What a brilliant day at the School of Artisan Food!

A couple of years ago I spent a fantastic day spent learning new skills at the fabulous School of Artisan Food!

The Food and Drink Forum have organised lots of amazing free courses lately for food businesses and I have been lucky enough to participate in three over the past fortnight.  These were all held at the school in the historic Welbeck Estate
near to Worksop – what an privilege to go to what I believe is the most exclusive food school in the country.

So first up last week was Sourdough baking with a lovely tutor called David.  Now I have been baking sourdough for a long time and I know the basic principle though never follow a set recipe (tut tut!) and rarely get those lovely huge air bubbles!  It was fantastic to be in a class as the pupil for a change and was wonderful to hear about all the history of sourdough.  I picked up many tips and met some other lovely people.  My favourites being the lady from The Rustic Crust Pizza – amazing pizzas baked in the back of a Land Rover and of course fellow “Witch” Alison from Apothecary Mead (I have always wanted to keep bees and try brewing Mead but that is another story!).

So the sourdough class done last week it was time to return yesterday for 2 more back to back classes.  First was Cheese and Butter making, which is very relevant to bread baking.  One simply cannot eat freshly baked bread with no butter!!  The lovely Katy was so enthusiastic about her subject and so knowledgeable.. We started by making a soft cheese (Colwick Cheese) using raw milk from the local dairy farm.  Then while that was waiting to “flocculate” (great new word!) we had a go at making butter.  What fun!  It is basically made by just over-whipping double cream until it looks like scrambled egg then suddenly goes liquidy again.  At which point you have to get rid of the liquid (the whey) by washing the butter and patting it (whacking it with butter pats!)

A nice big wodge of butter to take home, also the cheese which I hung up on the washing line to drain a bit more, and a few tubs of buttermilk (waste product from the butter making) and whey from the cheese making – both of these can be put into bread so let’s go!!

Then for the afternoon there was the much anticipated Brewing Workshop!  Historically baking and brewing were very connected.  The baker would get his yeast from the brewer next door.  I actually should say “her” yeast as I found out from Alison (the Mead Lady) that going way, way back in history both of these jobs were always done by the women.

The workshop was actually run by another lady – Claire Monk, microbiologist turned brewer from Welbeck Abbey Brewery just opposite the School.  What an inspiring afternoon indeed!
As I am writing this I am really wishing I had bought a bottle from the farm shop now!  We started by hearing some interesting facts about brewing from Claire, it was all very fascinating, as was all the informal discussion along the way (there were some other brewers in the room too).  Then we had some beer tasting which was great!

Next we went for a tour of the brewery itself and I left really wanting to have a go myself.  I went away with a tub of brewers yeast too to have a go at baking with, so thank you Claire!

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