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Nothing ‘faux’ about School of Artisan Food

I spent part of my childhood in Nottingham, but had never heard of the Welbeck Estate, and certainly not the more recently established School of Artisan Food, until I started on this bready journey.  I can now firmly say it’s a corker of a place – and if you ever have the chance to try one of their courses, on last week’s evidence I’d say ‘Do!’ – it’s the real deal.

I heard that The School of Artisan Food was started up about 6 years ago when the estate was struggling to find skilled bakers to run their new Artisan Bake House.  Now they offer not just baking, but dairy, butchery, beer making and chocolate training lovelies.  Courses for professionals and many shorter ones for everyday folk.

Admittedly I was in the very fortunate position of having my place on the Advanced Bread Baking course funded by the Big Lottery (as part of the Lloyds Programme with the School for Social Entrepreneurs).  I’ve heard it said that The SAF courses are pricey, and yes, if I was paying myself I’d need to squirrel some cash away first.  But you pays for what you gets, and nowhere is this more true than at The SAF.

Myself and 10 other bakers of varying experience, including 3 fellow Bread Angels, were trained over 4 intensive days by Wayne Caddy, Master Baker and Head of Baking at the school.

Ciabatta cheese sandwich - holy moly!
Ciabatta cheese sandwich – holy moly!

His knowledge, skills and experience are astounding – I’ve never seen a ciabatta crumb like it!  So, if you want to learn from the best, The SAF is the place to check out.

This course was particularly timely as it coincided with the Real Bread Campaign (RBC) lobbying the government face to face on poor labeling of bread, including the outrageous, growing move by big bread companies and supermarkets to ‘encourage’ the country into thinking the ‘sourdough’ they sell is, well, true, pure, slow sourdough.  There is suspicion that often it is not.  Not in my book anyway, or that of many more seasoned true bread bakers.  And they charge you premium prices for it – cashing in on the growing interest in pukka bread. It’s what the RBC terms ‘sourfaux’.  It could have a whole crate of other stuff in it and been made in a way which makes it not true slow sourdough.  However, because they’re not legally obliged to label unwrapped bread in detail, you won’t know that (something the Advertising Standards people fail to see as misleading, so far). The fact detailed labeling is resisted or ignored should, alone, ring alarm bells.

Just a third of our week's work - distributed far and wide!
Just a quarter of our week’s work at The School of Artisan Food – distributed far and wide!

To create a basic pure sourdough you need flour, water, salt – and time.  Time is key.  It is what possibly makes it easier to digest (including for some who suspect they are intolerant to gluten).  You need time to create beauty, and sourdough is certainly that.

At The SAF we baked and baked and baked, and breads with just sourdough starter and some also with added bakers’ yeast, were in that mix.  Everything was made over time.  The flavours are so diverse and textures so varied – and all without the aid of ‘enhancers’ or chemical preservatives or flavourings.  Just good old fashioned real food.

So, watch out for a few more sourdoughs and long fermented breads coming out of Planet Leicester Bakers.  The 100% rye sourdough ‘Glasnost’ is a customer favourite and I’ve been spurred on to build on this by Mr Caddy and a truly wonderful experience up in Robin Hood country.  Thank you kind sir!

Check out Trip Advisor for more reviews of The School of Artisan Food, Nottinghamshire.