Last month we went on a day trip to return to my favourite place in the world: Ballintaggart Farm. After trying our hand at sourdough making last Autumn I had bought Al a voucher for a Ballintaggart Advanced Breadmaking Course for our 11 year anniversary in September, but had had to keep the secret since I booked it in June. It was difficult to say the least! So one beautifully cold, crisp Saturday morning at the start of the October holidays, we set off – excited to return to Highland Perthshire.
We were greeted by the chickens – of course – steaming hot mugs of tea and sourdough crumpets, warm from the griddle and dripping with melted butter. After chatting with our fellow bread makers and teachers Sara and Hazel in the cosy sitting room, we donned our aprons and headed to the cook school. Small but perfectly formed, I love this space – shared with the working kitchen it’s always great to see the daily routines and rhythms of the Farm, what’s being prepped for the day of dining ahead, the tending of the sourdough and a sneak peek of our own treats to come!
From doughnuts to bagels, walnut rye to buttermilk rolls, crumpets to focaccia, it was a veritable bread feast. The team had put so much care and attention into prepping a course that equipped us with a range of different dough skills and bread-making experiences to take back to our own kitchens. We were all relatively experienced sourdough makers so the focus was on enriched doughs, different flours and methods of baking to expand our skill set. After getting our dough ready for its first prove it was time for a well-earned tea break and slice of the most delicious toasted banana bread I have ever tasted.
I had (perhaps over ambitiously) made some of the breads before and it was great to have support and reassurance from the experts – whether answers to why my bagels were too chewy when I tried my hand at them and why my rye never rises, in this small group setting there was no such thing as a silly question! So not only did I leave with much better bread knowledge, but it boosted my confidence in my baker’s instinct. After our second prove and trying our hand at a variety of cooking methods – poaching, frying, deep frying and baking – it was time for a late lunch to allow our bread to cool.
We sat down in the beautiful feast hall, all decked out in its autumnal splendour and filled with pumpkins, dried seed heads and Sweet Williams. First up was sourdough focaccia and Ballintaggart’s signature sourdough loaf to sample. The heavenly taste justified the latter’s three day turnaround time – nowhere else’s bread comes close to this! Baking tips well and truly noted for my own sourdough efforts…
Then was the starter – beetroot and rye crisp breads for me, pickled and roasted and accompanied with aioli. For the carnivores was trout with the same accompaniments, which I hear was beautifully smoked. Next up was my favourite course: the last of the courgettes (hand grown at Guardswell Farm no less) stuffed with Scottish goat’s cheese, pine nuts and herbs and accompanied with pickled roasted squash and greens. The meat eaters had chicken, cooked with spices until tender. We finished by sampling our doughnuts, filled with blackberry and rosemary jam to perfectly temper their sweetness. We left with full care packages (complete with some of Ballintaggart’s own starter – a privilege!), a host of new skills and a whole new appreciation for real bread, all too ready to return to Ballintaggart as soon as possible…
Do you like baking bread?