Yesterday I attended a Sourdough Cooking Class at Jusin North's new venture, Quarter 21, in the Westfield building in Sydney. What a fabulous setup it is, and such a range of interesting and varied courses. Links at the bottom for more info!
Quarter 21 houses: Bécasse Restaurant, a new restaurant for Justin and Georgia North named Quarter 21, the Cooking School, a providore and a retail bakery.
(I apologise in advance for the lack of quality - these photos were taken on my phone!)
This is a rather blurry photo of the cooking school setup from the outside:
The providore outside sells wine, cookbooks, oils and vinegars, jams and chutneys, chocolate, spices and pastes, jamon and cured meats,and many other good things:
The class I had enrolled is was Sourdough Breadmaking. I've been baking sourdough bread for a few months now, and have had some wonderful success and some interesting disasters. I'd hoped to be able to learn a bit more so that I could analyse where I was going wrong.
8 hopefuls trooped into the class and were kitted out with apron, tea-towel and fresh coffee. Our teachers were Nico and Anthony from France, and our hostess, Libby, acted as a translator. She is a fluent French speaker, having spent the last 9 months there and hankering to go back. So whilst the boys demonstrated and explained the intricacies of maintaining a starter, how often to feed it and what temperature to maintain it, Libby kept up a fluent running translation and we were all able to take notes.
After having the science of breadmaking explained to us we began to make bread. We measured some fresh yeast into lukewarm water to activate it and added some of Bécasse's own sourdough starter, which has been active for 6 months. We then added flour and warm water and formed it into a sticky dough. Then we beat it on the bench to stretch the gluten (it's a great stress reliever!!) and finally shaped it into a large ball. It rested whilst we talked some more and watched Anthony (in the photo above) and Nico.
We split the dough into two, then one of those halves into 2 more, so we had 2 small and 1 large ball (we'd made about 1k of dough). The larger one we shaped into a ball and it went to the proving room to prove. At home, you'd prove it for an hour.
Nico then demonstrated how to make a filled fougasse. He took one of the smaller balls and rolled it to an oval. He then sprinkled the bottom half with bacon, cheese and confit garlic, slashed the top half and folded it over. This is what they looked like after baking:
Anthony then stepped up and showed us how to make a filled epi. Any French travellers will have seen these in boulangeries in France, and you also find them at French bakeries here - they are loaves where balls of dough have been pulled to the side to make ears of wheat (the translation of epi) - here's an example. They are an unusual way of serving dinner rolls, but I had never seen them filled before. Anthony filled his with baby spinach leaves, fetta and black olives, then folded it and slashed it to form the ears of wheat. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of his masterpiece so you'll have to settle for mine:
We all then had terrific fun making our fougasse and epi, using all the lovely ingredients that the Bécasse kitchen had prepared beforehand, and finally our rolls were whisked away to prove.
Anthony and Nico then cooked their breads in a domestic oven, showing us how to mist the oven beforehand to get a nice crust. We had a couple of glasses of wine whilst they were cooking and then ate Nico and Anthony's breads. They were absolutely delicious, crisp and warm and so tasty!!
A little while later ours were brought in and packaged up for us to take home, together with a jar of the Bécasse starter.
These are the breads we made: a boule (a round ball), a filled fougasse and a filled epi.
It was a terrifically fun way to spend a few hours, and below is a link to the cooking school program. I hope to see you there when I attend another course!!!
Inside Cuisine's review of Quarter 21
Review of another cooking class from Helen@Grab Your fork
Quarter Twenty One
Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Corner Pitt and Market Streets, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
+61 2 8064 7900