Making bread at Ann’s smart school of cookery

This is the next part in my series about finding local activities for us to do together. The idea is that you can often miss things that are on your doorstep – even more so if you can’t see posters or other forms of advertising. So I use the internet to search for things, a bit like a tourist who’s new to the county or surrounding area. It can be things to see, things to learn, experiences – anything that I think S and I will both enjoy and that will be accessible for me as a blind participant. I’m responsible for finding and booking things, and S is responsible for agreeing to the shortlist and getting us there!

So, on Saturday we set off for Ann’s smart school of cookery to attend a bread-making class. They have several locations, but we went to the one in Windsor.

We were asked not to take any pictures during the course, which is why there are none on this post.

I booked the course in November, so I think they must be quite popular because this was the first available date. The link I used was on Groupon, and it gives you a substantial discount on the artisan bread-making course. (The link was correct and valid at the time of publishing. The link is a Groupon affiliate link, but I purchased the experience and it is not a paid promotion).

The course

We’ve been to Windsor a few times and it was easy enough to find the building. In fact we were the first to arrive, but there was coffee waiting for us while the others set up. (You can add alcohol to your booking, but we didn’t so I can’t comment on that).

The course runs for 2 hours, which included making around 6 types of bread, as well as some humus and dip to go with it. Participants sit at tables around a big square. One side of the square is where the practical stuff happens – we rotated in groups of two and there were usually around four people making bread at any one time. When you weren’t involved practically, you were listening to the explanations and watching the other participants.

With a couple of exceptions, most of the bread types were based on the same recipe, with additional ingredients being added later. You don’t make all types of bread yourself, but each group contributes something to the final feast!

Originally I had imagined that we would all make all types of bread, but this would create more bread than anyone could eat, especially as the food has to be eaten on site. It would probably also mean that you can’t get through as much in the two hours.

What did we make?

We were team walnut loaf – making a spelt dough and adding in walnuts. We made 4 small baguette-type loaves that were later chopped up and shared among the group.

How accessible was it?

S and I were sitting quite close to the practical area, which was nice to be able to hear what was going on. Having said that, the group was listening anyway and there wasn’t a lot of background noise. The teacher gave clear explanations of what he was doing, or what he was telling other people to do, so I could understand what was going on even though I couldn’t watch. A couple of times S gave me some extra information about techniques for making the rolls etc.

We worked in groups, so we divided the tasks to make it accessible. This meant that S did the weighing because I couldn’t see the scales. I’m sure someone else would have done it if S hadn’t been there though. Most people were with a friend or partner, but a couple of people came on their own too.

It wasn’t my own kitchen where I know where everything is, but anything I needed was close by, so I didn’t feel that my not being able to see kept anyone else waiting.

I liked the fact that the information was online, so I could access the recipes myself, rather than having to take notes or convert hard-copy materials to something that I could read.

Trying out the bread

The bit that everyone was waiting for came at the end of the session – trying out what we had made! All food is eaten on site – you get to try what other people made and see which recipes you want to recreate at home! It’s best not to have a big lunch before you go!

As soon as someone opened one of the ovens and I smelled the cooked bread, I began to get hungry! We tried some of all of the breads, and our firm favourite was the focaccia tear and share – probably because of the cumin and rosemary. The bread sticks were good too – I’m a real fan of cumin! There was nothing I didn’t like, although I think the very chocolatey brioche was better than the one with raisins – that’s just a personal choice though from a very biased chocolate lover!

After the course

There was time for us to ask any questions before leaving, and we were all given a printed voucher that gave us a discount on further cookery courses.

For a full list of the courses, from cheese-making to curry classes to an intensive chef course, you can visit the Anne’s smart school website.

We also received the same information by email, which was great because then I could read it too, as well as a list of the recipes as a PDF. Saves some trees and again I could read them using my screenreader.

We haven’t signed up for any more courses yet, but I am tempted by the cheese-making one!

Overall I thought the experience was a good way to help people make the recipes their own. It was not at all pretentious. Our teacher was approachable and happy to give tips or answer questions. People were laughing and all seemed to be having a good time.

It probably did help that S and I had made some bread before – pizza dough, naan breads, flat breads and my old school recipe for tarragon bread, but this wasn’t essential. I think we had a range of abilities in our group and you didn’t need to come with any prior knowledge.

Apart from being an interesting afternoon out and something for us to do together, the important thing for me is that we will use what we learned. I can imagine us making three or four of the recipes, and amending them to try out other herbs or fillings. We also picked up some good kitchen tips – for example I didn’t know you can freeze ginger!

