Review: Bread Ahead Bakery’s Introduction to Sourdough Course

Bread Ahead Bakery might be famed across London and the internet for their doughnuts, but their other baked goods deserve the recognition too. Sure, the pillows of joy filled with flavoured custard and topped with something yummy are amazingly good (the praline one is my all-time favourite) but I have a big soft-spot for their bread.

 photo Sourdough Course_zpsmakkrg74.jpgChewy rye, flaky and salty focaccia, full-flavoured sourdough. Nothing I’ve tried has been anything short of delicious. So when, on the back of my review of their Doughnut Workshop (which I bought for W’s present – it makes a fab gift or day-date!), the bakery invited me down to try another of their classes I jumped at the chance.

It took a while to find a suitable date, as their weekend classes get booked up really quickly, but one hot July afternoon we headed over to their Sloane Square branch for an Introduction to Sourdough. Conveniently located next to a cheese-shop, we bought supplies for a picnic from the bakery and their neighbours before heading for up three hours of expert tuition in all things sourdough.

 photo Bread Ahead Introduction to Sourdough Course 3_zpsdfkhlsw3.jpg photo Bread Ahead Introduction to Sourdough Course 2_zps4zoghokr.jpgNow, if you’re looking for a really fun baking class I’d recommend you look at some of Bread Ahead’s other options. The doughnut class was very fun, although we still learnt a lot, and it was rather laid back. Whilst I really, really enjoyed this sourdough class, I also found it intense and felt a little like I was back at school! It certainly wasn’t relaxing, it was fast-paced and I found myself wishing it was spread out over another hour or so. That said we came home with two loaves each (a¬†borodinsky rye and white levain) plus our own yeast culture to kick-start our sourdough baking journey at home (with five days of flour for feeding), and a LOT of knowledge. I’ll be doing a ‘top tips for sourdough baking’ post in a few months when I feel more comfortable using a live yeast culture to bake with.

 photo Bread Ahead Introduction to Sourdough Course 10_zpsa3qoqb0i.jpg photo Bread Ahead Introduction to Sourdough Course 10_zpsa3qoqb0i.jpg photo Bread Ahead Introduction to Sourdough Course 10_zpsa3qoqb0i.jpgThe class followed a similar structure to the doughnut class. It was very hands on, but there was also ‘Blue Peter’ moments due to the need to let bread dough rise over a longer period of time. We each had a go at shaping doughs, kneading and discussed the best way to bake, and all got to have a sniff of Bruce, the bakery’s ongoing culture which is around 4 years old. I now know to avoid washing my hands with soap before handling my sourdough starter or any bread mix containing it (the antibacterial soap residue will kill the friendly bacteria). I have better knowledge of how to knead wetter doughs. I’m not as scared of putting things in an oven heated to maximum temperature.

Oh, and we also got to have some fresh-from-the-oven sourdough with a delicious salted butter and blackberry jam. My idea of heaven.

Are you a fan of cookery classes? Are there any in London you’d recommend?

Review: Doughnut Workshop @ Bread Ahead Bakery, Borough Market

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever visited Borough Market will have ooh-ed and ahh-ed at Bread Ahead’s doughnuts. Possibly bought one, possibly snapped a picture of these utterly-Instagrammable pillows of joy. They are a bit of an icon in London, and rightly so. Sure, we’ve had a few more doughnut shops pop up over the last year or so, but these aren’t sickly-sweet. These are made over two days, with a well-flavoured dough and perfectly thought out fillings. They’re super-freshly made, with thousands being made a day. And I highly, highly recommend you pick one up the next time you’re in Borough Market.

We, however, went one step further than just buying the doughnuts.

Yep, we went to one of Bread Ahead’s workshops and learnt how to make them. Justin Gellatly was our tutor for the class, so that caused a massive fan-girl moment by yours truly!

It might take a full two days to produce one of these doughnuts, but the course is very cleverly squeezed into a few (delicious) hours. We first use some dough that has been ready-made by the team, and learn how to roll the perfect doughnuts. All Bread Ahead doughnuts are rolled by hand, and it’s definitely harder than it looks… We popped them on to prove, and then go going with actually making a batch of dough.

As someone who shies away from enriched dough and kneading in general (there’s a reason I love Jame’s Morton’s bread recipes, and it’s that I rarely need to get my hands dirty!), I was nervous about making this dough – however it has actually made me a lot more confident. Who knew a pinch of lemon zest could prevent the dough from getting overly greasy?! With the dough popped in the fridge, we got on with fillings – some of the 14 strong class demonstrating how to make honeycomb and custards. We then got to sample a doughnut cooked in from of us by Justin, still hot from the fryer. I’m not sure doughnuts will ever, ever be the same again…

After a quick coffee break, we got on with frying our own shaped doughnuts, before sugar bombing them in the largest bowl of sugar I’d ever, ever seen. It was then time to pipe in the fillings, a process that got messy, sticky and ended up with an awful lot of the caramel custard ending up in my mouth rather than my doughnut (#sorrynotsorry). We left the class with a bag of goodies each – 6 freshly made doughnuts (plus an extra we’d squeezed out from some leftover dough), a pot of dough for another six doughnuts, and 2 big bags of honeycomb.

Oh, and we bought a deep fat fryer on the way home purely for making more doughnuts. We’re nothing if not committed!

At ¬£80 per person this class was far from cheap, but it was without doubt the best cookery class I’ve ever, ever done. It was very hands-on, we got lots of delicious goodies, and we came away feeling confident in making enriched dough, in deep-frying, in making custard, and with a doughnut addiction. I’d highly recommend a class, though they book up wayyyy in advance!

*Disclaimer – this workshop was paid for by myself as part of my fiance’s birthday present, and I wasn’t asked to write a review (we just had a fab time and I wanted to share!). I am, however, due to be working with Bread Ahead on a little review opportunity over the summer as a result of my Instagram posts following this workshop. All opinions, as always, are my own!

Are you a doughnut fan? Have you tried a cookery class?