Ruby and I were incredibly lucky to join other #52loavesproject participants at a masterclass in bread baking with the legendary Tom Herbert at Hobbs House Bakery, near Bristol. It seemed a little crazy to fly from Dublin and back in the one day, but it was an invitation we just couldn’t turn down. So we packed our baking bear, set our alarm for 4am, and off we went.
The bakery is situated on the mainstreet of Chipping Sodbury, a lovely little town in the heart of the Cotswolds. It’s a family business in every sense of the word, run by the Herberts who have been baking in the area for 5 generations, and the baking school is housed in the rooms above the bakery where the family grew up. Tom Herbert, of The Fabulous Baker Brothers fame, had generously given his time that Monday morning to help us make better bread. Half blinded by the cameras of the baking paparazzi, he patiently explained and demonstrated the art of proper bread-making, and was exceedingly diplomatic about our specimen loaves! Ruby and I learnt that we over-prove, our oven is not hot enough and our tin is too large. Learning about bread in such a beautiful environment, with a skilled and entertaining teacher, a roaring log fire and other equally exuberant 52 loafers was about the best way to spend a March Monday that we can think of. And they gave us lunch.
Throughout the day we were visited by Tom’s father, uncle, brothers and their wives who were so kind and friendly, and could not have made us any more welcome. Bread-making passion and enthusiasm virtually drips off the walls at Hobbs House, and it’s highly infectious! We left laden with Hobbs House dough scrapers, the new signed Glorious British Grub cookbook (our new favourite!), a new birchwood banneton and a loaf of the best bread we’ve ever tasted – the famous Sherston Loaf. We were going to pass it off as our own when we got home, but realised we’d never get away with it….
Tom runs bread-making and other courses from the school throughout the year, if we get the chance we’ll definitely be back, even if it’s just for another Sherston loaf.
A massive thank-you to Lou and Dan of Littlegreenshed for setting us on this adventure, Emma of Bradshaw & Sons for sorting it all out, and to Tom Herbert and all at Hobbs House Bakery for a fabulous experience.