This last weekend I escaped from the workmen (who should have finished by now, I hasten to add) and headed up to Scotland to update and discover new skills in gluten free breadmaking. I had planned to drive but after the stress of the last month whilst we were building the new room, I decided to treat myself and take the train. It was a no brainer to upgrade to First class for £10 and after the shock of waking up to quite a considerable amount of snow the morning of my departure, I had a very enjoyable trip along the coast past Lindisfarne up to Edinburgh with complimentary teas, coffee, lunch, snacks and even a glass of wine, whilst relaxing in a spacious comfortable seat.
I am a great believer that learning is a lifetime thing and that anyone who thinks they know it all is a fool. This is so true of food, and especially gluten free foods. Styles and methods are changing all the time, and in the years since I was first diagnosed coeliac, there have been so many changes it doesnt seem like the same food at all. Bread used to taste absolutely disgusting and leave a horrible after taste. We could hardly get any biscuits and what we could get were very crumbly and again had that horrible after taste to them. As a protein had been removed from food (the gluten) the thoughts were that the only thing that would hold something together was to add an egg as a replacement protein.
Jump forward a few years (20 in my case) and we have a wonderful choice of food that is readily available in shops and supermarkets. I wont say that it all tastes excellent or is healthy, in fact much of it is more likely to be classified as junk food, but at least we can get it, but it has its uses at times when time is short, we are tired and really don’t feel like starting a meal from scratch.
At Stonecroft, we believe in eating freshly made, healthy, clean food, locally sourced and organic wherever possible. We don’t like chemical additives and everything crammed with sugar. There are more and more binding agents available in the shops, from Xanthum gum, to chemically produced binders, and cooks, bakers and chefs are now realising that natural binding agents are not only healthier but do a better job. It is thought that before too long, there will probably be health warnings on many of the current food “glues”…
I have always preferred to eat naturally, and have lived on an organic plant based diet for most of my life, so when the opportunity came to take the trip to Scotland to brush up on a few old skills and learn a lot of new ones, I simply had to jump at it.
I first met Andrew Whitley many years ago when I attended his first ever gluten free baking course at the Village Bakery in Cumbria. The bakery had been organic from day 1 and I came home with a car full of food and a wealth of recipes that I still use today. Andrew now concentrates on other bread and baking projects from his wonderful base on a remote farm not too far from Edinburgh (they had no snow when I got there… at least I had escaped that)… and runs one or two gluten free baking courses a year. The location is environmentally friendly and the bakery purpose built but still with the log fired bread oven. We made bread, using natural flours and binding agents, pizza bases, naan breads, tarts, and sampled some fantastic cakes. Not only did I learn a lot about the science behind the bread making, but I met some lovely people too. I have been busy today bread making, and cant wait to try them out on my guests.
Below are some photos taken on the course. The wood fired bread oven can be seen behind Andrew. If anyone wants to learn more about bread making (both gluten free and gluten bread) this is the place to visit. gluten free baking courses