Tag Archives: Bertinet

The Italian Job – Day 3

Day three will be ingrained in my memory for more than any of the delicious pizza. it’s just so sticky. And really for me, with my complete aversion to anything sticky (note- anyone spills juice on the floor in my house- kids run for cover- they KNOW) it was a real mental challenge.

Italian Bread Making

Rolling out Pizza

At this stage I’d like to say that mixing the ingredients and the doughs is second nature- but sadly not.  But it is getting easier as the muscle memory is starting to kick in.  And they we started mixing the ciabatta (slipper) dough. Not the oldest of breads, which is unusual, I feel for something Italian (as everything there- so they’ll tell you- is over 2000 years old!), ciabatta was first baked in Verona, in 1976.

Ciabatta is something I’ve only made in my trusty Kenwood, it always makes a mess too.  I think I might try it by hand.  But only on a good day when I’m not under pressure.  As really ciabatta should be the Italian for patience.

Some Bread for the display

Some Bread for the display

We made other Italian bread too- and I especially liked the “inclusion” breads where we added two different types of pesto- walnut & rocket was really good. But by now, my favourite time of the day is when we all sit down and eat our lunch together.  And by day 3 we know each other quite well- so there’s a fair bit of slagging.

But it’s a great way to reinforce together what we’ve learnt.  It’s a change of pace from the frantic running around checking rising, turning dough, and keeping under the radar from those French Masters eyes!



Things I learnt today:

Ciabatta dough is stickier than you could ever imagine

Walnuts can be nice in pesto (who’d have thought?)

Follow the method religiously and you (hopefully) won’t fail!


Tomorrow is, well, I’ve no idea- I’m dreaming of doughnuts- so you never know!







It’s good to be French – Bertinet Kitchen Day 2

Who doesn’t love a baguette, and I’m not talking about the type you buy in a petrol station in every county in Ireland.  I’m talking about the crust, that saliva inducing smell, and that recognisable shapely length of carbohydrate heaven.  Mind you I’m still struggling with the kneading and shaping. Anyway, I got my French on today.


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Richard imparting more nuggets of bread info

For me, the Baguette is the epitome of French bread, a little like the soda bread in Ireland.  And it evokes memories of smell, taste, flavour and most importantly a taste that is unique and not replicated in any other bread.  This is due to it’s crust, and more importantly, the “ear” or cut along the top of the bread that is made just prior to baking.

So not only do you have to contend with making the perfect dough, rising for the perfect time, shaping in the perfect way- there’s a very important slice to be applied to the top of the loaf.


Students shaping French Bread


The French Lame

The baguettes ready to be judged

This blade, makes a far superior cut to the top of the dough than the sharpest of knives.  And after the obligatory- don’t touch these or you will surely die- talk from Richard, he showed us how to use one. And showed us again, and again.  And the group got more and more nervous.  It was like a group of brain surgeons operating for the first time.  The sweat was pouring off us, and not just due to the heat. The lame used to cut the long baguette is curved- the blade is held with the concave surface facing up, and used in one continuous and confident slice. A flap of dough is created then in the oven that will lift up to create an “ear” as the loaf expands and, by lifting gradually, slows the expansion of the loaf. This prolongs the time during which new areas of dough are exposed to the direct heat of the oven and results in greater overall expansion – a larger “bloom.”
A better crust, and tastier, and more importantly easily digested bread.  Its the chewing of the crust that makes our saliva activate, this in turn gets our stomach juices flowing, making this beauty the most easily digested bread you’ll ever eat. The shallow cut, interestingly, creates a better flap than a deep cut, which would result in the flap being too heavy to support it’s own weight. Also if the cut is vertical, the bread opens too quickly exposing too much of the crust at once, and this bread is also more evenly coloured indicting the incorrect cut. Sounds complicated? Well it is.  And a little like a child learning to write there name, I think I’ll be practicing my bakers signature for a while to come.


Bread in the basket- very satisfying


No need to Knock- Bertinet Kitchen Day 1

Although I already love making bread, making bread with a master French bread-maker is something special.  And today Nigel and I embarked on the first of a five day bread-making course with Richard Bertinet, of the Bertinet Cookery School.

The first impression is that of passion.  Pure and simple.  Very French, very sophisticated,  But a deep, deep passion for bread and pastry. After very strong coffee, and a slice of toast for those who wanted it, Richard launches into dispelling the myths of “modern” day bread-making, by bringing it right back to the traditional methods.

Bertinet Kitchen

Where it all happens-

Obviously this makes me love him even more, sure food history and I go arm in arm down lifes roads most days.  Like Darina, from Ballymaloe, Richard draws on a lifetime of experience with bread.  The quality of the ingredients- and importantly for us as we learn- the technique. We looked at Le Pain par Poilâne; French Baking I book that I will purchase (if I can find it in English- if not- C’est la Vie!) With a super historic insight into the pre industrialisation of bread making. What interested me was the origin of “knocking back the bread”.  Nearly every book, recipe, TV programme talks of this.  Pummelling the dough until there is not a breath of life in it, after the first rise.  Yes, you want to remove major air products, and yes, you want to ensure even distribution of ingredients, but not to the detriment of the lightness of the loaf.

A lady kneading dough in a petrin

A lady kneading dough in a petrin


Knocking Back- The Bertinet Method:
The display at the end of Day 1 Bertinet Kitchen

The display at the end of Day 1 Bertinet Kitchen

Knocking back referred to punching some holes in the dough, and waiting for the surrounding dough to rise above them- then they know the bread is ready for the ovens.  Therefore we need to give the bread the most opportunities to be the lightest and softest of crumb.

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And a little party bag to take home in the evening

As an aside- Bath is SUCH a beautiful city.  Come visit, if only to try Richard’s Bread!

So- things I learnt today:

Don’t raise your hand- LOL

Don’t FAFF

Be the boss

Make a spine