Baking bread in west London
Do you think bread making is best left to the pros? That not only would it be labour intensive, but also can’t be any good unless baked in a brick oven? I certainly did. Then I met Sandra Benet from Kensal Kitchen and spent a Saturday with her and a few other students learning to bake bread from scratch. The results were outstanding – proper artisan looking and produced out of a regular kitchen with no fancy equipment. There are some tricks however – like placing a pizza stone in the base of oven as well as gently misting the inside with water prior to the bread going in.
After years of working at the BBC as a graphic designer Sandra followed her passion of working with her hands and embarked on a new path. At first she started fixing up houses, but at the same time pursuing another passion of hers – bread making classes. She now runs classes out of her west London home – a cosy kitchen just off Chamberlayne Road. Each class focuses on a certain style of bread.
Inspired by the food movement and the sense of community baking around a table creates, Sandra felt the time was right to open her kitchen:
“People are a lot more interested in learning new skills, and also more aware of what’s really inside our food.”
Sandra is a trained Pastry Chef, with a Grande Diplome in Patisssierie and Confectionary but is returning this year to study for an International Diploma.
Our class focused around ‘everyday bread’, which consisted of the basic brown loaf (we made some small dinner rolls, and a larger brown loaf that had nuts and dried fruit inside), as well as a white country loaf, Fougasse and Flamiche (perfect for pizza bases).
The first loaf made was the basic brown. I now understand why every baker I’ve met is so chilled. All the week’s tensions were taken out in that loaf. The concept of ‘kneading’ isn’t what I imagined — it’s more like slamming the dough on the work surface. I think we all found this quite therapeutic as dough was pummeled on the surface with passion. Here’s a before and after of the first batch:
We also learned about the multiple health benefits of making your own bread—especially interesting if you suffer from gluten allergies. Apparently conventional bakeries do not allow the normal amount of time bread requires to rise in an effort to produce as many loafs as possible. The longer development time effects the flour, making it easier to digest as well as developing flavour through fermentation. People with prior reactions to bread find they can digest it when baked in a slower traditional way (the way it should be). It’s certainly worth looking into…
If the day couldn’t get better, Sandra prepared a wholesome lunch for us to eat – a pancetta and leek Flamiche (which we made), accompanied by beetroot humous and a salad. We certainly worked up an appetite – especially with the heavenly scent coming from the oven…
My procrastination of buying a bread maker has paid off. Making it by hand is easy and satisfying. It’s a great activity to do as a family. You can achieve beautiful, healthy bread with a few simple ingredients. I left Kensal Kitchen with a new skill and a weeks worth of bread—it also freezes really well.
All day classes start range from £75-£85. Sandra also holds kids classes which cost £35 for 2.5 hours. A perfect idea as a gift for the foodie in your life or to do as a group.
To see more mouth watering pictures of the class – pop over to our Facebook page!
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