It’s been an interesting year at VPK HQ. At the beginning of this year we were celebrating our classes getting fully booked weeks in advance. We felt that we were finally on the right track with the business. It felt like it was going to be a great, and busy, year. Then we all know what happened. Our last face to face class at the cookery school was on 20th March. I have missed teaching and so it feels great to be able to say that our online bread masterclass is now available to buy.
At first we were optimistic (foolish?)that it would only be a few weeks before we could reopen the cookery school in Ironbridge. Then it became "Maybe we can reopen in September". Then in July/August it hit me that this was longer term than that. We were in this for the long haul.
The cookery school is a small space, ideal for teaching five people and spending the day learning, chatting and generally having a good time. This also makes is less than ideal to reopen during a pandemic. Rich and I talked endlessly in July about whether we should reopen. Could we manage it? The more we talked it over the more I realised that the whole ethos of Veg Patch Kitchen is to provide a fun, relaxing day out for everyone that comes along to one of our courses and this was going to be difficult to deliver when the class size was restricted to one and we were wearing masks, visors and constantly administering hand sanitiser. The realisation that we weren't going to reopen soon was really hard. I admit to having a bit of a weep.
During the first part of lockdown I had launched the online shop, so people could purchase our handprinted aprons, proving cloths and bread bags. I was thinking about how remote classes might work. The problem that we kept coming up against is our terrible internet. We live in a wonderful place but it does not have Superfast Fibre, despite paying for Superfast Fibre. The maximum we get is 15mbps, the average is 8mbps and quite often it is at 1-2mbps and that is download speed. Our upload speed is a maximum of 1mbps. Rich was working from home via a server and the girls were at home trying to do their school work. The internet connection was not going to stretch to virtual bread making lessons.
Online bread course
So, I started filming videos and researching online teaching platforms to deliver an online version of my classes. It has been an interesting and steep learning curve and a seven minute video takes four hours to upload. There has been a lots of early mornings for me, using the internet before everyone else in the house gets up. But finally, the bread masterclass is live and available to buy. This feels like a big light at the end of the tunnel for me. At last I can start teaching again, albeit in an entirely different way.
The masterclass is intended as a step by step approach to bread basics. I show you how easy it is to make bread at home and fit bread making into your daily routine. We use one master recipe throughout and make breads of different shapes, rolls, pitta breads, pizza bases, focaccia and then show you how easy it is to adapt the recipe by adding extra ingredients making a Marmite bread and a tomato loaf.
I have designed the course so that it banishes any fear you may have of yeast cookery, as I remember having that fear when I started out. The course equips you with the skills, knowledge and tricks to make a variety of bread. There is enough science in the class to give you a clear understanding of the processes as they happen so that you can troubleshoot your dough and make is better next time. You get access to the course for at least a year so you can keep revisiting it to refresh your memory as you practise.
The course has been tested by a wonderful group of volunteers, at least one of which had never baked bread before. Tim was the best man at our wedding so I roped him into trying it out. I was extremely proud of his first loaf.
Here is what Tim had to say "Having never baked anything before and I do mean NEVER, I was very sceptical that I could be taught the skills to produce such a fine looking loaf first time around. Many thanks to the genius of Kath Corfield at Veg Patch Kitchen for putting together such a fantastic online tutorial. If like me... you have the culinary skills of an Otter... I'm sure Kath will point you in the right direction too."
More online courses are in the pipeline, starting with Christmas Breads that I will be filming for the rest of this week.
Gift vouchers are available for the online course and for courses here in Ironbridge when we do reopen.
Our cookery school in Ironbridge will reopen as soon it is safe to do so, but in the meantime it feels wonderful to be able to offer an alternative.
Lockdown has been a challenge but it has also offered this great opportunity to teach more people how to make great bread at home.