Bread heaven at e5 Bakehouse

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In the midst of our crazy pre-wedding starvation, my lovely friend Laura and I booked ourselves on to the much raved about sourdough course at the e5 Bakehouse. On reflection, with pretty much zero bread-making experience, signing up to a seven hour master class in sourdough was slightly mental. But if you deprive two carb-lovers of all things beige for 6 months, mental things happen. A word of warning…do not read on if you’re watching your waistline…I guarantee two photos in, you’ll be ransacking your local Waitrose and stuffing your face with any freshly-baked loaf you can find.

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I did warn you…

We signed up to the course after seeing another blogger’s review and so we knew we were in for a treat, but nothing prepared us for just how great the day turned out to be.

First impressions couldn’t have been better. We arrived to freshly-brewed coffee, an assortment of homemade jams and…

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Our first slice of e5’s bread: the Gilchester Bun.

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Wow. An incredibly moist and chewy wholemeal bread. Unlike anything I’ve tasted before. Of all the breads we tried throughout the day, this one was definitely my favourite.

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Slathered with freshly churned butter and raspberry jam, I can’t think of a better way to start your day. Throwing myself, head-first, into my beloved bread trap.

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Then it was time to don the apron, roll our sleeves up and learn how on earth to make this stuff ourselves…

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We would be making four breads throughout the day: rye, ciabatta, bagels and E5’s signature bread, the Hackney Wild.

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We were lucky enough to have the founder himself, Ben Mackinnon, as our tutor for the day. With his creative flare being wasted behind a desk, Ben handed his notice in at his office job and launched e5 in 2011. Ben literally built e5 from the ground up, baking loaves in a local pizzeria’s wood-fired oven and selling them to his neighbours. There was no doubt, we were in safe hands.

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It turns out this sourdough malarkey is actually quite scientific. Sourdough is made entirely using wild yeast. But this isn’t what gives sourdough its distinctive sour taste. This is the friendly bacteria that grows alongside the wild yeast in the sourdough culture, also known as the “mother”. The mother (just a culture of flour and water which contains the naturally occurring yeast) is then developed overnight into a “leaven” (so that the yeast can multiply), and it is this bubbling and slightly sour smelling leaven which is used as the basis of your dough…

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We spent the morning happily weighing out the ingredients…

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And watching our four different doughs take shape…

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It’s amazing how attached you get to these lumps of dough. So much so that when Mr Kelly immediately shoved one of my beautiful freshly baked ciabatta’s in the toaster, I almost filed for divorce.

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We then went on a tour around the kitchens to see the professionals in action, whipping up a batch of the Seeded Rye (check out all of the different types of bread they make here – drooling is totally acceptable)…

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What is truly impressive about e5 is the focus on sustainability and quality. All products are organic and locally sourced and the bread is hand-crafted and baked fresh every morning. Ben has put a lot of time and effort into sourcing a lot of the flour used in e5’s breads directly from UK farms, experimenting with different varieties to find something sustainable and tasty. The bread is even delivered to local cafes and restaurants by bike.

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After the grand tour, it was time for lunch…

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And this was no ordinary lunch. I would honestly do this course again just for that lunch. Wooden boards stuffed with charcuterie, Neal’s Yard cheeses and homemade chutneys….

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Fresh, crunchy salads…

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And bowls full of piping hot soup, rustled up by the e5 team that morning…

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All served with a seemingly-endless basket of assorted e5 breads. It would have been rude not to try every type going. We were there to learn after all.

Then it was back to work. The rye bread was placed in these wooden baskets to prove.

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I can’t quite remember why we used those wooden baskets (other than to get these pretty lines on the top and I’m sure there was a more scientific reason than that!) – I was still in a food coma from lunch.

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And here’s the result…

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Then it was on to the ciabatta dough. This light and spongey dough with it masses of olive oil was an entirely different beast…

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Almost impossible to handle without getting your hands smothered in it, the dough was sliced into four roughly baton-shaped pieces and dusted with flour.

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Whilst we waited for the ciabattas to bake, there was just enough time for a spot of afternoon tea…

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A selection of e5 sweet nibbles arrived on a couple of wooden boards – cookies, brownies, lemon drizzle, you name it, we ate it. I don’t know whether it was months of chocolate deprivation or whether that rocky road was actually life-changing, but I’ll be heading back soon, just to double-check.

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Now for the final “slog” – the bagels. Laura was particularly excited about these…would they be as good as the Montreal bagels back home?! I hear her hubby certainly thought so.

We rolled the elastic dough out into little sausages and squished the ends together to create a bagel shape…

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Gave them a quick poach (who would have thought?!)…

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And decorated them with toppings of our choice…

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And there they are. Absolute beauties!

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And that’s what seven hours of baking looks like…

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Then it was time to go shopping…

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And scoop up our lovingly baked goodies…

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We left completely exhausted, carbed up to the eyeballs and with cheeks hurting from laughing. The six month starvation had officially been broken. We’re already planning our next attack. My mouth is watering just at the thought of a Gilchester bun, and don’t get me started on that rocky road!

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If you like baking, I can’t recommend this course enough. Ben was fantastic – super patient and his passion for all things bread is definitely contagious. You leave stuffed to the brim with delicious food, carrying a huge bag of goodies including your own “mother” and your fourth dough – the Hackney Wild – to try and bake at home. All of the details about the course are here (be warned – they get booked up so far in advance!).

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London-based foodie with a shopping addiction, a love for swanky interiors and an obsession with white sandy beaches.

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