This blog sometimes throws some nice things my way, and recently one of them was the offer to review a weekend baking course in Cornwall (at the Bedruthan Steps in Bedruthan to be precise). I am a keen home baker but there is always more to learn, so when I discovered that the course would be led by fifth generation baker Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery, I jumped at it.
Bedruthan is a sleepy village in Cornwall, not too far from Watergate Bay – home to Fifteen and the Beach Hut – and itself home to sister hotels The Scarlet, a gorgeous ecofriendly hotel and Bedruthan Steps, its more family friendly sibling. They are running many crafty courses over the coming months including also beekeeping, sewing and knitting. (Aside: I am actually an expert knitter & seamstress – genuinely! – my babysitter growing up was a professional aran knitter and taught me everything she knows. We learned to knit and sew in school too.)
The baking course package included full board and two nights at the hotel (normally £300 although the other courses are cheaper). The hotel is charmingly perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. I must confess I hardly left the hotel all weekend, immersed as I was in bready goodness, we even had a midnight baking session on the Saturday night.
The food was surprisingly very good (surprisingly as often hotel restaurants pitched at families are often not focussed on the food), and as is the way in Cornwall in my experience, embracing of all things Cornish, declaring the provenance of all ingredients, from the local apple juice to the brisket.
Back to the bread. Tom was a great teacher and it was a lot of fun. The class was mixed, non bakers that wanted to learn, young ambitous bakers that wanted to learn from a master and retired hobbyists. Everyone got on very well and lots of laughs were had while bread was baked.
We baked a lot of bread: sourdough, soda bread, foccacia, white bread, bread rolls, hot cross buns and chollah. I have made most of these breads many times, but it was still helpful to get some tips from Tom and very enjoyable to get stuck in and make them. Utterly relaxing and great stress relief. Plus you do get some of Toms 55 year old sourdough startser which I fear I have altered into some kind of gremlin of the original.
Fittingly for this time of year, Tom has kindly allowed me to republish his Hot Cross Buns recipe here. These are very good, so much so that some I saw in the shop today looked like emaciated depressed versions and I felt very sad for them. Traditionally these are a Good Friday bun, but hey, they’re great all over Easter, so knock yourself out and enjoy them.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
680g strong white flour
big pinch of sea salt
30g fresh yeast (or 15g of dried)
70g organic golden caster sugar
80g soft butter
15g mixed spice
270ml of warm water
1 organic egg
100g strong white flour,
a pinch of salt,
a pinch of sugar, a knob
of butter and 100ml water
the chopped zest of
1 lemon and 1 orange
1 eggcup of boiling water
2tsp of sugar
1 pinch of mixed spice
1. Grease and line a high sided baking tray with grease-proof paper
2. Weigh all the dough ingredients into a big mixing bowl
3. Stir together with a firm hand and wooden spoon
4. Once the dough has come together turn onto a flat surface and knead for 15 minutes, until your dough is smooth and vital
5. Gently work in the fruit and zest
6. Nestle your well worked dough back into the big mixing bowl, cover and repose in a warm place until it has doubled in size, or for 30 minutes, whichever is first
7. After this, cut the dough in half, then divide and divide again until you have 16 equalish pieces
8. In the palm of your hand, firmly round the pieces so they stand pert on your baking tray, a finger’s width between them
9. Again, cover the tin and leave in a toasty place until your buns have doubled in size: 30, 40, 50 minutes.
10. Heat your oven to 210∘C
11. Whisk together the piping mix ingredients in a jug, ensuring there are no lumps, and pour into a piping bag
12. Cross the buns by piping a lattice of the piping mix across the length and width of the tin
13. Bake the buns. The very moment they have golden tops and bottoms whip them out and brush with the bun wash
Serving suggestions: Eat while still warm from the oven, smothered in butter and, if you please, jam.