So this weekend just gone we all celebrated Halloween, it seems like everyone really got into the spirit of it this year, I
Now as some of you may know gluten free cakes are kind of my thing, and they have been for a while. I’ve been gluten free for 13 years now and have never looked back, how it has benefited my life and wellbeing is immeasurable. 13 years ago being gluten free was hard and you were so limited with what was available to you, the bread was grim and only half decent when toasted, crackers were cardboard and cakes might as well have been bricks, gluten free life was pretty miserable, but this proved to be almost a blessing for me at that time because that’s what inspired me to start my business. My own personal need to be able to treat myself with cakes I could eat made me start my bake-a-boo journey, it was only when I started selling at farmer’s markets almost 13 years ago that I realised how many other people out there were like me and in desperate need of treats that actually tasted and felt like treats. Now we are lucky to have a range in every supermarket and don’t have to trudge to obscure health food shops to stock up.
I pretty much cracked the cakes and found it easy to adapt recipes and feed myself and eventually others in my tea room, but one thing I never really worked on was bread. A bread maker was one of those things that sat of my wish list for years and I just never got around to it. Bread has improved over the years and actually the taste of the supermarket breads like Genius and Warburton’s is actually ok, I don’t eat a lot of bread but ‘the real thing’ is something I really miss and I will reach for some Genius in my freezer to accompany a weekend breakfast sometimes, but it’s not something I chose, mainly because I can’t understand most of the ingredients list and that usually puts me off something straight away. So naturally I jumped at the chance to attend a gluten free bread making class at the wonderful The Avenue cookery school.
At first contact with The Avenue I immediately wanted to support this small but thriving business, they are a family run business with great values and passion and have lots to offer with a great range of classes and the opportunity to hire their kitchen too.
Being gluten free, I would have been happy making any bread so long as I could have eaten it but what was great about this session is the it emphasised the importance of adding some nutritional value. Let’s face it no gluten free bread is going to be as tasty as the real thing, but the breads we made were tasty, varying in difficulty and with a variety of interesting flavours. I did think on my journey to Putney, I’m not really sure how this is going to work as bread needs time to rise before cooking and then there’s the cooking time – I’m not really sure how we are going to make 3 different kinds of breads. Some of the leg work had been done for us but you didn’t feel cheated as the whole process was explained. Upon arrival we all donned an apron and got stuck in. Perhaps how we managed to squeeze in three bread types was that one was very simple and quick, a delicious flatbread made with gram flour, which I have made several times at home since the class – it was probably my favourite. I remember going to a brilliant South Indian restaurant in Barnes quite a few years ago now and discovered after years that it was actually ok to eat poppadum’s as they are made from lentil or gram flour, as if that wasn’t enough to blow my mind I also discovered Masala Dosa that day, which is one of my most coveted meals! I mean it’s just a carb fest of pure joy – what’s not to love? This flatbread we made was pretty much the same as a Dosa, made with gram flour and is fried in a pan to cook like a pancake and used as a wrap. But the brilliance of this bread is that if you then put the pan in the oven it crisps up and you can break it up to make delicious tortilla style crisp breads. Before putting them in the oven we added a mix of flavours to the top of the Dosas whilst they were still warm and soft to absorb the sprinkled spices. My favourite toppings were just simple sea salt and nigella seeds, which I would add, proved hard for me to find afterwards and seemed to be quite costly for little black seeds but I then found huge bag really cheaply in a local Greek run supermarket. I also really enjoyed the flatbreads with sprinkles chili flakes again with sea salt for a real kick. You could experiment with some really interesting dips to go with these tortilla style triangles.
Aside from this we made a sourdough bread made with quinoa and rice flour with almond milk for me because I’m dairy free also, and another lovely courgette bread with flaxseed and hemp, using a food processor. Overall the evening was an enjoyable experience, I learnt some useful tips that will stay with me for life, I got to meet some interesting people including a man who was a bee keeper and had lots of interesting stories to tell. There were people who were very new to the whole gluten free thing and really enthusiastic about learning ways to add tasty variety to their diets and there were people who were coeliac and some who weren’t, it was a real mix. Our teacher and guide, Ceri Jones, is a natural chef specialising in ‘conscientious sourcing, careful preparation and mindful consumption of healthful foods’. She had a relaxed style of teaching and is clearly and confidently knowledgeable in this cooking field – she in fact runs a series of different types of gluten free cookery at The Avenue so is worth checking that out if you’re gluten free. I consider myself pretty experienced in the gluten free field – I haven’t touched the stuff for 13 years and I had a bakery specializing in gluten free for a decade which meant there were some things I was knowledgeable about but it’s great to have a reminder – that thing you used to love but haven’t eaten for ages, it’s good to be reminded of it and also reminded how good it is for you! But it was also great to make your bread friendlier to you and adding nutritional value is really important and I think Ceri delivers this message well and shows you great ways to do it.
At the end of the evening we all shared the different breads with some dips and olives and the lovely Richard even pulled out his special balsamic vinegar which was great to dip the warm breads into with great quality olive oil. It’s small details like this that make The Avenue a unique and special place, it’s like being welcomed into someone’s home but these guys are also really passionate about food, and they really want to share that with you, and send you home not only armed with knowledge but also duplicating their passion so you can cook well at home.
The cookery school runs a huge variety of classes and courses catering for literally everyone. There are various ‘free from’ classes including gluten free and vegan courses, cooking for your dinner party, simple suppers, Sunday brunch and after school courses. Then there’s more focused classes like pasta and sushi. They cater for hen parties and groups and have supperclub style evenings where everyone is involved in the cooking and eating, and they even do a cooking course for students which is great – having just become a student myself, (it’s not quite the same as I’m an oldie) but teaching students to cook and nourish themselves within a reasonable budget on their first stint away from home is going to be really valuable for them.
Check out the calender at The Avenue and all they have to offer here. With Christmas only weeks away – if someone you know loves cooking or would like to be a better cook, booking them a class or course at The Avenue for Christmas would be a great idea. I’m sure they’ll be holding some Christmassy classes too. You can also check out Ceri Jones and HERE
Thanks for having me guys!
Affectionately known as Boo to my friends, I opened bake-a-boo in 2006 and after 10 years of making cake dreams come true, hosting fabulous tea parties and releasing a cookbook I have now closed the doors of the tea room. Plagued with severe endometriosis and several food allergies I’m turning all the bad into something good and after being a great patient, I’m now training to hopefully become a ‘great’ nurse! Here I’m sharing my journey, and talking health, my inspirations and life after bake-a-boo…..and of course CAKE! You can take the girl out of the cake shop but you can’t take the cake shop out of the girl so find out here how I can still help you with cakes and treats and parties galore x