I am not a big baker but I do enjoy a night out baking with friends. Knowing how dedicated Kyle and Victor from The Mixing Bowl in Sheung Wan (see my previous Macaron baking class and my interview with the talented two bakers) are, I keep an eye on their calendar to see if there is anything that I want to give a try.
I recently noticed an artisan bread baking class. Not only that, but it was taking place in their new café/baking studio that will soon be celebrating its grand opening. And it happened on a Friday evening for which I’ve not had any plans.
I asked Monica to join me, and together with another lady, we joined Kyle and Victor (plus their special guest, pug Olli) for an evening baking three loaves of bread. It was an ambitious outing, anyone who knows how to bake also knows that it takes time to prepare the dough, let it raise (or prove as its technically called) and then form, shape and bake it.
Luckily Kyle had already prepared the dough for two of our creations tonight: for the bread sticks and the cholla bread. So we only had to work on the bread for the seeded loaf. It sounds easy, but it was hard work and it took us easily more than 30 minutes to get the dough mixed and ready for it to rest.
Along the process Kyle gave us some great tips on what to look out for when baking break – in terms of what flour to get, how to prevent yeast and salt from mixing with each other and what room temperature we should aim for to give the bread dough a good rest.
Once the seeded loaf dough was resting we started with the first step towards our finished cholla bread…
…cutting the dough in equal parts, forming four equal-sized strands (not as easy as it sounds) and then plaiting it.
Let’s just say I need more practice! The cholla bread has very little seasoning, so once the plait was ready, we added an egg wash and then some poppy seeds on top to add some flavour.
Ok, bread one was ready to bake. Next up, our bread sticks. The dough was ready, we just needed to roll the sticks and arrange them on a baking tray – the easiest part was then to pick the seasoning for our sticks. Kyle offered us a range of different topics including sea salt, paprika, sunflower seeds, black pepper and herbs – but the one that I liked best in the end was parmesan cheese!
While we arranged the bread sticks on the baking tray, the cholla bread went into the oven. It had risen to a huge size already, so we could only fit two each on a baking tray. Can you imagine? I would have bread for days! Ok, that’s actually not true – my colleagues at work had asked me to bring them some bread, so I will share the cholla bread with them. A few minutes later we added the bread sticks to the oven too.
Finally, the seeded loaf had risen – which at this point was not yet seeded. So we had to add our seeds. Again, we were free to choose. I added flaxseed, sunflower seeds and some pumpkin seeds to my bread. Then we mixed everything in with our hands and shaped the bread. We put it into baskets so it would get the right form.
I had selected a rectangular basket, thinking that this shape would be easier to cut and allow me to have bread shaped perfectly for a sandwich. Let’s just say I should have picked the round, more traditional form. Once I had the rectangular shape I had to cut the top of the bread dough so it could raise. Not paying much attention, I cut it the wrong way and it opened too far while baking… oh well, lesson learnt. I need more practice! Note: my bread is not pictured below!
But anyway, while we finally had the seeded loaves in the oven we were waiting for the cholla bread and the bread sticks to cool down so we could taste them – the bread sticks were so crispy and tasty. I could have easily eaten all of them. The cholla bread was nice too, but I agree with Monica, we should have added more salt or some sugar, at the moment it was a little too bland.
We needed to add some toppings to the bread (and yes, the following days I ate it with mixed salad and dipped the bread into the vinaigrette. That turned out tasty!).
Finally, the seeded loaf was ready – and we had no time to wait for it to cool. By now, we had spent almost three hours chatting and baking. It was time to leave Kyle and Victor to clean up (our) mess and prepare for the next day.
We finished our tea (Kyle knows how to brew a nice strong tea to keep you going through the evening) and some of the bread sticks and then we packed our goods into the new bags that Kyle provided – strong, sturdy bags that would survive food shopping too!
It was another great baking class at The Mixing Bowl – and I love the new class room. So much bigger and brighter with a huge wooden table in the centre and three ovens to get everything baked in time. The space downstairs for the café was just being finished too and it looked beautiful. I can’t wait to see it finished! Anyway, you should go and see it for yourself. It’s at No. 5, Shin Hing Street in a quiet corner of Sheung Wan.