Competitive Cooking and Fiddly Focaccia!

We recently welcomed Stef from luxury holiday cottage agency, Boutique Retreats, to the Cookery School to experience our Beginner Bread course. Hear what Stef thought of her day at Philleigh Way, including her competitive side, and how she coped with taming the infamous slippery focaccia dough!

“I try desperately to push away my cookery competitiveness and the notion that I’m in Cornwall’s version of the Bake Off…”

When a space became available on the Beginner’s Bread course at Philleigh Way cookery school, I jumped at the chance. Being a keen cook, I love trying my hand at most things, but had shied away from bread as the last few attempts in the kitchen ended up as being of more use as a house brick than in a sandwich.

The school itself is tucked away in the pretty village of Philleigh, close to the King Harry Ferry and easily found between The Roseland Inn and the micro brewery. It’s situated on Court Farm, which chef George (our teacher for the day) tells us over coffee and homemade cake has been in his family for over five generations. It’s a tranquil, idyllic setting with horses being led past throughout the day and inquisitive pheasants peering in at us through the glass.

All in all it’s a laid back welcome for the day, and Georges’ quiet confidence dissipates any nervousness amongst the students, which today includes a B & B owner and someone who’s been given the course as a birthday present from his wife.

George runs through the bread we’re making today, which includes a standard white loaf, a sourdough loaf and focaccia. He’ll also demonstrate how to make naan and yeast-free soda bread.  He runs through the fundamentals of bread making, including the main ingredients and the benefits of the different types, such as strong plain flour versus spelt and fresh yeast versus quick action yeast. We’ve each been given a clip board with all of the recipes we’ll be attempting  – printed so we can take them home with us at the end of the day.

After being shown how to create the first loaf, we each scuttle off to our work space to have a go ourselves and I try desperately to push away my cookery competitiveness and the notion that I’m in Cornwall’s version of the Bake Off. In fact, it’s wonderfully chummy and laid back – we’re all chatting with each other as we weigh out ingredients and knead away for ten minutes’ or so (and boy did my arms feel it at the end of the day after kneading three loaves).

Next up is the mythic sourdough and how to make a starter mix, which George tells us consists of feeding a paste of flour and water every day for a week until its fermented and bubbling, like a pint of beer with a frothy head. Bakers covert their starter mixes so much that they have to be babysat whenever they go on holiday, very much like a dog or a cat, but less hairy.

Whilst our sourdough is rising, we’ve prepped our first loaves for the oven, slicing across the plump floury dough with a razor blade and slid directly onto the oven shelf. Timers are set and breaths held, as we watch our bread babies cook in the oven.

Sensing the trepidation, we’re treated to a glass of bubbly and a slice or two of cheesy, beery Cornish rarebit that George produces out of nowhere– delicious and much needed after all the kneading and pummelling. Crispy and light, the rarebit showcases locally produced cheese and lighter-than-air bread made on site – just heavenly…

To read Stef’s full report of the course – click here