WITH BREAD MATTERS
to bake in Cumbria with an artisan baker
. . . hands-on baking courses for amateurs and professionals
is time to take bread into our own hands. Not just because
the modern industrial loaf is sad, soggy, nutritionally depleted
and adulterated with hidden additives, but because making
bread is one of the most satisfying things you can do. More
and more people are discovering a simple but profound fulfillment
in turning flour, water, yeast and salt into nourishing food,
at the same time bringing a little stillness to their busy
most enjoyable stress-free two days I have had in a
is easy, if you give it time.
how to do it and explaining why dough works as it does is
the calling of organic pioneer and artisan baker Andrew Whitley.
His hands-on courses introduce beginners, enthusiasts and
culinary professionals alike to the fundamentals of fermentation
on which all good bread depends. He is convinced that making
good bread is everyone's privilege. His knowledge and skill
help banish the fear of failure which blights many people's
attempts at bread.
abiding concern is to tell others why good bread is vital
to the health of people and the planet and to show them how
to make it with their own hands.
better place to do this than Melmerby in the unspoilt Eden
Valley near the English Lake District? With stimulating company,
good food in the Village Bakery Organic Restaurant and an
atmosphere at once purposeful and relaxed, it all adds up
to what one student called 'a life-enhancing experience'.
think everybody departed on Sunday evening with a great
sense of achievement, a warm glow of self-satisfaction,
a great sense of camaraderie and a sack full of delicious
bread. It was inspiring to be taught by someone so absorbed
by a simple goal: to make good bread. And good it is.'"
years ago Andrew left London, and a career as a BBC Russian
Service producer, for a life of greater self-reliance in the
hills of Cumbria, equipped with little more than a conviction
that bread matters. He started to grow food on five organic
acres in a small village at the foot of the Pennines and converted
the stone barn next to his house into a bakery and teashop.
A wood-fired oven was built because the village electricity
supply was inadequate, there was no mains gas and oil was
very expensive in the mid-70s.
turned out that baking with renewable energy was fully consistent
with the main aim of the bakery - to make tasty and healthy
bread and cakes using organically grown English wheat locally
milled by water power. By the end of the 1980s, the bakery
and restaurant (for that is what it had become) had achieved
a certain reputation, but the premises were woefully cramped.
So a new bakery was built in 1991, incorporating a French
wood-fired oven with a capacity of over five hundred loaves.
new bakery began to supply wholefood and organic shops in
various parts of Britain. Then, as the importance of an organic
approach to food and health became more widely recognised,
the bakery was asked to supply Waitrose supermarkets.
chance invitation to revisit Russia enabled Andrew to research
traditional methods and he returned with a sourdough culture
which was then used in a range of rye breads that really put
the Village Bakery on the map. The BBC Radio 4 Food programme's
founder-presenter Derek Cooper once called Andrew "one
of the most uncompromising bakers in Britain", identifying
him as one of the leaders in a revival of artisan baking which
has bucked the trend towards additive enriched uniformity
in British breadmaking. A committed advocate of organic food
production, Andrew put theory to work in the daily production
of thousands of loaves and cakes, made with the simple conviction
that health abounds in natural ingredients transformed with
time, care and a little humility.
awards followed culminating in the Organic Trophy - the highest
accolade of the Organic Food Awards - in 1998. That same year,
neighbouring bakers Bells of Lazonby, wanting to join the
organic revolution, acquired a majority stake in the business.
Production, which was uncomfortably cramped at Melmerby, was
moved to Lazonby eight miles away and Bells installed an innovative
modern wood-fired oven to keep consistency with Village Bakery
and time were once again available at the Melmerby bakery
and Andrew launched Bread Matters baking courses, aimed at
people who shared his fascination with what really makes good
bread. At the end of 2002, Andrew handed over the running
of the bakery and restaurant completely to Bells to concentrate
on Bread Matters from his home a few yards down the road from
the Melmerby bakery.
courses are led by Andrew and are fully 'hands-on'. In addition
to a folder of detailed notes and recipes, students get plenty
of individual help with the products they are making. Having
stepped down from active involvement in The Village Bakery
at the end of 2002, as well as running the courses, Andrew
writes, chairs the Soil Association Processing Standards Committee
and campaigns for better food and health - all under the mantle
of a new company whose name, he hopes, says it all:
. . Bread
particularly enjoyed the way organic baking was linked
both ethically and philosophically to food and the environment
with humour and passion."
is the basic Bread Matters course which is suitable for
everyone, whatever their experience.