As someone who works in adult education, the main thing for me about training classes is that people don’t just learn something on the day, but they can take it away and use it again. In this respect the cookery class met my goal – it taught us how to make some tasty recipes in a really easy way.

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Good things in October – book club, breadmaking, and fluffy blankets!

It’s the last day of October and time to think about what happened during the last month. These posts used to be about new products I’d tried, but I wanted the month review to be more inclusive than that – a real snapshot of what was good about the last 30 or so days. And also I think this gives a more rounded view of the person behind the blog!

My post yesterday about being blind and unable to drive got a lot of comments on social media – my disability posts often do – but that’s not all of who I am! I’m just an average woman in her 30s who gets excited about autumn, organising her wedding, finding orange twirls, reading a good book, and planning her next trip to the spa or to see miniature donkeys! I’m happy to share my thoughts on the disability topics, and I think they’re important, but there’s much more to me than that!

Flu jab

Ok, not usually something to get excited about, but that’s what my first weekend in October was all about! I qualify for a free one now because of my health issues in August, but even if you don’t, they’re only around £15. Some of my friends have been really ill with the flu already this winter, and if I can do something to avoid that I will. Partly because being self-employed = no sickness pay, but also some people haven’t been right for two or three weeks. So I’m glad I could get mine!

Anyway it was an excuse to snuggle on the sofa and get the fluffy blankets out. Did I mention I love autumn? Walking through the woods, feeling the fresh autumn breeze, then snuggling up with a hot drink in the warm.

Making bread

I dusted off my old school recipe folder and we made tarragon bread! I don’t often make my own bread, but it always tastes better fresh, and I like the way that the tarragon gives it a different flavour. I’ve lost touch with the friend who gave me the recipe in year 11 at school, but she was good to me at a time when things were really tough, and chomping into it reminds me you never know who you’ll meet, or that help can come from unexpected places!

Apart from that, there’s something really satisfying about kneading dough!

Books

In my usual all or nothing fashion, I’ve been reading a lot recently. I finished all three of the Millennium series (The girl with the dragon tattoo). I’ve seen the film for the first one and decided to read the books. Described as Swedish crime novels – which would usually put me off because after working in the justice system, it frustrates me how people get it so wrong. But I’d seen the film and knew it wasn’t just another unrealistic detective drama.

I read the first book in English, but there was something about the writing style that didn’t flow as well for me. I imagine this doesn’t happen with the original, but I can’t read Swedish! So I read books two and three in German and enjoyed the writing more.

The books deal with some unpleasant and difficult topics, so anyone about to read them should be aware of that. I won’t put any spoilers here, but I found myself wanting the best for Lisbeth Salander, and the series raises some important questions about violence against women, and the people that the system fails.

Book club

On a lighter note, I joined in with the online book club for the second time this year. Each month we get a different book to read and then there is a discussion in the Facebook group at the end of the month. The books are varied – last month’s was an animal story that was autobiographical in nature. This month was young adult fantasy.

I like the book club for a number of reasons. It introduces you to new books that you otherwise might not have read. It’s accessible because you can take part from the comfort of your own sofa. You don’t stand out for being the only one without a glass of wine. You can explore ideas with other people who’ve read the book too.

Module results

I got a distinction in TM112, the Open University module that I finished in September. I plan to write a post about it for my mature students’ series, but I actually enjoyed this one more than the first, mainly because it was more about using an accessible programming language and less dragging stuff about with a mouse! Anyway I enjoyed the module and was happy with the result.

2 new modules started

This academic year is different because I’m doing two modules at the same time. I’m still part-time – I wouldn’t want to do full-time job and full-time university – but they don’t run one after the other as they did last year. This means I’ll have a longer break in the summer.

I’m doing another IT module – we’re writing programmes for robots at the moment, and the other one is about language and culture. I chose the second one because I couldn’t bring myself to do a whole module of maths.

Present that keeps giving

It’s the second time that I’ve had a subscription as a gift. The first time was when S bought me an Audible subscription. My Mum got me a Pip Box subscription for my birthday. You can read about the September box here and I may do one about October too. It’s not one of the subscription boxes that you hear so much about, but some of the others have got really samey of late, and I also wanted to try some more natural, cruelty-free skincare products. It’s also nice when you keep getting birthday presents long after your birthday lol!

Orange twirls

Yay we finally found them! S had been out hunting for them a few weeks ago when I read about them online, but he didn’t find any. By chance he saw some last weekend! If you like orange chocolate and you like twirls, snap them up! They’re a special edition, so I’m not sure how long they’ll be around for!

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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.