As a last-minute Birthday gift I bought my other half a bread making class at the wonderful E5 Bakehouse in Hackney. It’s turned out to be a very good investment. While the time commitment for good sourdough may be a bit of a faff the results are truly delicious. His home made pizza bases now rival our local artisan pizzeria. The confidence he’s gained from bread making has made him more ambitious in the kitchen. He knocks up bags of dog biscuits for friends and baked biscotti for the Christmas fair.
Most of the midlife men I know can cook. They’ve spent many a happy hour in front of Saturday Kitchen and watched enough TV chefs to master the basics. They’re not like their fathers, who sat with their baby bird mouths open waiting to be fed by wives in aprons. When I say most men can cook I actually mean they have a repertoire of signature dishes; spag bol, cooked breakfast, chilli – you know the score. They venture outside of their comfort zone with trepidation. Afraid perhaps to chop too thickly, season too lightly or make too much mess – all accusations I am, as a menopausal harridan, guilty of making. Who can blame them. How much better then, to be taught separately in a cookery class designed to let you succeed and return home fully-skilled.
Men love a bit of science
It turns out that bread making is a careful science and is perfectly suited to my patient man. He kneads far longer than I ever would in order to develop the gluten that makes bread so good. I cannot follow a recipe – always experimenting and replacing this with that – whereas he cannot complete a dish without every single ingredient just as listed. The combination of physicality, order and method makes him a very good bread baker, and I suspect, lots of other men too. Now all I have to do is find room for him to build his wood-fired oven in the garden.
Fig, proscuitto and gorgonzola pizza with a yeast based dough, recipe Paul Hollywood Bread.
Peanut butter dog biscuits.
Fougasse which is great for tearing and sharing.
Rosemary, olive and sea salt focaccia.
The results of the E5 Bakehouse class: sourdough rye bread, ciabatta, bagels and a part-proved Hackney Wild loaf ready to bake.
Chocolate, almond and orange biscotti, recipe by Paul Hollywood.
All images taken in our kitchen by master baker (and pretty good photographer) Andrew Barrass.