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Food and Travel Review

Third-generation baker Tom Herbert begins our breadmaking class with the sage advice: ‘Find a good flour and stick with it. Don’t be a flour floozy.’ There is certainly nothing disreputable about his family’s attitude to baking. His grandfather founded Hobbs House Bakery in 1920 and Tom, like his father, has taken up the apron with pride. ‘How could I resist becoming a baker when the smell of freshly baked bread was always hanging around the house?’ He has a very good point. As soon as I arrive, the aroma of fresh breakfast pastries sets my mouth watering.

First up is a sourdough loaf. Scattering 3kg of organic white flour on to the table, he combines it with sea salt, hot water and a 62-year- old sourdough culture. He separates it into smaller pieces for us and we use one hand to stretch the dough, then fold it over and repeat until it’s elastic but still sticky. ‘I’d normally leave it to prove overnight to get the optimum rise but if you’re in a rush, leave it somewhere warm like the airing cupboard for four hours,’ Tom tells us.

While we wait for our rises, we make our own butter from three-day-old double cream. After ten minutes with an electric whisk it turns yellow and the buttermilk separates, leaving us with a beautiful pat that I immediately picture melting on hot toast.

Next up is a quick soda bread, which doesn’t require any kneading and is perfect for home bakers who are short on time. I roll up my sleeves and get to work mixing together spelt wholemeal flour, baking powder, buttermilk left over from the butter, fresh milk and sea salt. Once left with a sticky dough, we cup it with floured hands, shape it into a round and cut a cross into the top with a sharp knife. With a baking time of just 15 minutes, it’s the sort of recipe I can see fitting into my weekly routine.

We finish with a simple white dough made from olive oil, warm water, sea salt and fresh yeast. ‘This guy’s so versatile he can be used for everything from focaccia to pitta bread,’ Tom says. He proceeds to illustrate his point, rolling little ovals of dough in one direction until they stop springing back, then placing them in a very hot oven for three minutes until they puff up into delectable pockets. ‘You’ll never go back to shop-bought pitta after this,’ he chuckles.

As I walk away clutching a bag of goodies to my chest I realise that, like both Tom and his father, I have been totally seduced by the smell of warm bread. It’s one that I’ll be looking to recreate in my own home far more often. SD. A full-day breadmaking course with Tom Herbert costs £245

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What you can learn at our cookery school

  • Bread Making


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