Belfast Cookery School - Irish Bread Making

There’s nothing quite like the smell of bread baking, it stirs a multitude of emotions. Nostalgia, familiarity, a sense of home and hunger! I know hunger isn’t exactly an emotion but it leads to an emotional outburst of hangry if I don’t eat within the hour (who am I kidding, within 10 minutes!). No need to get hangry at the Belfast Cookery School baking class, we were well fed (and watered) by the team, lead by chef Ian Hunter.

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I had no idea of what the class entailed, had no clue about the format or the bread we would be baking or indeed what I had to bring! I need not have feared for all that was required were ourselves, an appetite and an excuse to have a glass of wine in the middle of the afternoon. It was SO much fun. I attended with Mother Duffin - she’s well accustomed to the oven, a rolling pin and the big baking bowl. We were both still a little apprehensive…

What if everyone knows more about baking than us?

Even though my mum is plenty familiar. It’s not like that at all, there were folks there with no baking experience, to a vague knowledge of it to those that bake on the regular and just fancied a wee turn at something different.

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It’s not Bake Off but it’s fun to treat it so! Three challenges - Irish Stout Wheaten Bread, Soda Bread and Scallion Potato Bread. Let’s do this! After arriving we were sat down and offered tea, coffee or something a bit stronger in an assortment of beers, wine, whiskey or gin. We were too polite to begin with and had coffee. One recipe in and we were on the wine. We perused the recipes for the day which were neatly attached to our own individual clipboards - handy as I needed to refer to mine about 256 times throughout the course of the afternoon. Chef Ian demonstrated each recipe to the class prior to us attempting anything ourselves. He showed us the skills and traditional techniques used to authentically bake these wonderful Irish breads that we all know and love. Then it was our turn. We all had a station (per couple) and we baked the breads together. Well, Mother baked the bread. I scurried around taking photos of every drip, stir, bubble, spoon fold, sprinkle - you name it and I had my camera shoved in it. What can I say, I can’t help it! So she baked and I photographed. All the ingredients were perfectly portioned into little cups and bowls ready to be decanted into the mix as we read through each recipe. Half the time spent baking from home is dedicated to this task so to have it already done for us was sheer joy! . All the measuring and weighing and spooning into random dishes then running out of random dishes then spilling sugar all over the floor and the dog licking around your feet like a crazed, starved beast - all taken care of! Apart from the dog, you’ll have to go home for that. Here’s another little nugget of information to sweeten the deal, the washing up is taken care of too! Amazing! Mum enjoyed this immensely as did I, it meant we could really focus on the baking and enjoy the process all the more. Three demo’s later from chef Ian and three recipes tried and tested, we were done. The results were in, my granny would have been proud!

I loved this whole experience as baking is something my Mum and I have shared for a long time and I really felt like we both got so much more out of it than just the lovely soda farls, wheaten and fadge (potato bread) we got to take home at the end of the day. I can’t wait to return, perhaps the pasta class next! Stay tuned….