A couple of weekends ago I gave my first public sourdough class in Rome. We were in the beautiful space of Alice Adams’ Latteria Studio, just off the Viale Trastevere, on what turned out to be almost too beautiful a day. After a cool, damp and long spring, summer had arrived with a bit of a bang, and to be honest I hadn’t made allowances. As a result there were some last-minute adjustments to the timetable, and the bread we made didn’t turn out quite as I expected. But one of the students assured me that it tasted really good, and one can’t argue with that.

We made my standard 50% wholemeal loaf with a leaven, and while the dough did its bulk ferment (far too quickly) talked about the magic that turns flour, water, salt and leaven into bread. I demonstrated sourdough ciabatta, using the double-hydration method. They turned out pretty well, and made a good accompaniment to the super lunch that Alice laid on.

Four students enjoying lunch at Latteria Studio

Sitting down to the super lunch Alice provided; ciabatta, bottom left.

Stepping back from my disappointment that the dough over-proofed, I reckon the day was pretty much a success. Alice’s new oven worked out very well and everyone seemed to have a good time, as proof of which I offer an almost total lack of photographs.

Everyone took home their own copy of “my” starter, having dutifully recited The Pledge, and a copy of the booklet I’ve prepared. I haven’t yet had any complaints.

No firm date yet for the next Rome course; possibly some time in September. Drop me a line if you want to be informed when a date has been fixed. I’m also available to show you how to make sourdough breads in your own kitchen. And next spring, with luck, I’ll be offering a one-week course, complete with several excursions, at an astonishingly beautiful castle between Perugia and Gubbio.

Alas, Coleg Trefeca had to withdraw the course, but I am hopeful that this is a postponement, not a cancellation, so I am leaving this up here as a record. And if you’re interested in hosting something similar, please get in touch.

Want to learn more about bread? And how to bake with traditional leavens? And visit a working watermill?

I will be part of a two-day workshop at Coleg Trefeca in the gorgeous Brecon Beacons in Wales on 23–24 June.

two rustic loaves of bread

I’ll be working alongside Colin Tudge, one of the most thoughtful writers on farming and agriculture, and Ruth West, who organised the first Rise of Real Bread conference in Oxford and is a force in farmers markets and agroecology.

We’ll be talking about bread itself and as an example of how most food is produced today, with narrowly conceived financial profit as the goal and little regard for the health of people or the planet. Bread offers a chance to look at how we arrived at the wonder of a 36p supermarket loaf and what it would take to put that right.

During the course we will explore the history of bread and milling, modern bread production and who is leading the drive for change, and how a new localised bread culture could change the face of agriculture.

bread rising in a banneton

On the second day, at Talgarth Mill, we will see wheat turned into flour and together transform the flour into tasty sourdough loaves.

wholemeal sourdough starter in a jarYou will leave with a deeper understanding of the part bread plays in our culture and agriculture, a booklet of instructions and recipes, and your own sourdough starter.

Details of the course are on the Coleg Trefeca website, which has a handy-dandy link to book the course.

Save the Date: 9 June 2019

four students with their bread

Join me in a dream come true. Finally, I have access to a beautiful space and an oven large enough for me to be able to say, “Sure” to everyone who has ever asked me to teach them to bake bread.

While I have been able to offer private courses here in Rome and elsewhere, this is the first time I can make my courses public.

Reserve your place now

The day

hand resting on ball of doughThe first order of business is to make your dough. Step by step, I will guide you through the process, along the way explaining why we do what we do. If you have never made a loaf before you will be amazed at how a little effort transforms four simple ingredients into a living dough. And even if you are an experienced baker, there are bound to be new insights.

The secret of great bread

bread in a banneton There is no secret to great bread, apart from time.

We’ll talk about that, and while your bread quietly does its thing we’ll also talk about wheat, and flour and sourdough leavens. I’ll demonstrate some other techniques and make the bread we will eat for lunch.

About me

jeremy with "amusing" bread sign I’ve been baking bread on and off for the past 50 years. Some time before 1989 I made my first sourdough starter, and it has been with me ever since, travelling from Somerset in England to Italy. I’m also a biologist and so I have a good understanding of what is going on in the starter and in the bread.

In summer 2018 I made a series of 31 brief podcasts dealing with Our Daily Bread, from prehistoric breadcrumbs to tomorrow’s new wheats. I write about bread and baking on one of my websites.

Takeaway

You will leave with your own delicious loaf of handmade bread, plus:

  • a “Tuscan” sourdough starter that may or may not be more than 110 years old;
  • instructions on how to feed and care for your starter and how to use it to bake more bread;
  • an understanding of why I put “Tuscan” in scare quotes;
  • a few other recipes;
  • maybe some other treats.

And you will have a great day, with good food, in good company.

Small print

The day costs 120€, which includes lunch. All you need to do is turn up. Tickets are 60 € in advance, balance to be paid on the day. Cancel up to 72 hours before for a full refund. There will be gluten.

Next course, 23–24 June 2019

Two days in the Brecon Beacons, Wales, baking in a working watermill. Details