You can’t beat the smell of fresh dough rising through your home and thanks to the Real Pâtisserie bread baking class I attended recently, my house is now filled with that smell.
The Real Pâtisserie empire began with a single shop in Trafalgar Street in 1997 and over two decades it’s grown to five branches in Brighton, all independently run and self-sufficient.
The shops sell bread baked fresh every day, sweet and savoury pastries, cakes, quiches and sandwiches, as well as catering for parties and supplying local cafés and restaurants. And now, the Kemptown shop is offering bread-baking lessons to the public too!
Two weeks ago, on one of those rainy Sundays when you might find it hard to find something to do, I was invited down to try out the class.
The day started at 11am, with a quick chemistry lesson from head baker Justin covering how all the ingredients interact and how varying them changes the characteristics of a loaf.
Afterwards, Justin demonstrated how we make the dough, building a well with the flour and pouring the water into the middle and gradually bringing in the flour into the water from the sides.
Since you pour the water directly on the worktop to do this, there’s a bit of a knack to getting it right but thankfully I nailed it and narrowly avoided a leaky dam.
Then, when our dough was formed, Justin showed us his perfected kneading techniques – the key to which is vigour!
By stretching and banging the dough on the table you help to knock the gluten into chains, making it elastic and therefore easier to work with. In other words, this is the time to thrash out any pent-up angst!
Once the demos were all done it was our turn to get our hands messy and have a go for ourselves. We made our sourdough and rye doughs first and whilst waiting for it to prove we had a tour of the shop and the kitchens before pausing for a delicious lunch provided by Real Pâtisserie.
The lunch spread was filled with all sorts of baked goodies made by the team on the premises, including two different varieties of quiches, a fresh salad, a fruit chutney (sold in the bakery) and a loaf of Real Pâtisserie’s famous chewy brown.
After lunch, we rolled out our sourdough baguettes and shaped our rye and focaccia loaves.
Making the focaccia was my favourite part of the day because we had the freedom to flavour our loaves in any way we liked with a pic n mix tray of fresh ingredients.
With so many delicious options, it was hard not to overdo it and add everything into one loaf but I managed to hold my excited hands back, pushing cherry tomatoes, rosemary sprigs, cheese and cubes of chorizo into pockets in my dough and finally sprinkling with fennel seeds, rock salt and pepper.
Ok well maybe I did put a lot in but the end result was absolutely incredible and my best-baked bread to date – really light, really springy, with the pockets of cheese and chorizo dotted throughout tasted indulgent but delicious.
According to my pa, who wolfed down the loaf later with me, “it was the best focaccia he’d ever tasted” – and he’s not someone to throw around compliments.
By 4pm I had made six loaves; two sourdough demi baguettes, a loaf of focaccia, a loaf of rye bread with caraway seeds, plus one white and one wholemeal loaf of sourdough. Plus, a sourdough starter to take home and use for future bakes.
Creating a sourdough starter was a much simpler process than I anticipated, involving feeding the yeast spores and bacteria with equal measures of flour to water and allowing time for it to develop and bubble.
It takes around 2 weeks to establish your starter for the first time but once you have it, it can be stored in your fridge easily and refreshed by feeding it more flour and water.
At the very end of the class, there was the option to buy a baking kit with everything you need to make your loaves at home for £20.
This included: Real Pâtisserie artisan bread flour (you can’t use ordinary plain/self-raising), proving bowls, muslin, dough cutters and yeast.
The kits were very popular in our class so there weren’t enough for us all to buy one on the day, so if you’d like one, my advice is to get your order in first.
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to make bread from scratch or your attempts have never quite had the WOW factor, a day spent at Real Pâtisserie will just change all that.
You won’t learn how to make their famous chewy brown loaf – that recipe is naturally, on lockdown – but the five other loaves will keep you busy.
Personally, I think the day itself as an experience alone is well worth the money, let alone the knowledge gained, recipes and tips (sent via email after the course too), lunch and cakes, plus how much bread you take home.
What’s more, it’s a fantastic gift to buy someone who loves food or needs to grow confidence in the kitchen.
Need to know
Courses run once a month on a Sundays and cost £80 but they book up quickly so don’t wait around. The next available course is the 2nd September but there are only 2 spaces left already! Visit www.realpatisserie.co.uk to view future course dates and to book.
*Disclaimer: I was invited along to review the class but with or without an invite, my review will always be completely honest.
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