Gluten Free Bread & Pastry Workshop, Leiths School of Food & Wine

Father Christmas was very good to me. He was obviously fed up of seeing clouds of cornflour thrown in anger from the kitchen when my shortcrust turned out like crazy paving, because a ticket to a one day workshop all about making gluten free pastry and bread appeared in my stocking this Christmas! I feel like I’ve got cake sussed now, but my one hope was to come away from the day in Shepherd’s Bush armed with a decent quiche.

The course was taken by the lovely Adriana, who trained at Leiths and now specialises in gluten free cooking since her young daughter was diagnosed with coeliac. The day comprised a mixture of demos by Adriana, group discussion and working in pairs on recipes, ably assisted by the Leiths team who shepherded, weighed, measured and even washed up (!) for the 16 novice bakers.

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(L-R) Not a patchwork job in sight!, Intolerant Tart, More tarts!

The morning started (after tea and amaretti biscuits) with my nemesis – the shortcrust pastry. Whilst the recipe we used didn’t differ much from the ones I have in various books, it was valuable to pick up tips on the technique of working with gluten free pastry. In particular the emphasis on minimal handling to preserve the cold temperature, and the technique of ‘fraisering’ the dough* with a palette knife meant that I produced my first smooth and crack-free pie crust! This survived blind-baking for a quiche lorraine and was also turned into apple tart and mini jam tarts. I can’t wait to try out my new skills on cheese straws and pasties.

We ate our first creations for lunch with a well-chilled glass of white wine. Fresh from my early triumph, I would have quite happily carried on with the wine and having a natter with the other gluten-free folks on the course, but there was bread to be made. Firstly an incredibly simple and indulgent yeast-free cashew nut bread; followed by a small soft white loaf and a surprisingly easy golden focaccia. I learn best when I understand ‘why’ things are done in a certain way, so finally hearing the rationale for gluten free ‘dough’ not needing to be kneaded; and the reasons for using certain types of flours and gelling agents will no doubt improve my baking in the future.

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(L-R) Ready steady bake, Mmmm focaccia.

Sadly one day isn’t a long time on such a big subject – I would have dearly loved to have explored other types of pastry including choux or puff, but the course has given me some food for thought about how to approach adapting my own recipes when I try these at home.

After 7 hours on my feet I trundled home with a bag full of warm bread on the tube – poor hungry commuters catching wafts of the rosemary from my focaccia! I notice the recipe is on Adriana’s blog so I highly recommend giving it a go – super easy!

Adriana’s book, Gluten Free 4 Kids can be bought on Amazon.

Adriana is also teaching a pasta course at Caldesi in March and  a course on cakes and biscuits at Leiths in June .

*’fraisering’ means cutting into the dough and sort of smearing it on the worktop to create a smooth consistency. You do this instead of kneading before you chill and roll it.

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