Though not for long! Jane, who heads up Virtuous Bread, spends most of her time living in Mexico but always catches up with the Bread Angels when she’s back in London. We first met Jane back in September when Katie, Darrin and I completed our Bread Angel training, back in the days before we even considered opening a micro bakery…
Jane’s mission through Virtuous Bread is to make it fun and easy for people around the world to buy, make, learn about, share, and eat good bread and in so doing, create the link between eating good bread and doing good things. Jane is the author of several great bread books, teaches people how to bake bread, runs team building sessions for businesses and trains others to do the same. I remember us discussing how wonderful it would be if every community could have its own Bread Angel baking good, fresh, affordable, real bread within walking distance?
Whilst our micro bakery is still just months old, we have baked thousands of loaves and buns and trained several others in the simple art of bread making, it’s great to be part of a wider group of other Bread Angels who are supporting their own communities in the same way.
Last Friday, Jane invited the Bread Angels to a reunion bread class, this time trying out some German style breads and buns. I was particularly excited to join in with this as I’d never attempted bagels before and was very cautious about using lye (think caustic soda drain cleaner) to make pretzels. Another pull for me was a German Easter bread filled with almond paste, poppy seeds and apricot jam, I was keen to try this as our Stollen had been so popular over Christmas.
After an initial introduction to the other Bread Angels, a big thanks to Claire for hosting us, we formed groups to work on each activity. I was in the bagel bunch and was very pleased with the ‘soft on the inside, chewy on the outside’ rolls that we made, so much so that we now have them available at the micro bakery.
Fortunately, the group making pretzels were dipping them in a hot solution of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and water, this was obviously much safer that the traditional lye and gave the same shiny dark brown crust to the pretzels once baked with a sprinkling of sea salt. We each had a practise of the traditional pretzel knot and were pleased to see how they kept their shape from soft dough proving, through hot water bath, to oven bake before cooling.
As for the Easter bread, I took along a portion of our home made almond paste flavoured with orange zest and Grand Marnier, this was then combined with apricot jam and poppy seeds and was folded into an enriched dough before cutting and twisting it into a beautiful shape, glazing and baking to perfection.
We finally made a bespoke seeded rye loaf each, I chose a combination of rye, spelt and malted flour and flavoured mine with dark molasses and caraway seeds, it made the perfect base for a Scandinavian starter platter that we made for supper guests at the weekend.
It is such a privilege to catch up with Jane whenever she is back in London, Katie gave me her book, The Book of Buns, for Christmas which I enjoy browsing and scheming as to which recipe I should try next, I’ve also ordered Jane’s new book Perfecting Sourdough and look forward to baking along with the new Facebook Group set up to try the recipes together.
On the subject of food and it’s production, we are hosting a Fairtrade Breakfast on Saturday 5th March to start the conversation on Ethical Food. It’s part of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign ‘Sit Down for Breakfast, Stand Up for Farmers’, more info and tickets can be found here.
As the days are getting longer, we now have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner. The next month or so sees Bread: Sweet & Savoury, Easter at Hen Corner and our exciting new Spoon Carving (Traditional Skills) course (with only a couple of spaces left), so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!
- The new chickens have settled in well, although Persil needs her wing clipped as she’s often found up in the tree tops!
- Country Living Magazine have published the timetable of talks for the Spring Garden and Theatre at this year’s Spring Fair
- We’ve perfect a surprise activity for this week’s Corporate Team Day, we are delighted that the Cinnamon Network are choosing us again.
Jobs for this week:
- Prepare for a private Bread Course for a group of friends
- Make more Colomba di Pasquale for collection on Friday
- Keep watering in the poly tunnel
Join us on the Journey!