Is there a better smell in the world than freshly baked bread, just out of the oven? Drop in for a bite to eat at Cotehele in Cornwall or Killerton in Devon and you could find yourself enveloped in that warm enticing fragrance, stealing out from the kitchens. The skills of the master baker are kept very much alive at Cotehele and Killerton, where bread is made regularly for their restaurants and tea-rooms using flour ground traditionally at Cotehele Mill and Clyston Mill respectively.
If you come away filled with the urge to bake your own bread, here are some inside tips for great bread-making from Cotehele’s Tim Bennett:
‘Starting with raw ingredients, you need to make sure you get good quality ingredients. We prefer to use a mixture of Cotehele’s own wholemeal flour and organic white flour. The white flour keeps the bread light and soft whilst the wholemeal flour adds a different texture and flavour.
‘Bread-making is a bit of a science and it’s good to experiment and find the recipe that works best for you, and then try adding in different flavours. Flavour a bread to complement what you’re going to serve it with. Sugar is used to feed the yeast, and also adds to the colour of the crust, but too much will restrict the gluten development. Salt aids the texture and adds to the flavour, but too much will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise. The quantity of water needed will depend on the flour and will tend to vary slightly throughout the year; warm water is used to keep the yeast active.
‘Once the bread dough is mixed it’s important to knead it well. This stretches out the gluten in the flour and will give a much better texture. You need to get really involved when kneading and it should leave you tired. It’s a good exercise!
‘A splash of water over the bread just before you bake it gives you a nice crust.’
Check www.nationaltrust.org.uk for opening times for Cotehele’s Barn Restaurant and the Edgcumbe on the quay, and for Killerton’s Garden Tea-room and Orchard Tea-room. You can watch flour being made on certain days at the historic watermills at Cotehele from 15 March, and Clyston Mill at Killerton from 3 April.