Well hello out there.
It felt about time for me to contribute to the blog, and as luck would have it, a very exciting thing happened just last Saturday…
The story actually starts on Christmas day when I was privileged to unwrap a copy of ‘The Handmade Loaf’ by Dan Lepard. The man is a bit of a hero of mine and can often be found talking good sense in a column in the Guardian weekend magazine. He has worked at Ottolenghi, St John and Locanda Locatelli amongst others and what he doesn’t know about baking really doesn’t seem to be worth knowing.
A note in the front of the book directed me to page 26 ‘The Natural Leaven’. Here I found an envelope, containing a voucher to a day’s sourdough masterclass at The Cookery School on Little Portland Street hosted by non other than Mr Lepard himself.
Let it be a matter of record. I have a most excellent wife.
Sourdough, as some of you may know, has become a bit of an obsession of mine over the last few months. I think it’s the starter that really appeals, using a live leaven takes time and patience (which I’m often not very good at) you need to commit to the process, learn its foibles and tend to its needs. What you get in return is an extraordinary bread, bright, fresh, crisp. A mainstay of our kitchen, and I hope in the long term, of the kitchen of Cafe Waltshaw.
The course started at nine which is an unusal time for me on a Saturday morning. It quickly transpired that eight hours would be nowhere near enough. We got through a lot though starting with a morning making sourdough with rye, here’s mine getting to know its class mates….
(note Alexander's lazy 'tucking'
we also made an a olive oil flat bread
… the photo is a bit rubbish but you can see my apron and some lovely cheese in the background.
In the afternoon (after a lunch of Dan’s bread, sexy pate and the cheese featured above) we covered kneading and shaping techniques. It transpires that my kneading is a bit rubbish (I think I already knew that) but on the plus side it turns out I am a natural baguette maker. In fact my baguette epi’ was so good that a fellow class member actually asked to take a photo so she could attempt to replicate it at home (I know, I know, I’ll stop now)
We then moved onto starters. Here is Dan talking us through the various stages. That’s the twinkly smile of a man who knows his onions. Isn’t he lovely?
This section of the day was rounded off by us all been given a tub of Dan’s very own rye leaven. He inherited it. It is over EIGHTY years old and the same one that Yottam Ottolenghi uses in his kitchens.
My portion is currently sat in the freezer waiting to be enlivened and refreshed. This is partly as finding a supplier of rye flour has proved trickier than expected. If I’m honest I’m also a bit nervous. Nobody wants to have the death of 80 year old yeast cultures on their hands. Still, it got this far, so I reckon it must be made of pretty strong stuff…….
Towards the end of the day we were presented with our breads. I am way too proud of my sourdough not to include a photo of her here. Sorry.

showing off, professional looking bread shot…

At the very end of the course, and perhaps best of all, I got Dan to sign my book. He wrote, ‘To Becca, Keep Baking, Dan Lepard x’

After last Saturday I really do intend to. You just can’t help but be inspired by someone with so much passion and experience. It was a pleasure to learn from him and has done wonders for my bread making confidence…….Just hope I don’t kill off that ancient starter……

To make a perfect day even more perfect Libby met me and took me off for oysters. I know. Quick recommendation for anyone looking for date sexiness in the centre of town. For my money you could do much worse than check out The Wright Brothers. Nice buzz, great service, beautiful food, candle light, the one you love and a bucket of excellent wine. If there’s something missing I’m not sure I can find it.