Paul Jagger’s Italian Breads Workshop @ Claire Clark Academy

The Great British Bake Off star makes my knead for tasty carbs look a pizza’cake…

You all know I like to eat. I eat out a lot, I am a judge for the MK Food & Leisure Awards and I am never far from a street food festival.

But did you know how embarrassingly inexperienced I am in the kitchen? I’m by no means a bad cook but I stay in my basic batch safe zone, perfecting a few dishes that require little-to-no scare factor.

One of the things I have never made before is BREAD.

Ok, maybe once, if you call it that. I have a distance memory of being a very young Bou and helping my grandad (watching mostly) make roti. A type of flatbread from his home and my heritage home of Guyana in the West Indies. But I can barely remember the taste of them now, let alone how he made them. This is actually a heartbreaking thing to me, write your family receipes down, people! 

Making bread? How much of an epic life skill is that to have under your belt? How many of you love fresh bread or a bread product of some variant? It’s an affordable tasty morsel that can round off a meal, fill a hole when you need a fast snack and be part of your routine life with being the vessel that fills lots of lunch boxes. But finding decent buns to lavish in butter or oils is not easy these days, probably due to the weak variety of the easily accessible but extremely dull supermarket loaf that we have to inspire our bread bins.

Come on, Bouella!

The Claire Clark Academy; centre for patisserie excellence was now well and truly open for students at their home at Milton Keynes College. I was excited to learn that the academy wasn’t just catering (ho ho) to full-time students, but also amateurs and home baking enthusiasts in a range of one day and part time courses too.  When I had a look at their upcoming courses I instantly spotted the Italian Bread course with Paul Jagger and thought- I knead to do this course! Paul Jagger is infamous from his time as a contestant on The Great British Bake Off.

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The thing that always hits me first when I enter the academy is, it really is a state of the art kitchen space. Each work bench makes you feel like you are on some sci fi modern version of bake off. With built in induction hobs, scales, 100s of KG of Homepride flour. You name it, they got it. Even a celeb chef at the front of the class, Mr Paul Jagger, all ready to teach us about Italian Breads.

There was students from the academy full time courses in attendance too. And thankfully for me, each part time student was paired with a full time student which meant we had a helper on hand to ask any silly questions, or help when finding things.

Not that I’m sure it was entirely needed, as alongside Paul was a very inspiring head of the academy, Chef Andrea Ruff. She was on hand for everything we might have needed. Chef Andrea made everyone feel at ease, no-one felt like they were in the deep end and it was a real pleasure to learn in a kitchen with her as well as Paul.

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What makes bread Italian? OLIVE OIL!

I learned that olive oil is found in all Italian bread recipes, but for example, French bread contains no oil or fat. Because the Italian breads feature oil, they last for considerably longer than French breads. French bread bakeries traditionally bake two separate batches throughout the day to ensure freshness for the short life bread (think how quickly a baguette goes stale) but Italian breads can be kept for a couple of days, warmed and eaten even when they start to age a bit. So now you know, trivia fans!

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For the Italian Breads Workshop we were to learn how to bake:
🍞 Focaccia,
🥖🥖Grissini Sticks,
🍕 Spelt Pizza (for us to eat at lunch)
🍞 Ciabatta

First up: Ciabatta mix so it can prove the longest (do that rising thing) 🍞

Here’s Paul Jagger with his massive tub of pre-ferment that he had made earlier Pre-ferment is like a mother dough that makes everything all better, but it was made in advance as it needed hours to be just right to use for our ciabatta recipe (above).

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NEXT: Grissini Sticks 🥖🥖

We made Grissini Sticks flavoured with fresh rosemary from Paul’s own garden! For each bread that we made, we gathered around Paul and he showed us step by step the way to make it. Bread really is a one bowl, one action kinda recipe. Measure out all your ingredients into a bowl, mixed it, maybe leave it for a bit (to do it’s proving thang, if needed) and then turn it out and knead it et voila. Ready for the shape n bake.

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Once Paul had showed us his grissini sticks it was back to our benches for our turn.

It’s funny how you build things up in your head that they are unachievable or impossible for you to do and bread is no exception. I am so guilty of doing this time and time again, are you? But with Paul’s clear instruction, Chef Andrea on hand with every ingredient and piece of equipment that we needed and the students around for advice, we was in safe hands.

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Everything in one bowl – easy!

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Mix together roughly.

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Chuck some flour down and roll it out/shape it for what you need.

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My grissini sticks!! 🥖🥖

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So much fun making the grissini sticks because I was allowed to be creative. Trying different shapes and different toppings sprinkled on top. It made me rediscover the natural pleasure of cooking and how it is a creative art, and although you have to follow the recipe in quantities and cooking methods, there is still some room leftover to play around with and have fun too!

The grissini bread sticks recipe was a dry dough but soon we were being introduced to a wet dough. This is where you get dough stuck everywhere! ARGH!

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Watch the master Paul Jagger show how you knead a wet dough (below).

NEXT: SPELT BREAD PIZZA 🍕

For our lunch we made our own spelt bread pizzas! They were made and cooked so fast that I am now mostly convinced that there is no need for me to buy pizzas again. You know that statement is not gonna stand up when I’m at a street food festival and Little Oven of Joy is in the vicinity, they’re so dreamy but you catch my drift. 

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After lunch: Ciabatta (second part) 🍞

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This is my ciabatta dough, proven (risen) and getting filled with chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

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Ciabattas in da oven!

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I might’ve felt like I was channelling my best Mary Berry, but it didn’t stop Paul Jagger calling my ciabattas duck billed platypuses! 😂

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My finished grissini sticks 🥖🥖

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Last bake of the day: Focaccia 🍞

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Last up for the days baking was the focaccia, which had nigella seeds running through the dough mix and was decorated on top with tons of olive oil, tomatoes, olives and fresh basil leaves and then finished with more oil before baking.

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Look at those foxy focaccias! 😍👇🏻

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Look at all the classes yummy bakes! And we got to take it all home in those professional bakery brown bags. I felt like a proper Masterchef leaving the kitchen 😂

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If you fancy trying your hand at learning to bake but scared you just will fail to rise to the occasion in the kitchen?! TRUST ME! If I can make all this Italian Bread, then anyone can.

We are extremely lucky to be home to the Claire Clark Academy: Centre of Patisserie Excellence at the Milton Keynes College in MK. Why not check out their selection of one day / part time courses and find one that’ll get you baking happy in the kitchen?

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