm for bread making is extremely infectious and I can quite honestly say that the course has changed my life.  My fear of dough has gone: my journey into bread making has begun.

Aidan took us through making a sourdough starter from which every other loaf will be made. He guided us through the no-knead technique (which is where I think I'd been going wrong), and taught us to use our hands to feel when the dough was ready for the oven.  He showed us that bread making has been an essential part of life for the human race since its earliest days. (Did you know that at the bottom of the pyramids there was a bakery and a brewery?) He showed us that real bread is made from the most basic ingredients: Wild yeast, flour, water, salt.  That's all there is to it and that's all that should be in your loaf.  Take a look at the plastic bag around your bread and read the ingredients.  Still want to put that into your digestive system?  Hmm.  I don't. 

Whilst our sourdough loaves were baking we had a mid-morning flatbread snack with dips.  Aidan showed us how simple it is to make flatbreads and what a good starter it would be for a dinner party.  He also made us pizza bases for lunch which we tried to hand-throw and were then baked in a wood-fired oven for lunch al fresco in the glorious sunshine.  We all helped to make communal foccaccia breads which were laden with olive oil and flavoured with seasonal produce including beetroots, broad beans, and rhubarb.  Man shall not live by bread alone...well we gave it a good try by then making simple soda breads topped with cheese and hazlenuts.  Apparently Aidan's six year old daughter makes Smarties soda breads when her friends come round.  Well, if a six year old can do it none of us has an excuse! And - as if we weren't full enough - we rounded off the day with hand made doughnuts, quickly fried and rolled in vanilla sugar served with strawberries and elderflower custard. 

It was a truly interesting, life-changing day and if any of you are even the slightest bit interested in any food subject I urge you to do a course at River Cottage.  The experts they bring in will fill you with enthusiasm and passion for the subject (and you'll eat fantastic food to boot!) I have been so excited about my bread making journey since the day I've barely talked about anything else.  I immediately found a local organic mill and have ordered several bags of flour for my first loaves.  They should arrive today. I'll be making my sourdough starter tomorrow and in a couple of weeks' time I'll be serving my first sourdough loaves to our B&B guests.  So, what will you choose?  Sourdough with fennel seeds and sultanas?  Or blue cheese and sage? Who knows maybe I'll even make one with Smarties!