We woke up this morning feeling replete.
More than, actually.
We spent most of yesterday working with the legendary master baker Clive Mellum at Shipton Mill, at one of his breadmaking workshops. We learned the basics from Clive a couple of years ago, since when we’ve baked bread regularly, usually with “Clive’s Mother” providing the necessary ferment. My hero is the breadmaker in chief and having found a failsafe formula which we both love, we’ve lacked the confidence to explore alternatives, to stretch the parameters or stray from the prescribed method. We needed another boost of confidence from Clive, and seized the opportunity to take his “advanced” workshop yesterday. With our friends Arthur and Barbara and two ladies from Herefordshire, the six of us had Clive’s undivided attention for the day. How lucky were we?
The basket of breads we were introduced to at the start of the day contained an impressive range of shapes and textures – surely we couldn’t expect to create such magic in just a short time? Clive had other ideas! With the first hour, the rye sourdough starter was at work and we’d got our hands in the dough. In what seemed like a very short space of time, Clive was pulling our first loaves from the oven – attractively cracked crusted rye breads, proved in floured baskets which gave them that lovely stripy pattern. Were we impressed with our work? you bet!
No time to interrupt the workflow though, and in a matter of minutes we had other doughs in our boxes, rising there under the table in the warmth of the bakery. We quickly made a couple of sourdough pita breads each, watching them inflate and bake in just three minutes in the oven. The other dough in the photograph above is an open crumb, made using something Clive referred to as a “flying sponge” – there is always more to learn!
Finally, we needed to shape our baguettes – another nifty technique, explained and demonstrated in seconds by Clive but probably needing a couple of pages in a book. We set out our beauties on deckchair canvas and went off to get some fresh air whilst Clive prepared our lunch.
Didn’t I say what a treasure he is?
The mill is in an idyllic setting on the bank of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and as we took a breather, entertainment was provided in the form of the tipper truck delivery and the occasional boat passing by.
We sat in the sunshine, thinking how good life is – taking the opportunity to photograph some of those lovely reflections in the water.
Of course, when the call came to say lunch was ready, we didn’t really expect such a feast! Could there ever be a more appetising bread and cheese lunch?
In the meantime, Clive had put our baguettes into the oven and look what beauties resulted? That loaf with a G on it was described as “top baguette” by Clive – and yes, it’s mine!
More baking – this time a half and half rye and white flour loaf which turned out like this
And then, the “open crumb”, focaccia bread was baked
Last but not least, there were some seed doughs there we’d made earlier, which needed shaping and baking.
Clive demonstrated a new (to us) method of snipping the top of the dough with scissors which all of us loved – one loaf was snipped, the other slashed and into the oven they went.
And that was that. 3.3opm and one box of the yummiest, most attractive baked goodies later, we were done. Yes, my snipped loaf does look like an open jaw with very sharp teeth! The plastic bag contains the flying sponge for the next focaccia bake and, best of all, because both my Hero and I did the workshop, there’s another, almost identical box of baking to bring home as well! I think that there’s going to be one full freezer here, but how good is that?
Oh, and you might recall the reflections I was admiring at lunchtime on the canal? Well, after the baking workshop, we drove to Symphony Hall Birmingham, to a concert and sat by the canal there for a while, enjoying the unseasonably warm evening.
Did I think the reflection at lunchtime was good?
Birmingham did better!
In the still evening air, the water was like glass, until a flight (flotilla?) of geese decided to mush it up by swimming along it!
The concert was terrifc. Andris Nelsons on tiptop form and a well filled hall is almost guaranteed to make the evening special and we left feeling bowled over by the experience. If you can Listen Again using the link, you might get a flavour of the atmosphere there in Birmingham, if not, you’ll simply have to believe me that it was indeed a dazzling evening.
What a day.
What an evening.
What an aroma in the car when we returned after the concert!!