Recipe: Baking bread at Mallory Court

The Michelin-starred restaurant Mallory Court Hotel near Leamington Spa takes as much trouble over baking the daily bread as it does the fantastic meals for which it has become famous. Bread is baked twice a day for the lunch and dinner services. "We make white rolls, granary rolls and a focaccia loaf," says head chef Simon Haigh. "Nothing is wasted. If anything is leftover it goes for the staff meals!" Simon, and his colleagure Andrew Scott invited Warwickshire Life to sit in on a breadmaking masterclass attended by would-be master bakers from around the county. The day started with coffee on the terrace and was interspersed with more coffee, pastries, champagne, canapés and finished with a tasty lunch in the conservatory, for which we somehow managed to find room!

The ingredients

Crusty White bread

450g strong flour

1½ teaspoons salt


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1 teaspoon sugar

300ml water

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10g yeast

Brown bread

500g strong flour

500g Granary flour

20g salt

30g yeast

150 Beurre Noisette

500ml water

Focaccia

11oz strong flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 teaspoons chipped marjoram / sage / thyme

6 fl oz water

2 teaspoons yeast

2 teaspoons olive oil

Method

1. Measure the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl.

"Always use fresh yeast if you can," says Simon. "You can buy fresh yeast from the supermarket. We tend to use ours within three days of buying it but it should keep in the fridge for one or two weeks," says Simon.

2. Use the dough hook on your food mixer or mix the dry ingredients by hand.

3. Slowly add the water bit by bit until the ingredients come together and form a nice dough.

4. Knead until the dough is smooth, shiny and has elasticity to it.

"Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes with the dough hook," says Andrew.

5. Prove the dough. Leave the dough in the bowl, covered in cling film or covered in a damp tea towel.

"Too much heat will kill off the yeast. Room temperature, or just above is fine for dough. You're looking for a dough that comes away clean from the bowl," says Simon.

6. Knock the dough down, knead by hand. This is when flavourings can be added to the dough. Then shape into rolls, or a loaf. To be very precise with rolls you can weight the dough into equal portions.

"You need to knock the dough back to avoid large pockets of air developing which would leave holes," says Simon. "Gluten in the wheat is essential for the bread rising. The gluten needs to be nice and elastic so that it can form pockets in the dough. The yeast produced carbon dioxide which gets trapped in the pockets of gluten which expand and this is what causes the dough to rise."

7. Leave the loaf or rolls to rise again.

"Too much heat will kill off the yeast. Room temperature, or just above is fine for dough," says Andrew.

8. When the bread has risen it is ready to bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 8 (450F, 230C).

9. To check that bread is cooked take it out of the oven and tap the base. If it sounds hollow, it's ready.

Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Restaurant, Harbury Lane, Leamington Spa CV33 9QB. Tel: 01926 330214; www.mallorycourt.co.uk

Flavourings for bread

Why not try?

Sundried tomatoes - add 25g chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of olive oil to the basic white bread mix.

Sunflower and rye bread - use 350g strong white flour and 125g rye flour and 50g sunflower seeds and follow the white bread recipe.

Black olive bread - use 900g strong white flower, 275 olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 4 teaspoons yeast, 570ml milk, and 45 chopped black olives.

Reader Verdict

Pat Williams of Wellesbourne attended the Bread Masterclass, she says:

"Our mentors Simon and Andrew showed us how to make basic doughs and what wonder can be created therefrom! Rolls of varying shapes, sizes and flavours including goat's cheese, onions, herbs, seed; loaves with olives, fruits, nuts; rosemary focaccia, brioche, Chelsea rings. And after the baking the tasting all around. Yum!

After elevenses (warm, mini-Danish pastries) it was back to the grindstone and the 'not-as-easy-as-it-looks' business of forming the dough but Simon and Andrew were of great practical and theoretical help. Fun, laughter and cameraderie abounded, duly rewarded by a glass of champagne and innovative nibbles.

I can highly recommend this social and learning experience so grab your rolling pins and call Mallory Court!"

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