Like all the courses, it is completely 'hands-on'. By making
several different loaves from start to finish students learn
and understand what is really happening when flour, water,
salt and yeast are mixed together. Complete beginners are
given a sound introduction, while those with more experience
improve their range and understand - often for the first
time - why things work the way they do (or sometimes don't).
Everyone makes 'benchmark' loaves, yeasted and naturally
fermented, in which the five crucial stages of proper breadmaking
are experienced and analysed: mixing, fermenting, moulding,
proving and baking. Then students move on to other recipes,
each demonstrating a different and delicious way of using
the fermentation process.
two days of fully hands-on baking, students take home everything
they have baked plus a folder full of notes and recipes.
All meals are provided in the Organic Restaurant, including
dinner on the evening of the first day and breakfast on
atmosphere is friendly and cooperative and so relaxed that
people hardly realise how much they are learning. It is
an exhilarating mixture of physical activity and thought-provoking
ideas. At suitable moments, Andrew Whitley tells how he
came to start The Village Bakery, and reflects on the rough
road from earnest artisan to supermarket supplier.
tends to range widely, taking in nutrition, organics, dietary
sensitivities and food politics. Above all, it is fun.
you for taking away some of my fear of making bread
and my feelings of failure after following certain recipes
and for increasing my understanding of breadmaking processes
and of the need to improve diet, bread and how it is
per cent of Italian bread is made by small craft bakers
(compared to six per cent in Britain) and the country is
blessed with a genuinely regional food culture.
an alternative to British baking (with its preference for
square slices and regular rolls) this course teaches you
how to handle the soft, stretchy doughs that produce the
chewy, open textures of breads like Ligurian focaccia, Altamura
semolina bread, and Tuscan schiacciata. You will make and
use a biga or overnight sponge in which bread is made with
a little yeast and a lot of time, as befits the birthplace
of the slow food movement.
thanks for the baking course last weekend: an amazing
experience and I don't think I've come down to earth
yet. In addition to the fascination of (mis)handling
dough and the insight into the mysteries of bread, the
delightful spirit was a tonic."
a month goes by without the launch of a new 'free-from'
range in the supermarkets. But many consumers are deterred,
as much by the high prices as by the strange additives that
seem so inappropriate in foods aimed at people already struggling
with dietary sensitivities.
want or need a gluten-free diet shouldn't mean abandoning
sound nutrition, even if it is sometimes hard to make things
exactly the same as their 'normal' counterparts. So home
baking is often the only answer and this course is guided
by the key Bread Matters principle - to combine naturally
occurring, organically grown ingredients into products which
are good to eat, in the full meaning of those words.
make gluten-free bread, yeasted and naturally leavened,
as well as cakes, biscuits, pizzas and pastries, balancing
sweet and savoury and always remembering that the aim is
to make things that all the family will enjoy, whatever
their dietary requirements.
have started to eat the various breads and they are
really excellent. We were always very demanding when
we came to purchase bread but now our standards are
at such a high level that I suspect we will only be
satisfied with bread that we make ourselves."
Russia to Scandinavia via the Baltic comes a tradition of
baking that reflects harsh climates and poor soils. Many
people in Northern Europe still prefer the robust flavours
of long-fermented rye breads accompanied by a healthy diet
of wild mushrooms and berries. There's a feeling in these
parts that bread still matters. In Russia, for instance,
the words khlyeb-sol' (bread-salt) are synonymous with 'hospitality'.
starting the Village Bakery, Andrew Whitley studied in Russia
and worked in the BBC Russian service. In this course you
can learn from his considerable knowledge of sourdoughs
and share recipes for breads, pastries and cakes from various
parts of Northern Europe.
was even more enjoyable than I'd expected, and my expectations
were very high."
for a Living
the two years since it was first offered, Baking for a Living
has been considerably oversubscribed. There's definitely
something in the air: more and more people are seeking a
more meaningful, perhaps less stressful, life - and artisan
baking is an attractive option.
