William Angliss Institute in Melbourne is meeting renewed interest in artisan bread making with its short courses in bread making.
According to William Angliss short courses manager Pauline Dine, there has recently been a resurgence of interest in sourdough.
“Five years ago we thought real baking was finished with the rise of new packaged breads. But there has definitely been an increasing interest in real bread or artisan-style breads in the last few years,” Pauline said.
The Sourdough Bread Making course, taught by patisserie instructor Paul Hughes, is now run three times a year and caters to a mix of foodies and industry people. This is not a course for the faint-hearted, as Hughes attempts to encapsulate his own wide baking experience in just one weekend.
On the Friday evening, after just an hour of formal lecture, students plunge elbow-deep in flour, creating the preferments and levains for the next two days’ baking.
Participants make and take home a variety of different breads including baguettes, sourdoughs, miche, ciabatta and olive bread as well as breads made with spelt and rye flour. But it is the simplicity of the essential ingredients – the flour, salt and water – in real bread that Paul emphasises.
“It is amazing that you take three ingredients and through different processes you are able to produce products with different flavours, textures and aromas – bread that has real character about it,” he said.
Flour choice, the mixing techniques and the use of preferments are explored as the basic variants affecting the final product. Participants spend considerable time making and maintaining the various gluey masses known as preferments and by the end of the course will definitely know their poolish from a sponge, their biga from a levain.
Special focus is given to the process for creating and maintaining a sourdough starter and Paul encourages the naming of starters– he calls his ‘Gary’ – as a way to denote responsibility for their ‘pet’ culture.
Paul is experimenting with freezing the culture to make things more convenient for the attenddes to bring home.
2012 will see increased demand for Paul’s expertise as William Angliss looks to expand its bread program. The new ‘Baker in the Home’ course will incorporate basic bread making with sourdough, artisan and sweet dough breads.