At this point in my baking hobby, I have taken a good few bread classes in various places but was really excited to see a Sweet Bread class pop up in Pudding Row.
I took Dervla’s class last Monday and it was really great. We learned to make Pecan & Butterscotch Buns, Custard Doughnuts and Bagels. The bagels were the real highlight for me as they’re something I always put in my shopping trolley! As you’ll know if you’ve read Where Is My Teaspoon before, I have eaten many times in Pudding Row so knew the bagels here were really nice but didn’t think I would be able to achieve it too!
I had always read that you need a proper food mixer for sweet doughs but after taking this class I now understand that what you need is patience. The dough will come together, even if it is very sticky at the beginning.
On the morning of the class, Dervla served hot, spiced apple juice with some energy balls to get us settled before getting stuck in with the class. The Sweet Bread class is a physical one as all of the doughs needed to be hand kneaded for about 40 minutes each – you can take a couple minutes break though.
The first dough we made was for our buns. These were essentially Chelsea Buns with a different flavouring. I would definitely make these again! It was really rewarding to see something come out of the oven all golden and smelling so sweet. The dough is really soft and nice to work with once you get over that sticky stage, and I can’t imagine anyone saying no to a freshly baked one. They are amazing served warm!
After the buns, we made our doughnuts. Doughnuts have exploded in cafes all over Ireland and Dervla confirmed they were one of her best sellers in Pudding Row too. I think what’s really nice about these is how classic they are. I am tired of seeing really over-the-top doughnuts with crazy fillings. A simple jam or custard is nice and I love the look of the simple sugar coating at the end. I was truly amazed to see how good my effort turned out on Monday – I really think you wouldn’t guess they were a first attempt. We put zest in our dough for these and I think that offers another level of flavour. Flavouring the dough also allows the fresh custard to cut through, rather than having very heavy fillings.
Finally, we moved on to the bagels. This dough was a little easier to wok with but the technique in getting holes large enough so they don’t close in during the final prove was key. I am crazy about bagels so will most definitely be making these again – I’m going to try this weekend! I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to do it as well on my own but definitely want to crack them! They stay fresh for days and can be frozen easily which is brilliant.
Apart from the kneading, I felt the hardest part was shaping dough into tight balls for the bagels towards the end of the proving process. It took a little effort to get them all similar but Dervla just said it doesn’t matter how you do it so we could explore various techniques which helped.
I was surprised that all of the bakers on the class had such good results on the bakes. There really was consistency and everyone was really amazed to see that they had created such amazing bakes – I mean, look at those doughnuts. They totally look shop-bought.
I suppose the key take outs for me were:
- Weigh everything, including liquids (I had learned this before at Riot Rye but so many recipe books don’t do this so I got out of practice)
- The dough needs to get to a good temperature – 26 degrees
- You really need to designate a whole morning to make one of these bakes at home. It does take time and can’t be rushed
- Using fresh yeast is actually really easy – I don’t know why I thought this would be so different but it’s just as easy as dried.
- Everything in the recipe is there for a reason. Sometimes I can be tempted to swap things around or add additional pieces but really, when learning a new skill it’s best to stay to the recipe and master it before moving on.
I would 100% recommend you take this Sweet Bread class if you ever get the opportunity. The whole experience was so positive. Dervla kept is really well fed throughout the day too, serving a beautiful soup and salad for our lunch with limitless teas and coffees. She also treated us to a Victoria Sandwich which was a welcome sight after so much kneading earlier in the morning. She also gifted us each a branded tote bag to carry our bakes home. I love it!
I really admire Dervla and the beautiful business she has created in Easkey. Hearing her daily schedule and learning exactly how she makes the bakes on her menu leaves you with a real understanding that this is a craft she is mastering. The hours she needs to put in everyday and the other sacrifices that comes with that are substantially. I am thrilled to support her cafe and thank her for creating something so special in rural Ireland!
I look forward to her next round of classes and will be back for breakfast soon ! Though I might bring my own bagel 😂