[Disclosure – Long before lockdown, Lac from Revel Bakery asked me to be a guinea pig for new bread-making courses she was planning on offering. Of course I agreed, who wouldn’t. While I wasn’t asked to write a blog post, I want to help promote a local business adding yet more value to what they do, so it was a no-brainer, but it means it was also complimentary]
I’ve tried bread-making before. In the easiest way possible. Buy a breadmaker, buy flour and yeast, whack it all in and you get perfect loaves every time, right?
Wrong. Turns out breadmakers can produce rubbish bread too. Not ideal for a lazy cook like me, but not the end of the world if you happen to live in the same town as a wonderful bakery like Revel Bakery.
I’ve raved about Revel before, in countless places and to anyone who will listen. Their shop in the Churchside Arcade in Rugby town centre is an Aladdin’s Cave of baked goods, from fresh loaves to their ever-popular cinnamon rolls, as well as stuffed rolls and pastries. And that’s before you cast you eye into the patisserie fridge, which has provided many a happy sugar-laced moment for me and my Mum.
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some of owner Lac’s teaching before – a few years ago she taught me to make macarons and I still boast about them now, despite having never been brave enough to try again without her by my side.
She’s now planning to introduce bread-making classes. Ironically, the idea came long before the nation discovered their new-found passion for all things bread during the coronavirus lockdown, but I guess this love of everything yeast-related proves that she was on to a great idea.
Fortunately, despite the heartbreaking impact of Covid-19 on many independent food and drink businesses, Revel is one that is just about managing to weather the storm and has continued to be able to bake for Rugby, selling via farm shops as well as offering deliveries. It’s not easy, Lac will admit, but she hopes they will be able to continue and one day she still plans to launch these courses.
I’m a bit of a born optimist, so I’m going to fondly dream of the days that things are back to some kind of ‘normal’ and we can sign up for one of Revel’s bread-making courses along with a bunch of friends for a day of fun.
Given how many people are enjoying bread and cakes from Revel during lockdown, and how many have turned to baking to get us through, I thought you might all like to know a bit more about what Lac’s got in store for you when she’s allowed to start offering the courses, because you are in for a TREAT.
The course takes place at Revel’s bakery in Little Walton near Pailton, just outside Rugby. We arrived on a Sunday morning to fresh coffee and a few of their gorgeous pastries while Lac talked us through what the day would hold. We’d be making our own dough, letting it prove, and then learning to shape all sorts of loaves, rolls and flatbreads.
Sounds simple… I’d say it took about ten minutes for my newfound respect for Lac and her staff, who knock out 600 loaves a day, to kick in. Making dough is not quite the ‘whack it in’ process I had been led to believe. In Lac’s words, “the most important ingredient in artisan bread is time”, and I would add that it also requires a healthy pinch of patience and a fair bit of elbow grease.
I’m not going to give you a step-by-step account of the course – you’ll have to sign up for it yourself for that. But a rough outline of what you can expect might just be enough to whet your appetite.
Once our dough was in to prove, we replaced it with some that Lac and her colleague Alice had prepared for us earlier so we could get shaping our loaves. First step – tinned loaves. Another think that looks easy and is definitely not. If you stick with this post you’ll get to a video at the bottom where you’ll see exactly how much a knack you need to do this. Again…respect!
Slightly easier were individual rolls, which it seems I’m quite good at (who knew!), and we even managed some round loaves too. All under expert guidance, obviously.
It didn’t stop there. With Lac’s help (okay, a lot of help) we made French Fougasse, whose pretty shape is based on an ear of wheat, along with a focaccia and some pizza-style flatbreads with our own choice of toppings laid on by the bakery and sourced from local suppliers including Malt Kiln Farm shop where Revel sells their bread.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the feeling of satisfaction after a few hours of kneading, shaping and topping when you finally entrust your creation to the oven. Sat on stone with the help of some steam you watch your creations come to life, rising to perfection, turning that perfect hue that makes you want to forget everything else, tear chunks off, slap a load of butter on them and fall into a bread coma.
I’m still drooling over the memories of our endless trays of perfectly-baked dough. Herby fougasse, flour-dusted panini, cheese-topped rolls, cheese twists, crusty round loaves, tinned loaves, seeded rolls, and a focaccia topped with charcuterie, melted cheese and a tomato base – most of which didn’t make it home and was snaffled before we left the bakery.
Time flies when you’re having fun, and that includes baking. What felt like minutes after we arrived at Revel, we were done. With a crate of more bread than I could possibly have dreamed of. Not just that, but a good few hours of learning, entertainment and fun.
Like the macarons, I have since wondered how much of a part Jamie and I actually played in the production of such delights, so I tried again at home, following Lac’s measurements and instructions to the letter.
To my surprise and delight, the dough did indeed rise, and I can actually shape bread rolls. Tinned loaves are a step too far right now, but it seems our bread-making really did work and I now have a skill for life.
I’m genuinely gutted that Lac hasn’t been able to launch these courses yet. So often in Rugby we complain we don’t have stuff like this on offer and here we have a brilliant artisan baker, offering to share their skills and lay on a great day of entertainment for anyone, whether you’re a food lover or not.
Of course, with so much up in the air at the moment, it’s not clear when Revel will be able to offer these courses but I know Lac’s still planning on offering them so watch this space. I’ll share any information as an when I can, but in the meantime, watch this little video for a sneak peek at what you could get up to…