for a Living is designed for anyone considering (or already
taking the first steps in) baking bread for sale and for
people thinking of making this in some way part of a changed
life. As well as baking key recipes that can form the basis
of a whole repertoire of products, you'll learn a wealth
of detail about the practicalities of small-scale baking,
the realities of organic production and the politics of
is better placed to impart this information than Andrew
Whitley, who started a village bakery from scratch and ran
it for over twenty-five years. You will get advice that's
sympathetic but unsentimental, economically realistic yet
passionately supportive of anyone seeking health and meaning
in a life informed by aspirations nobler than the mere pursuit
wanted to say how much I enjoyed the course and the
time we spent with you. I found it educational and refreshing
on many different levels - from the culinary to something
far deeper and longer lasting. I think what you have
achieved and are continuing to achieve is very impressive
and is a beacon of excellence for all struggling entrepreneurs
(like me) to keep at it and to believe in the bigger
picture and the greater good."
are many reasons for making bread with sourdoughs or leavens
- flavour, texture, avoidance of bakers' yeast, not to mention
the superior digestibility and nutritional quality of these
doughs. But for many people, it is sheer fascination with
the fermentation process that leads them along this endless
the literature on sourdough baking often makes it sound
like alchemy, complete with a priesthood, strange language
and interminable rituals. It doesn't have to be like this!
Sourdough for All, we show how easy it can be to create
and use a natural fermentation. Students make their own
starters (from wheat, rye and other grains) and may try
out the sourdough that Andrew Whitley originally brought
from a bakery in Russia 16 years ago. We dispel myths, reject
mystification and show how science and craft come together
in an age-old process which anyone can use to make their
own delicious, healthy bread.
with leavens was good too, there being something rather
magical about the yeast / bacteria / enzyme process
- the chemistry of the universe. The combination of
hands on experience and thinking and analysing was the
heart of it."
for bakers with some experience (although virtual novices
have also participated to great effect) the Masterclass
is an opportunity to examine in more depth the fundamentals
of good baking.
basic ingredients and processes are covered by way of benchmark
loaves and there is time to make recipes more than once
in order to identify and correct imperfections. Recipes
from a wide variety of baking traditions will be tackled,
with scope for students to pursue their own interests. An
in-depth (and friendly) critique of students' work will
lead to understanding and improvement.
course is suitable for both enthusiastic amateurs and food
professionals who wish to perfect their skills while finding
out more about organics, natural fermentations and good
baking in wood-fired ovens.
notes and recipes are provided. An afternoon visit to the
nearby Watermill (source of the Village Bakery's flour for
the first decade or so) is provided and there is some free
time to explore the fells or lakes.
optional 'business' session imparts valuable insights into
the economics of small-scale baking and the marketing of
organic food. There is scope for conversation, time to dip
into the Bread Matters library of baking books and to share
baking (and other) experiences with fellow students in a
relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
with our two-day courses, all daytime meals are included,
as is the cost of one evening meal with wine in the Village
Bakery Organic Restaurant.
. . would just like
to say a huge thank you to you - it's probably the best
course that I have ever been on! It was wonderful to
go home with so many really unusual breads too. I am
sure to be arranging a holiday in Cumbria so that I
can come to another course."
are held at The Village Bakery, Melmerby, Penrith, Cumbria,
England - located between Penrith and Alston on the A686 road
and 9 miles North East of Junction 40 of the M6 Motorway.
There are train stations at Penrith (West Coast line) and
Langwathby (Settle-Carlisle line). There is a taxi rank at
Penrith station. Bread Matters can collect you from Langwathby
station which is 4 miles from the bakery. The nearest airports
are Newcastle (75 minutes) and Manchester (2 hours).
is not included in the course cost. On receipt of a booking
fee or deposit , Bread Matters supply details of local hotels
and bed & breakfasts.
lunch and tea (with breakfast on the second day of the two
day courses) punctuate sessions in the bakery. As the course
progresses, you will sample the products you have made fresh
from the wood-fired oven. On the first day of a two-day course
(the Wednesday of a five-day course) an evening meal with
wine is included in the course cost and is a chance to experience
superb organic food and drink in the Village Bakery Restaurant.
Partners not attending the course are welcome to come to this
meal (at extra cost).
the Eden Valley and the North Pennines offer wonderful opportunities
for visitors and Bread Matters has scheduled most of its courses
around weekends with this in mind. Bread Matters provides
local tourist information when acknowledging receipt of a
you so much for a wonderful course. I really enjoyed
myself. It was interesting and fun . . . and delicious.
You're very inspiring! What you've done up there is
amazing and clearly successful because of the passion
you feel about making good, honest food."
Hub-UK : email@example.com