I’m not usually lucky when it comes to anything of the prize draw ilk (prime example being the tombola stall this weekend, where 50, yes that’s right, 50 tickets amounted to me winning a decidedly dubious looking jar of homemade quince jelly!) but for once the luck gods were smiling down on me…
A friend organised a raffle, raising money to go to Help for Heroes. I bought some tickets knowing it was for a good cause rather than having any hope of winning. But win I did, whoop! Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery had kindly donated a prize of a baking day – and I had the lucky raffle ticket.
Being a baking novice I felt in need of moral support so I paid for my Mum to come too. And one sunny Spring morning – with nails clean and hair tied back – off we went to Redbournbury Mill.
Before now I’d never been to the Mill, which is delightfully quaint and in a lovely riverside setting. It has 1000 years of milling history and is the last working mill on the river Ver. The Mill is open to visitors (for free) on Saturdays 9am – 1pm and Sundays 2.30pm – 5pm. Freshly-made bread is on sale on Saturday mornings. And there are four floors of the mill museum, as well as the mill shop stocking all their organic flours and oats, which can be explored on both days. You can also find the Mill selling their bread at local farmers markets. The Mill is run by a dedicated team of volunteers and there is often a need for more help. No particular qualifications are necessary; so if you’re interested in joining the volunteer team do get in touch with them.
So, back to the baking experience day. It all happens in the working bakery, where Steven (the mill’s master baker) will teach you the basics of bread-making: mixing, kneading, proving, shaping and baking. You’ll be in a small group (there were six of us on the day I went) so there is plenty of opportunity to ask questions or in my case get a little bit of extra help when it turns out you’re not a natural kneader!
When they told us we’d be taking home a selection of bread, they weren’t lying. We made (and took home) sourdough loaves, wholemeal cottage loaves, honey and sunflower seed malted loaves, orange flavoured rolls, tomato focaccia, soda bread, mini rye loaves, fruit rock cakes, and pizzas with our toppings of choice. I had so much I had to share it out to the neighbours (they said it tasted good, but they had to really didn’t they!)
Steven the baker did a great job guiding us from one recipe to the next, neither rushing nor letting things drag. He’s a one-man show on the day (but thank you also to the people behind the scenes who help organise it) going from teacher to baker; juggling timings and novice mishaps; keeping you well-stocked with refreshments (hot and cold drinks, pastries and fruit) and laying on lunch (homemade vegetable soup, salad, cheese – eaten with some of our freshly made bread). And while the last of your creations are baking, there’s time to do a tour of the mill and a peruse of the shop. As well as taking your baked goodies home, you get a branded bag and tea-towel, a selection of recipe cards, two packets of flour and a pot of sour-dough to get you started at home. The day wraps up about 3pm with weary hands and a car-load of loaves.
I thought it was a great day. A little pricey for some people but I was lucky that they were generous enough to donate it as a prize. And my Mum who does a lot of foodie courses thought it was good value for money. Plus I’d like to think I’m also putting some money into helping to keep the Mill running.
- The baking days are run on occasional Mondays – contact the mill to confirm upcoming dates – from 9.30AM until about 3pm.
- I believe you’ll bake different things depending on the time of year so I’d get in touch with them if you’re interested and see what’s planned.
- The cost of the baking experience day is £115 plus VAT, payable in full in advance.
- There are toilets in the barn next to the bakery.
- Expect to get involved with cleaning down and washing up – as you should if you don’t want Steven the baker to keel over exhausted!
- Questions or to book, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery – Redbournbury Lane, Redbourn Road, St Albans, AL3 6RS