Guinea Pig Bread

Monday 15 October 2012
When the Gourmet Gossip email circular from Nick Nairn Cookschool pinged into my inbox last week the "Testing, Testing 1,2,3" headline caught my attention.  New 3 hour classes are being launched in Aberdeen and they were looking for testers to put them through their paces and provide feedback at a discounted price.  Too good an opportunity to miss for a thrifty Aberdonian foodie. I'm more than happy to be a guinea pig.  

The options on offer were Breads, Master Pasta and Express Dinner Party.  After years in the wilderness I reckon I've now pretty much mastered pasta and although the dinner party class looked tempting unfortunately the dates didn't work for me so Breads it was. The Cook School is a relatively new addition to Aberdeen having only opened in May but has been in existence at Port of Monteith since 2000.  I've previously been to three full day classes - Sushi, Easy Posh Dinner Party and most recently Thai but this was my first foray into a condensed offering.
Our Tutor for the day was the wonderful John Webber who has an absolute wealth of knowledge and passion for food.  He firstly introduced us to the science behind breadmaking and the different factors that can affect a successful or otherwise outcome.  Our first bit of hands on cooking was Wheaten Soda Bread.  The process was very similar to making scones and required a light touch so not to overwork the dough and loose the gasses which act as raising agents. Once shaped and scored we left it to rest for 5-10 minutes before baking and you could visibly see how much it rose in that time.
my soda bread ready for the oven
Next John demonstrated making the breadsticks.  This time the raising agent was yeast and John again shared his knowledge and anecdotes on this subject.  At one point I thought he had got us confused with the afternoons pasta making class but he actually used a pasta machine to kneed the dough and then to cut it into tagliatelle strands and thus make breadsticks.  Genius.  Really glad I didn't bin the redundant pasta machine now.  The breadsticks were left to rise for 10 minutes before being brushed with milk and sprinkled with Maldon salt and going in the oven.
Blowtorch action
Now it was our turn to make our flatbread pizzas for lunch.  We got to do some proper kneading this time and it was very therapeutic   Once rolled it was into the frying pan and time for some blowtorch action of our own.  Great fun.  Next we had a pick and mix tray of toppings to choose from not dissimilar to what I would have myself when making pizza but alas no anchovies. 
Ready for the toppings
Lunch is served
Less than 5 minutes in the oven as the flatbread base is already cooked so you are really just warming up the toppings and melting the mozzarella.  Very tasty with clean plates all round and washed down with a glass of red.  Alas on this occasion I was driving so couldn't take full advantage of the hospitality on offer.  Big mistake. 
Pasta machine salted breadsticks
The tagliatelle breadsticks came out of the oven just as we sat down to eat and they were fantastic.  Especially good served warm.  Lots of variations would be possible with the addition of the likes of chilli, Parmesan cheese and herbs.  I have plans for these.
Homemade Soda Bread with Homemade Goats Cheese
Somehow I managed to make it home without giving in to the temptation to rip off a hunk of soda bread.  It was quickly demolished with a range of toppings including butter, raspberry jam, Arran cheese and my own homemade goats cheese.  Will definitely be making it again.

I really enjoyed my taste of breadmaking and feel inspired to try some more at home. Unfortunately the 3 hour class just didn't give enough time to do any of the yeasty breads but armed with knowledge I'd be more confident in giving them a go. I still have an IOU for a quick cook 2 hour class to look forward to and I'm eagerly awaiting the release of new dates.  Watch this space.

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