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Bread Matters with Andrew Whitley at Schumacher

Three Loaves from Bread Matters as thought by Andrew Whitley at Schumacher College

Bread & Buns | 5th December 2009 | By

What a fantastic time I had at Schumacher College and what a great place it is to unwind and meet interesting folk. The course, Baking for a New Food Culture, gave me even more than I had hoped for. I now have a new food hero, Andrew Whitley, the authority on all bread matters!

We learnt about and discussed the history, politics and health properties (or not) of bread in the mornings and baked wonderfully nourishing and tasty bread in the afternoons.

Day One – Sourdough

Andrew had us “air kneading” Pain de Campagne (a wheat sourdough) and having a go at a Russian Rye (another sourdough). One of the reasons I wanted to go on the course was to learn to make a good sourdough that wasn’t actually too sour. I’ve had a few attempts at making my own sourdough bread from scratch and although the loaves turned out well, they were just too too sour. Luckily, both of these sourdough breads turned out well, despite the unusual method of kneading. They were completely delicious with just the right note of tanginess without beingat all vinegary. Result!

Andrew gave us some of his fabulous Russian Rye starter and I’ve been successfully making rye sourdough bread every since. Here’s a link to my rye sourdough bread post if anyone’s interested in having a go.

Day Two – Italian Breads

Day two saw us air kneading again. This time we made Ciabatta and Focaccia. Again, both were delicious and very quickly consumed during one of the gorgeous meals served at Schumacher.

Day Three – Challah

Day three and we were making Challah, an enriched and sweetened Jewish bread traditionally eaten on the Sabbath. This one I didn’t get to taste as I gave it to my wonderful friends who had kindly taken in CT to look after while I was away on the course. They tell me it was lovely.

Sheila Dillon of the Food Programme on Radio 4 spent some time with us. She showed the film The Real Dirt on Farmer John and then led a discussion on the need to get everyone to understand the importance of eating real food produced by real people.

Bread Matters

See Andrew’s site Bread Matters for further information about the importance of real, non-industrialised bread. There’s a short video clip which shows something very similar to what we were doing at Schumacher, including air kneading. Here, you can also buy copy of his highly informative book “Bread Matters: why and how to make your own” and / or join the Real Bread Campaign. You can also get hold of some of his amazing sourdough starter.

OK, this post doesn’t have a great deal to do with chocolate, but it is very much to do with real food AND on the last night we were served the most delicious chocolate and medlar tart!


  1. Kath

    7th December 2009 at 12:45 pm

    The breads look fantastic, that plait looks particularly tempting. I am glad you enjoyed it so much. It sounds like a fantastic course and I am very envious. I hope CT is better and that he enjoys your new breadmaking skills.

  2. Janice

    7th December 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Sounds like a great course. In answer to your question about the shortbread, you can freeze it and then just refresh in the oven for a couple of minutes. I have visitors this weekend, so half is in a plastic box for that and the rest went in the freezer.

  3. Janice

    7th December 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Ah got you now. My mum used to just put them in a biscuit tin, so I don’t think that would be much help! Lots of the craft sites present their cookies in little cellophone bags with tags on. Lakeland have clear and Christmas bags here The biscuits should stay fresh for 3 or 4 days in these bags. Hope this helps 🙂

  4. nipitinthebud

    8th December 2009 at 10:22 am

    sounds like a great way to spend the day and it’s always lovely to spend time with fellow foodies. N x
    ps. thanks for the arrowroot tip ;o)

  5. Real Bread

    8th December 2009 at 11:16 am

    Glad to read you enjoyed Andrew’s course at Schumacher – I did it last year and look where I ended up.

    Thanks for the plug for the Real Bread Campaign membership scheme, too.

    People can also follow RealBread on Twitter.

    Chris Young

  6. VegBoxBoy

    8th December 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Nice looking bread: I haven’t found the setting on my bread machine that does plaits yet.

    Hope Chief Tester is ok. X

  7. Choclette

    9th December 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Just eaten the last piece of Sourdough and 8 days on it still tasted great – admittedly it was toasted! Trouble is now, I have to try and source stoneground rye and our local organic shop may take some time to get it in.

    Chief Taster making very slow progress, but he is at least making progress and yes he did enjoy the bread Kath.

    Real Bread – good to know Andrew gets things moving! I have now joined the Campaign for Real Bread. What I really want is a local baker to bake real bread for us.

    VBB – I expect Bread machines are an awful lot easier than baking bread by hand, even if not able to do the fancy stuff!

  8. realfoodlover

    29th December 2009 at 10:57 am

    Hi Choclette, thank you for a terrific description of the course. It sounds super and you got both Andrew AND Sheila Dillon! How cool is that.

    Did you love Schumacher college? I know the area but have not been on a course – by all accounts the community do a fab job at keeping the place running and cooking delicious healthy food. They have a cookbook too.

    Great to see a challah – we used to have one every Friday night when my family was more observant bought from Grodsinki’s.

  9. Zeb

    11th February 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Looks like a good course! If you want to make sourdough bread that isn’t sour, like for example the one you use to make panettone or a mild rye then you need to adapt the quantities of old starter to new flour and water and refresh more frequently at a warmer temperature, then you get a very active starter going more quickly and it has less time to produce the acids and so on that create the ‘sour’ taste. Leavens can be very mild in taste in the finished bread indeed. Also wondered if you would be interested in this chocolate torpedo bread made with something called potato yeast I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks very interesting! all the best Zeb

  10. Choclette

    11th February 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Jo, it was a fantastic course. I’m so pleased I went. It got me back into baking bread after years and years of buying loaves. I’m now baking a weekly batch of rye sourdough which suits us very well. It tastes tangy without being sour, has great texture and makes great sandwiches which I make for work. The best thing about it is that it is so quick and easy and doesn’t need any kneading. As long as I am organised and get the starter refreshed the day before or even early the same day, I don’t have a great deal and it doesn’t make a mess. I did try making a wheat sourdough after the course which does require kneading, but my kitchen is so small, it wasn’t really practical – it tasted good, but don’t think I’m likely to do it too often. I also don’t have much time. So although the chocolate torpedo bread sounds great, I’m unlikely to make it until I have more space. However, if you would like to do a guest post about it on my blog I would be delighted?


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