When my alarm went off at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning my first thought was “Why did I say yes? For me, Saturday is a precious day. It’s the day I catch up on lost sleep (actually that’s not true as I still wake up early) wash my chef’s whites, think about pastries, watch YouTube videos posted by pastry chefs, and check out the new books on baking at my local cookbook shop (Yes, I’m a little obsessed). But today was different. I’d been given the opportunity to spend the morning baking bread with Chef Christophe and I was not going to turn it down.
So as the dawn birds were singing I headed back through the doors of the pastry school. On my arrival Chef Christophe was already in full production. The culinary lab (my home away from home) had been turned into a makeshift bakery. A kilo of bread dough lay on the table waiting to be shaped into loaves of bread. I was in heaven and any lingering concerns of me losing my day off instantly vanished. By Noon Chef Christophe and I had bake a few hundred rustic loaves and the aroma of freshly baked bread filled the kitchen.
My love of bread has been a constant in my life. My memories of travelling by British Rail is not of the train journey itself but, of the hot buttered toast they served in a brown paper bag.
Bread is my comfort food. It is the food I turn to when I am feeling low. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when we had the opportunity to learn how to make bread from a master boulanger. Our guest instructor was Chef Laurent the owner of L’Amour du Pain. Throughout the week we kneaded, folded, shaped, proofed and baked bread under his careful watch.
Chef Laurent not only taught us the technique of how to make a proper French baguette but about fermentation and the Levain (sourdough starter) the heart of good bread. Levain is so precious to boulangers that in Copenhagen there is even a levain hotel (I kid you not) where people can leave their sourdough starter to be cared for when they are on holiday. Chef Laurent has been nurturing his for 16 years and before he left he gave us a gift, some of his levain so we could continue to make good bread.
The week with Chef Laurent was physically exhausting, but fun. There is something satisfying about baking your own bread. It is truly remarkable that the combination of flour, water, salt and yeast can create so many varieties of bread and we made a lot of bread with Chef Laurent.
This week it really has been a slice . . .