Comfort food. Everyone has a special dish that transports them back to a certain time or place. The smell of your Gran’s best sticky toffee pud baking in the oven, the salty, crispy crunch of your favourite pub’s fish and chips, or the creamy, decadent delight of that first bite of mac n’ cheese – no matter the occasion, each of us has an emotional connection to food whether we know it or not. For me, bread is the food that satisfies any pang of hunger, big or small. There’s something about the smell of freshly baked bread that makes me think of home back in Texas. Baguettes, sourdough, wholemeal, donuts, bagels, I don’t discriminate. Pass the butter and all is right in the world. To celebrate my love of all things starchy, I visited Bread Ahead in Borough Market for a class on how to make the classic white loaf.
We began by tying on our aprons and sitting down for a brief introduction about the simplistic ingredients with which bread is made (did you know that making any good loaf is at least a three-day journey?) Next we travelled back in time to learn about bread as a commodity and the transition of the classic loaf from a mealtime staple to a shunned appetizer sworn off by health fanatics. Our instructor was a self-proclaimed ‘old hippie’ who explained the importance of not buying store-bought bread and making all of your subsequent loafs with love. Although it might sound a bit eccentric in theory, the underlying message was to do the things you’re passionate about to the best of your ability. A mantra I think most of us can appreciate.
After a quick break for some Bread Ahead brownies (which I highly recommend) it was time to get our hands dirty. We poured, blended, kneaded, folded, shaped and carved our beloved dough until it was time to lightly brush it with some polenta and flour (to prevent sticking) and carefully place in the oven at high heat for about 20 minutes. The result was glorious to say the least: a soft in the middle yet crispy on the outside mound of perfection. I couldn’t believe how lovely it tasted and looked. We are still eating the beautiful bread we made nearly a week later, and I have to say it’s going to be really difficult for me to go back to buying my usual half-loaf from Ocado.
If bread or pastries or even baking is your passion, I highly suggest a visit to Bread Ahead for any one of their in-depth courses on mastering the art. Start your own tradition by learning to make your signature comfort food and you’ll walk away with the confidence to create a lovely dish from scratch and a fond new foodie memory.
Don’t forget the butter.
— Jessie Dickerson