Give Us This Day...

It was shaping up to be a rather quiet week on the food front. Having satisfied my burrito craving - at El Burrito, on Charlotte Place, mostly because they do a damn fine cochinita but partly because I feel sorry for the poor bugger who stands on the corner dressed as a donkey - things slowed down. (Mind you, that detour up Charlotte Place has inspired a day of eating this coming week, but more on that later.) Dinners saw us plough through the remains of the spelt risotto, and the only bit of food-related fun saw much quaffing of Christmas Cosmos while helping young Will rate a number of artisan Christmas puddings for his Hello column. (Ah, Christmas pudding. My family firmly believes I hate Christmas pudding. I don't. Sure, I probably wouldn't order it out of choice, but I don't hate it. It's just that a pudding that's designed to swell up and fill any remaining gaps in the stomach is the last thing I want to see after Christmas lunch. But I digress...)

However, there was a method in my non-foodie madness: the knowledge that, come Saturday, I'd probably be so full of bread that I would, technically, be 60% sandwich. The reason? Attendance of the bread-making class at The Bertinet Kitchen in Bath. While a keen cook, bread is not something that I've ever attempted. In recent months, I've left that side of domestic life to the other half, who's been jumping in with British style baking any time I've done a roast. The results have ranged from the interesting to the excellent, with the more recent attempts firmly in the latter category. However, Mr Bertinet - as his name suggests - is French and the bread-making method he teaches is French. Apparently. I wouldn't know the difference if live yeast came up and bit me, frankly, but, after getting wrist deep in some seriously sticky dough, and having tasted the results - and I mean tasted and tasted and tasted them - whatever the method's nationality it's a winner.

Bertinet himself is an interesting chap and an excellent, amusing and very patient teacher. Mind you, he does look alarmingly like the janitor in Scrubs and has a similar sense of humour, as anyone who referred to the process as 'cooking' rather than 'baking' discovered. By the end of the five hour session, we'd got to grips - literally - with some basic dough recipes, learned some professional kitchen etiquette and a number of smart tricks to improve general baking. For example, the use of a baking stone. Forget the expensive pro stuff. A granite chopping board will do the trick. He recommended the £7.99 board from Morrisson's. The downside of this was having to visit two Morrisson's supermarkets today, an experience even worse than shopping in Tesco. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but I am, so that's how it comes across. But holy crap that was a chavvy afternoon. I have never seen so many petty rows break out in a car park.

But back to Bertinet and his lessons. Will we use them? Yes, I think we will. The results are spectacular and the preparation of the dough - scoop up, flip backwards, hook forward, trap air, release hands quickly, repeat - has a Zen like quality only matched this year by a couple of hours of cast and reel fishing in Scotland. From that point alone, expect a few reports soon on disasters with dough and, hopefully, once the floor's been cleaned, some bread successes too.


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