The smell of freshly baked bread is an evocative smell, one used by marketing gurus to make us buy not only freshly baked bread as we step over the threshold of a supermarket but a whole host of other goodies triggering rumbles in your stomach. It is the same smell which is associated with childhood, your teens and all the way into adulthood; the smell of home, protection, love and warmth.
As I eyed up my bread machine (confession number one) in the corner of my kitchen dutifully pumping out 2-3 loaves a week on demand for our family of five overseen by my helper (confession number two), I wonder whether baking your own loaf made with love, care and dedication really does taste better?
Cue a call to Brettschneider’s Baking and Cooking School to enroll on the Basic Bread Making course with the talented chef Jenna White. The prospect of producing a loaf as good as something produced by artisan bakers, Baker and Cook, was a challenge too good to pass up. Would the family know the difference? Would it change my life? And, more importantly, would it free up the little corner of my kitchen for another shiny appliance to take the place of the current baker?
The kitchen at the cooking school is a dream. Unless you own your own property in Singapore and already have marble surfaces, top of the range ovens and professional equipment to hand, then the kitchen alone will have you drooling even before you begin to smell freshly baked bread.
Jenna, our chef for the day, is a fun, quick witted, and personable character appealing to all within the class, which consisted of locals, expats and domestic helpers. Diverse backgrounds, all with one goal – to learn how to bake some basic breads for friends, family and loved ones, add another string to one’s bow and kick start 2020 with a baking bang. Hearing Jenna impart her knowledge to the group and switching from Singlish to English within milliseconds was alone a feat to behold.
First up we learnt about the traditional white loaf. Confessions aplenty as to what has previously gone wrong in each of our baking histories, including my own admission of owning and using a bread maker (received with as much horror as if Dracula was to be offered the caramelised garlic we used later on our Focaccia).
The science behind baking became evident as we spent the first hour listening and taking notes about the technicalities of how to bake bread as Jenna demonstrated to the group. Unlike baking cakes, tarts and pies, the ingredients need to be precise down to the very last grams in order to ensure success. Each ingredient has its own job to do, so if you cut corners, you can kiss your bloomer goodbye.
Action stations. We finally had our hot little sticky hands on the ingredients and put into practice what we had learnt. Not totally on our own, we had Jenna and the lovely Izzy, keeping their beady eyes on us to make sure we weren’t totally wandering from the path to perfect loafsville.
After minutes of coaxing, goading and teasing the dough with our kneading techniques (keep the bottom on the bottom, how would you like your bottom to end up on your face?) we let our yeasty babies rest in a warm, cosy and safe space.
No rest for us bakers during this time, oh no, we were back to mixing ingredients for our next bread, the mighty Focaccia, loved by all and with the extra excitement of making the Focaccia your ‘own’ by adding a range of desired toppings.
The Foccacia uses more olive oil than other breads and was naturally invented by yes, you’ve guessed it, the Italians. This salty little number is a great dinner party accompaniment, easy to make, bake and serve. Of course, with that much olive oil in the ingredients your hands will thank you too after the minutes spent gently coaxing, teasing and shaping it – two jobs done in one. Perfect.
Whilst waiting for the rise and fall of the Focaccia and deciding which toppings to sprinkle on top we indulged in some delicious lunch goodies proffered from the kitchen of Baker and Cook. This alone made the day worth while!
Back to shape the rest of the traditional white loaf which was now ready to be baked, and along with another scientific tip from Jenna for the need for steam, they were popped into the oven and left over a bed of pebbles (intrigued by this? You had better enroll on the course!).
Just the Foccacia to finish dressing and put into the oven and, voila, before we knew it our beautifully baked loaves were sitting in front of us. Like proud parents, we stared misty eyed and lovingly at our latest arrivals. Nothing short of a miracle had taken place in that cooking school.
The proof however was undoubtedly in the eating – nervously I presented my offerings back at home that evening. There were lots of oohs and ahhs but I soon discovered the best compliment that a baker can have – nothing but breadcrumbs on the bread board.
Will my bread machine be moved out of the kitchen? Not just yet. Will I continue to bake loaves from my fair hands at home, solo, without the trusted Jenna on hand? Absolutely. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will my perfect Focaccia.
Brettschneider’s Baking and Cooking School is based in the green leafy suburb of Hillcrest, Bukit Timah in Singapore. Opened in April 2016, the school has a modern, inviting, state-of-the-art, purpose-built kitchen, catering to all levels of home cooks and those wanting to take their baking & cooking to the next level.
Built on the strong foundations of Dean Brettschneider’s successful Baker & Cook artisan bakery & foodstore business, Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School offers professional, educational and hands-on baking & cooking classes held in a fun and casual environment.
With an internationally acclaimed baking career spanning almost 3 decades and an uncompromising passion for new world artisan baking, Dean Brettschneider leads a team of passionate chefs, cooks and baristas who teach an exciting variety of cuisines and techniques for all abilities from beginner to accomplished cooks.
Choose from day classes, evening classes, weekend sessions and 2 day masterclasses – and best of all – be in the company of like-minded and creative people who are keeping the art of baking and cooking alive!