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Bread-making course, E5 Bakehouse

Back in February, Eat Hackney went underneath the railway arches near London Fields to visit the E5 Bakehouse. Lured by the smell of baking rye bread and intrigued by the tale of a 200 year old Lapland “mother” – the sourdough starter from which the Bakehouse bread arises – I’ve just been back for their action- and fact-filled bread-making course. The courses are run every Saturday and last from 11am till around 5.30pm: they’re super popular so you may have to book several months in advance.

Shaping bagels


The course takes a break to look at some bread books

The course leader is head baker Eyal, a neuroscientist who traded his high-powered brainbox career for life with sourdough. The course is more hands-on than most – in no time we were measuring flour, salt, water and leaven and immersing our hands in sticky dough. The aim is to introduce sourdough leavens, plus kneading and hydration methods, and the end result is that each participant goes home with armfuls of their own bread – a 66% rye, airy ciabatta baps, fat bagels and a flavoursome “Hackney Wild” loaf.

Lunch was good too…

The day is masterfully planned – although the dough doesn’t require hard pummelling, each incipient loaf, bagel and bap has to be shaped, gently kneaded and turned at regular intervals. But there were plenty of lulls for questions about the magical science of breadmaking: about how to nurture your sourdough leaven – everyone was given a sticky ball of this at the end of the course – as well as optimal baking techniques, including spraying the oven with water to create steam and produce a better crust.

The bread oven

We stopped for a Bakehouse lunch round a trestle table, and later enjoyed their sticky treacle tart and luscious carrot cake for tea. Then the actual baking began and the loaves disappeared into the industrial oven, the bagels being briefly boiled first to ensure the signature taut shiny surface.

Course leader Eyal getting the bread ready to bake

Eyal marked up the baking trays so we could identify our own work – I welled up with pride when my precious loaves emerged. And I could understand why neuroscience pales in comparison with the alchemic and essential process of producing our daily bread.

Proud moment: serving my bread


If you want to learn to make bread, I’d advise a course to get you going rather than starting with a recipe book: learning how to handle the slippery dough is quite an art, as is the task of tending to your starter. But here are some great recipes for using stale bread from Ruth at the Bakehouse: ribollita, a Tuscan bean soup; comforting classic bread and butter pudding; and crostini.

One Comment

  1. Posted 12 Oct ’12 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    For some reason my comment didn’t appear.

    I tried to organise a bread-making workshop last year here at the school but it fell through. I would love to try my hand at making bread some day when I have enough time. Your tips at the end of your column are very useful. We tend to think so much in terms of recipe books these days that we forget the “art” behind the making.

    Have a great weekend.

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