Six months ago I dropped down to working 90%. Which means I get every second Friday off.
Usually I spend the day writing and researching. Pretty dull stuff, chained to my computer. But it needs to be done. It was especially necessary in the rush to get my new Scottish book finished.
With the book and talk done, I had time for other stuff this time.
"I've won a bread baking workshop for two. Do you fancy coming along?" Dolores asked me on Tuesday.
"Yeah, why not? Should be interesting."
It involves yeast, baking. I can see a beer connection. I've never baked bread, either. Better than just sitting around the house drinking Abt. As much fun as that is.
The workshop is at one of Amsterdam's most famous bakers, Hartog's. A family firm that's been around since 1896. And for most of those 120 years they've milled their own flour. They don't trust industrial millers, evidently. Their main product is a compact, brick-like wholemeal loaf. It's incredibly popular, with punters cycling across time to buy it. There's always a queue in their shop.
We get to the bakery a bit early. But I've come prepared. I spotted a pub next door on the internet, Lokaal. They sell a couple of different beers, so it'll do. Not in the most attactive building in the world, but it's pleasant enough inside.
Dolores orders a Lowlander Witbier, but they give her an IPA instead. She's remarkably easy about the mistake. Especially seen how much she hates hoppy beers. I play safe with a Zatte.
We're some of the first to arrive. Most of the others don't turn up until just before we're due to kick off. Most are obviously enthusiastic home bread makers. As is Dolores. There's only one other novice like me. Before we get stuck into the neading, there's a bit of informal Q&A with the baker, which is dead informative. He's very enthusiastic and clearly knows his stuff.
We're making bread a very quick way. At the end of two hours we'll have a loaf of our own to take home. After a quick demonstartion from the make, we start getting our hands dirty. Very dirty, in my case.
The method we've been shown uses a very wet dough. It looks scary enough when the baker does it. I just end up with a sticky mess that gets all over the place but doesn't seem very keen on forming into a nice ball. Pretty sure it's going to be a disaster, at this point. The baker shoots me a few pitying looks.
Somehow I manage to get most of my streak of chewing gum into the baking tin. Apart from the half kilo or so stuck to my fingers. While it's baking, we get a tour aroung the bakery. I'm quite used to going around food production facilities. There a quite a few similarities with a brewery, mostly all the stainless steel.
Amazingly, my loaf has worked. It hasn't risen as much as Dolores's, but it's still proper bread. I feel ridiculously proud.
Hartog's Volkoren Bakkerij en Maalderij
1091 GK Amsterdam.
1091 GK Amsterdam.
Tel: 020 - 752 74 19
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