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?

Recipe: Super-Easy Homemade Falafel

Falafel are one of my absolute favourite things to eat, yet I’m supremely fussy about them. I have eaten some truly, truly dreadful falafel in the last few years (including one that had big chunks of apricot in – why?!). However the absolute worst falafel I’ve tried? It’s the ones I’ve made myself. They’ve always been overly mushy, never coming together, never crispy and just horribly bland.

 photo Falafel_zpsmxeqopix.jpgThat is, until now. This is inspired by a John Torode recipe from BBC Good Food. I’d made it a couple of times now, adapting as I go and now I’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art. Not only are these delicious, they are ridiculously easy to make. Sure, they take a bit of time (i.e. you need to remember to soak the chickpeas – tinned ones absolutely do not work and that is exactly why my attempts had always failed!), but once that’s done you can pretty much get them made in under half an hour. And if you want the process to be a little less hands on, along with a little healthier, you can even baked these instead of frying. Frying gives the best crispy texture, but the flavour is pretty much unaffected so if you’ve making these ahead for lunches I’d bake (and use the spare calories on chocolate).

Now, the flavour. It’s so much better than other falafel recipes I’ve made. The added vegetables add to the complex flavours, and I’ve added a spice mix which I love (though feel free to customise it). These are moist, but not mushy, they hold together without crumbling and have a slightly crispy outer. Pretty much my perfect falafel!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsioqo0b5n.jpg photo Homemade Falafel 4_zpsqh8bwbqn.jpgIngredients

  • 125g dried chickpeas or dried split broad beans
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 leek
  • 1/2 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • a tiny pinch of cinnamon
  • good handful chopped coriander
  • 25g plain flour

Soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours, or overnight (or do as I do if making them on a weeknight – soak them during the day.

Drain the chickpeas and pulse with the bicarbonate in a food processor (I use my mini food processor) until roughly chopped. Remove around half of the mixture and pop into a large bowl. Add the garlic, vegetables, spices and herbs to the remaining mixture in the processor and purée to a paste. Stir the paste into the rough purée of chickpeas, add the flour, season (these take plenty of salt) and mix well. I find it best to give the mixture a quick knead with my hands to make sure it’s all incorporated.

Take tablespoons of the mixture and form into balls before flattening – I tend to get 12-13 out of this quantity as I like my falafel slightly smaller.

If you’re frying the falafel, heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add some of the oil. Fry for 2-3 mins each side until crisp. Keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remainder of the mixture, continuing to add a little oil to the pan with each batch. Alternatively, place the falafel on greaseproof paper, spray with a little oil and bake at 180C for half an hour, turning once.

 photo Homemade Falafel 6_zpse4mmgjg6.jpgI like to serve mine with couscous and salad, but they are also reallllyyy good served as part of a meze platter (particularly with beetroot houmous!) or in homemade pitta bread. The perfect filling lunchbox!

Are you a fan of falafel? Have you ever made your own before?

Lifestyle: Getting Crafty

It’s been an aim of this academic year to make the most of not studying (it’ll be the last for a while as I’ll be doing professional exams after graduating). I wanted to concentrate on my blog, I wanted to get fit, and I really wanted to get a bit more creative.

 photo 2015-04-12 18.46.37_zpsli2gqgwg.jpgI love drawing, but find it frustrating as storing paper gets on my nerves. I wasn’t end up creasing it and my hardwork is wasted. Eurgh. I’ve been attempting to knit for nearly two years and that’s still very much a work in progress. But over the past few weeks I’ve started a few other little projects, which I thought I’d tell you all about today.

 photo 9ed7ad79-d433-47dc-a623-42f09ae6e8be_zpsep4mdl2r.jpgWho doesn’t love a bit of Cath Kidston? I’ve got to admit I love the brand and, despite thinking it’s overpriced, I do have a few bits from there. I’ve always avoid the bags, but now I can make my own! Hobbycraft (I’ve loved the store since I was a child!) sent me the Cath Kidston Sewing Book*, and I’ve fallen in love. I’ve not started a big, big project, but I’ve started creating the Sewing Kit, especially as the materials for making this are included with the book. I’ll be updating my instagram with progress on the project as and when technology allows (my phone camera has completely died, so it involved a lot of faffing with SD cards!) so make sure you are following!

 photo bc96822a-0c32-4365-9862-a43eb9f92a48_zpsijcgdzq0.jpg photo 575a161d-bace-40d4-bf9f-0cf679e348be_zpsn5nn5zi3.jpg photo 386434c5-5505-4ede-8ce7-dbbcd1968bdd_zpsbhbtzatl.jpgThe book is great as it covers a lot of the basics and, most importantly, the vast majority of projects don’t need a sewing machine! Templates for all projects are provided, and I’m hugely tempted to make a bag next. It’s even got me thinking about potentially making my own clothes, though I desperately need to improve skills before I start on that!

 photo 4683efea-524a-4f51-aa3e-26560f76bc72_zps2tggw8zd.jpgI also received a HUGE box of goodies from Sykes Cottages a few weeks ago, filled with enough crafty projects to keep me going for months. And tea. And biscuits. Because being crafty is hard work. And guys, Earl Grey & Lemon Shortbread is the best! I haven’t even gotten started on the majority of the box, but here’s the highlights.

 photo 31aaf488-e1c5-410d-9eaa-afb869a41953_zpsshn1hkht.jpgScented candles. Because everyone needs candles, and this student can’t afford to burn money. They are ridiculously easy to make, I’ve been making them in mugs, and melting the wax in the mug, using a microwave. Simples! I’ve even gone out and bought extra essential oils and wax as I’ve really enjoyed making them, can’t wait to produce them as presents for people!

 photo 9382b2bf-996e-4383-8918-99dcda0d1dc7_zpssdyyfadj.jpg photo 6cc6be45-157c-4f0c-9a15-92f6ff261fc7_zpswy0n42yx.jpgAnd covered notebooks. Kirstie Allsopp is someone I’ve always loved (I do so adore watching Escape to the Country with a cuppa). I missed a lot of her crafty series but I’ll definitely be hunting down past episodes if this kind of thing was covered. Again, all equipment was provided (including a notebook), and the instructions were so easy. I just wish I had more use for notebooks this year now!

Have you made anything recently? Are you into making little bits and pieces like these?