New Local Breadmaking Classes

Oct 5, 2013 by

Have you ever fancied filling your kitchen with the smell of homemade bread? If so, I’m delighted to share some news about the latest venture from Twickenham’s community bakery, Blackbird Bread, who have launched a range of affordable breadmaking classes that are proving to be a big hit with local people.

Running at venues in Twickenham and Hampton, the courses are suitable for complete beginners or those wanting to brush up their skills or learn about a particular type of bread.

For anyone wanting to know more, our good friend Sara attended the Introduction to Breadmaking workshop and shares her experience in this wonderful, evocative review.



‘Introduction to Breadmaking’ with Blackbird Bread – a Review

at The Cheese and Wine Company in Hampton, August 2013

We are to make two kinds of bread this evening; a basic white yeasted loaf, and a quick to make-and-bake soda bread. Mark has already weighed and measured all the ingredients that we will be using and placed them within easy reach on the long farmhouse table. He introduces Liz, who will be helping throughout the evening, and Steve, who owns the Cheese and Wine Company (and will be treating us later to a glass of wine and a cheese tasting). Then we all introduce ourselves, don our aprons and set to work on our yeasted loaves.

We mix our ingredients together until it’s time to tip the shaggy, rough dough onto a well-floured surface. Then we roll our sleeves up and get stuck in with our hands, kneading it until it starts to change texture, and become silky and elastic. It is a very therapeutic, tactile task, and I could quite happily relax into the rhythm of this for some time, day-dreaming away! Several minutes later, we are all working with beautifully supple pieces of dough.

This loaf can be made with white, wholemeal or spelt flour or a mixture of flours. During the session, Mark demonstrates how to form the dough into a tight ball, ready to be placed back into the mixing bowls to “prove”. He explains how the yeast and the gluten work together so that the dough can expand and begin to rise. This will take about 45 minutes, says Mark. Bread does take time; it can’t be rushed. Some of the loaves that you can buy in the supermarket have been commercially produced in under 35 minutes so, no matter how delicious they might look, when you come to eat them the process of “proving” can continue in your tummy. Ever felt bloated after eating bread? That can be why!

We move onto our soda breads. Mark tells us that soda bread is a very adaptable bread; it can be knocked up quickly for supper; it can be studded with seeds and fruit for a sweet treat or spiced up with cheese and perhaps chilli for a kick. We pat our dough into rounds and score a deep cross into each one – to let the fairies out, says Mark (and also, more practically, to ensure an even bake). And then the loaves go into a hot oven for our first bake of the evening – exciting! So quick and easy!

Mark explains why a hot oven is so essential to getting a lovely crisp crust and deep colour on your bread, and a good rise. 30 minutes later, our glistening gold loaves of soda bread come singing and sizzling from the oven. The aroma is heavenly!

It would be tempting to dive right in, right now, but our yeasted loaves need our attention. They have doubled in size and are ready to be “knocked back” and reshaped, ready for the oven. Mark demonstrates another technique for shaping bread, a more complicated “artisan” style than the previous clock method, and then the loaves are placed back on a tray under muslin to continue to prove.

Surrounded by the scrumptious smells, I am starting to feel quite peckish and am delighted when Mark announces that it’s time for a short break and produces some of his own delicious white bread, baked that morning. Steve presents us with some artisan cheeses to eat with it and pours us all a glass of white wine and we enjoy a sociable half hour, meeting the other attendees on the course and talking about our own experiences (or not!) of baking bread in the past and how easy Mark has made it all seem this evening. We all agree that we will certainly be putting his hints and tips into practice in our own kitchens… although maybe not often enough for Mark to lose his loyal customers to their own efforts!

Before we bake our yeasted loaves, Mark demonstrates how to slash the dough to create the distinctive patterning that we all associate with “artisan” bread. We all seize upon the opportunity to be creative and, in no time, our loaves are slashed in our own particular styles, dusted with flour (for colour contrast after baking, says Mark), and placed into the hot oven to bake.

And finally, forty minutes later they emerge, golden brown with a crackling crust and smelling utterly delicious. It’s been a fantastic evening, relaxed and chatty but informative and inspiring. We each scurry off into the night with our brown paper bags of baked goods, eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s breakfast of soda bread and jam, or crisp white toast with lashings of melted butter and scoops of marmalade.



About Blackbird Bread

Blackbird Bread is a community micro bakery based in Twickenham that launched in April 2012, baking for friends, neighbours and local markets. They bake from home using a domestic oven and offer a range of breads, including sourdough, malted, rye, gluten-free and soda bread and a small selection of cakes. If you are local they will even deliver handmade bread direct to your door. Read our Introduction to Blackbird Bread for more details.

About the Breadmaking Courses

This summer Blackbird Bread launched a range of affordable evening classes in local venues, to share some of their expertise. Classes take place either at The Coffee Lab in Twickenham or at The Cheese and Wine Company in Hampton. Each class lasts approximately three hours and the emphasis is very much on fun, getting your hands messy and gaining some tips which will help you to make a perfect loaf every time! You take home all of the bread that you make and are given the recipes to use whenever you like. Prices range from £45 to £55 per person and this includes a tasting session with a homemade treat (at The Coffee Lab) or cheese and wine (at The Cheese and Wine Company).

Current classes include:

  • Introduction to Breadmaking: this evening class (as reviewed above) will introduce you to various ways of making a basic white loaf plus a soda bread, both of which you will take home with you. It will also include a bread tasting session and a glass of wine or a non alcoholic beverage, included in the price. (£45 per person)

  • Focaccia and Olive Bread Workshop: this evening class will introduce how to make a traditional rosemary, sea salt and olive oil focaccia flatbread as well as other non-traditional ways of making a focaccia. After this, you will make olive bread, stuffed with green olives and gain tips which will help you to make stunning bread to accompany that spaghetti Bolognese in the future! (£50 per person)

  • Christmas Bread Class: this evening class focuses upon two types of bread which will enhance any Christmas occasion! Firstly, stollen, a wonderful sweet bread, filled with chopped fruit and marzipan and secondly a plaited walnut and raisin loaf, perfect to accompany any cheese course. You will also make edible Christmas tree decorations and enjoy a bread tasting session, a glass of sherry/wine, or a non alcoholic beverage and a home baked festive treat! (£55 per person)

  • Low gluten Breadmaking: in this class you will make two loaves, (gluten free flour bread and a spelt loaf), both of which contain flour with reduced gluten in them (both can be made at home with the help of any of the baking machines listed at, too). Firstly, you will use gluten free flour to make a delicious loaf and then move on to a spelt loaf, which has more gluten than a loaf made with gluten-free flour, but considerably less than ‘normal’ wheat flour. They are both simple to make and lovely to eat! (£50 per person)

    Upcoming Dates and More Information

    Almost as soon as Blackbird Bread announced their new classes in the summer they sold like hot cakes and were fully booked until December 2013. However, they have responded to demand and introduced some new dates for early 2014. We suggest booking early as they sell-out fast!


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