I try desperately to push away my cookery competitiveness and the notion that I'm in Cornwall's version of the Bake Off...
The school itself is tucked away in the pretty village of Philleigh, close to the King Harry Ferry and easily found between The Roseland Inn and the micro brewery. It’s situated on Court Farm, which chef George (our teacher for the day) tells us over coffee and homemade cake has been in his family for over five generations. It’s a tranquil, idyllic setting with horses being led past throughout the day and inquisitive pheasants peering in at us through the glass.
All in all it’s a laid back welcome for the day, and Georges’ quiet confidence dissipates any nervousness amongst the students, which today includes a B & B owner and someone who’s been given the course as a birthday present from his wife.
George runs through the bread we’re making today, which includes a standard white loaf, a sourdough loaf and focaccia. He’ll also demonstrate how to make naan and yeast-free soda bread. He runs through the fundamentals of bread making, including the main ingredients and the benefits of the different types, such as strong plain flour versus spelt and fresh yeast versus quick action yeast. We’ve each been given a clip board with all of the recipes we’ll be attempting - printed so we can take them home with us at the end of the day.
After being shown how to create the first loaf, we each scuttle off to our work space to have a go ourselves and I try desperately to push away my cookery competitiveness and the notion that I’m in Cornwall’s version of the Bake Off. In fact, it’s wonderfully chummy and laid back – we’re all chatting with each other as we weigh out ingredients and knead away for ten minutes’ or so (and boy did my arms feel it at the end of the day after kneading three loaves).
Next up is the mythic sourdough and how to make a starter mix, which George tells us consists of feeding a paste of flour and water every day for a week until its fermented and bubbling, like a pint of beer with a frothy head. Bakers covert their starter mixes so much that they have to be babysat whenever they go on holiday, very much like a dog or a cat, but less hairy.
Whilst our sourdough is rising, we’ve prepped our first loaves for the oven, slicing across the plump floury dough with a razor blade and slid directly onto the oven shelf. Timers are set and breaths held, as we watch our bread babies cook in the oven.
Sensing the trepidation, we’re treated to a glass of bubbly and a slice or two of cheesy, beery Cornish rarebit that George produces out of nowhere– delicious and much needed after all the kneading and pummelling. Crispy and light, the rarebit showcases locally produced cheese and lighter-than-air bread made on site – just heavenly.
As we’re munching away, George runs through the more difficult Italian focaccia, a slippery, liquidy dough that requires dexterity of hand and scraper (the bread makers most important tool) and copious amounts of olive oil. I can’t stop laughing as my own effort migrates on its own volition across the granite work surface like The Blob or The Thing, all sinuous, sticky and stringy, but I persist for 10 minutes and let it flop into the bowl for rising, pretty sure I’ve mucked it up.
As the foccacia is rising, the first loaf comes out and the sourdough goes in. I’m super-happy with my first loaf, a mix of white and spelt flour.
With the heavenly scent of bread cooking in the air, we’re treated to a gorgeous lunch of salads, dips and of course bread, plus wine for non-drivers and sparkling elderflower for everyone else. Dessert is a heavenly crème brulee. Fully stuffed, we pull our ringed sourdoughs out of the oven, primp our focaccias with more oil, salt and rosemary and pop them in to finish off.
George ends the day showing us some fab recipes for naan bread, flecked with spices and a gorgeous turmeric yellow colour, a gorgeous curry paste (which he whips up into a delicious curry for us to sample with the naan) and a simple soda bread – yeast free so ready to rustle up at a moment’s notice should you have unexpected guests.
I’m totally chuffed with my loaves at the end of the day. Not only did they all rise and cook, they look amazing and I’m definitely going to make a sourdough starter when I get home.
Chugging across home on the King Harry Ferry back west, with my car slowly filling with the scent of freshly baked bread, I’m tired but totally relaxed. I loved my day at Philleigh Way where George and the team offer a warm welcome and a laid back, food-laden day of kitchen creativity. And with other courses on offer such as fish, Indian cookery, Sushi and Sashimi and Cornwall in a Day, I’m planning my next trip. Yum!
For more information on Philleigh Way Cookery School, take a look here.
Philleigh Way Cookery School, Court Farm, Philleigh, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5NB | 01872 580 893 | email@example.com