The Birthday Present

New departure. Last week Oliver came up from Birmingham to do what is basically my new (post “retirement”) microbakery course. Except he doesn’t want to set up a microbakery, and he came to do it … for PLEASURE!!!  Hope no one’s feeling too shocked about this.

I happened to be browsing the Australian Sourdough site just after his partner Michael had posted a request for an advanced course for someone already experienced in bread making that might involve some commercial production, so what could I do but suggest I might be the answer. Michael and friends were paying for a birthday treat. The course took in my weekly bake for local customers.

Because John Lewis still hadn’t managed to deliver a new domestic oven we had to dive down to the rugby club where my number two oven is stashed ready for more basic bread courses.
So, Day One: refreshed white starter up to about 5K for the evening mix.

Oli said he wanted to have a go at some wetter doughs so we mixed a large Pane Pugliese, which isn’t so wet but breaks all the usual bread rules, followed by a white dough at just under 80% hydration. After a couple of stretches this went in the fridge for 24 hours. The Pugliese fermented – with much folding when we remembered – and proved on the counter all day.

Then we prepped the evening’s mix. The weekly bread for customers was 20 large Oat & Honey, a complex bread using oats in three different ways – so we toasted oats in the oven and made vast pan of porridge – the third use would be coating the shaped loaves with oats the following morning.

Then came 2 large Laputabrod  – we mixed a rye starter and ground anise & fennel seed for the soaker.

2 x Guinness Volkornbrot – we boiled rye grain, drained and mixed with Guinness and sunflower seed for a soaker, milled rye grain to make a coarse meal for a second soaker, mixed the rye starter.

Prepared two additional soakers for 5 Seed & Spelt and Multigrain.

The evening before, I ran up 4K of Campagne dough and fermented it in the fridge overnight so we could go through different shapes – boules, batards, baguettes. Even if you are experienced it is useful to see how someone else handles dough – lots of competent  home bakers have never worked with anyone else and so have no way of judging their own skills or trying different methods.

After a session of scaling, moulding and proving in baskets and couches – large, relaxed Lunch.

In the afternoon the variously shaped campagnes were slashed and baked, Oli perused my collection of bread books, we talked a lot – even managed a 15 minute walk before we started the big mix. Flipped over the Pugliese dough, dimpled it and baked it in a hot oven.

The main item was 20k of Oat & Honey dough done in two mixes. All the rest was mixed by hand so the mixer could be cleaned and put to bed.

Then came 4K of baguette dough after which Oli hand-mixed one each of my regular doughs (Campagne, Classic, Wholemeal, 5 Seed & Spelt, Mulitigrain) to get the feel of five quite different doughs on the bench at the same time. Lastly, the Laputabrod and the Brioche.

Sandwich, glass of wine, bed.

Day Two, 6.00 a.m. (former participants who started at 5.00 a.m. will scoff).  Put coffee on, start frying onions for the focaccia, first box of Oat & Honey out of the fridge, first ten loaves (oven capacity), scaled shaped, coated in oats, put in couches.

Grate cheese and courgettes, chop apricot and almonds and mix the flatbread doughs: Black Olive, Rosemary & Caramelised Onion Focaccia, Parmesan & Courgettes Flatbread, Apricot & Almond Fougasse.

Scale & shape remainder of the Oat & Honey, mix Guinness Volkornbrot, wet-shape and straight into tins, press out the brioche dough, cover with chocolate pieces, roll up, drop in Panibois boxes.

Fit in breakfast.

Throughout the rest of the morning into lunch: remainder of overnight doughs put to prove, first bake about 10.15 a.m., eventually the flatbreads go onto pizza tins, an hour later they are pressed out (well, the Parmesan & Courgette was so wet it just needed a hard look), made cuts in the fougasse, decorated the focaccia with the onion, olives and rosemary, another hour and they are in the oven.

Before lunch the 20 baguettes are scaled and given an intermediate prove – after lunch rolled out.

The high hydration dough is suddenly remembered in the fridge – we are brave and roll them into baguettes rather than stretching them.

By mid afternoon everything, even the baguettes, are baked and Oli tries his hand at wrapping the cool loaves from the first batches under Sue’s experienced guidance.

In total we baked:
The loaves & baguettes shaped from the 4K of previously fermented Pain de Campagne dough
20 x 800g Oat & Honey
20 x baguettes
4 x high-hydration baguettes
1 x 800g Pane Pugliese
1 x 880g Pain de Campagne
1 x 880g Classic Sourdough
1 x 880g Wholemeal
1 x 880g 5 Seed with Spelt
1 x 880g Multigrain
2 x 800g Swedish Spiced Laputabrod
2 x 800g Guinness Volkornbrot
2 x 500g Brioche au Chocolat
2 x Black Olive, Caramelised Onion & Rosemary Focaccia
2 x Parmesan & Courgette Flatbreads
2 x Apricot & Almond Fougasses

At about 5.00 p.m. Oli, who was meeting up with friends for a week’s holiday in Wales, staggered off with one of everything and two of several of the breads.

Plus the customers were well pleased because they got a free baguette on his behalf.

A very satisfying couple of days.

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