Is there a better smell in the world than warm, home-baked bread fresh from the oven? If, like me, that’s your idea of bliss, then we have a little slice of heaven for you. Tucked away down a meandering long drive, is The Artisan Bakehouse near Ashurst. The Bakehouse itself is set in the peaceful grounds of a 16th century farmhouse surrounded by gardens and woodland, overlooked by the South Downs and owned and run by Les & Louise Nicholson. It’s a very pretty, little building near the house and includes a traditional wood-burning oven.
Les is Sussex-born and bred. Originally from Brighton, he’s lived all his life in Sussex with the exception of an 8-year stay in rural south west France where he developed a passion for bread! Since then, he’s gone on to train as a traditional artisan bread maker and for the last decade, he’s been sharing his skills passion and expertise by way of a series of artisan bread-making workshops. Not to neglect Louise who shares Les’s passion for good food, using local seasonal and all things fresh and works hard in the background to ensure everyone’s visit is unique!
In the days before Covid, The Artisan Bakehouse would host pop-up lunches and high tea events as well as special dinners and breadmaking workshops. I caught up with the team recently to see how they coped with the pandemic and the good news is that like many artisan businesses when the going got tough, they innovated. They’ve now created and launched a series of immersive video baking courses for nearly all their workshops and have set up a “Bake Off” style marquee outside in the grounds near the Bakehouse with individual workstations. And because their workshops are normally limited to six participants that means they can operate safely and have recently been able to reopen all their courses.
Bread and patisserie making
There’s an impressive breadboard of choice when it comes to the workshops on offer, with everything from Mediterranean, gluten-free, wholemeal, Viennoiserie, sourdough and seasonal baking including Irish bakes for St. Patrick’s Day, Hot Cross Buns, and Christmas bread baking. The sourdough classes are hosted by internationally renowned baker and author, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Emmanuel’s sourdough bread has won Soil Association Organic Food Awards and his enthusiasm is infectious.
If you’re a complete novice don’t be daunted by what’s on offer because the beginner’s workshop is for anyone who has never baked at all, or would just like to improve their existing skills. It’s a great introduction and you’ll make Italian focaccia, a French baguette and a regular seeded or walnut organic bread. You’ll also learn about different kinds of wheat and flours, yeasts, kneading techniques and all things dough.
Chocolate making masterclasses
It’s more than a little exciting that The Artisan Bakehouse is now also running chocolate-making masterclasses with none other than Mike Noble from the acclaimed Sussex-based artisan chocolatiers Noble and Stace. Roll up your sleeves to make cream truffles, caramel truffles and solid chocolate tablettes and take home hand-crafted chocolates, beautifully boxed. Mike also brings a selection of his current batches from Noble and Stace for you to sample so there’s lots of tasting throughout.
Honestly, what’s not to love and if you can’t wait to get started, I have it on good authority that there are currently spaces available in their next workshop on the 20th and 21st May.
And did I mention amidst all this wonderful, chocolatey doughiness, that you can also stay at The Artisan Bakehouse in their The Brewhouse and The Milkhouse cottages close to the farmhouse or their newly acquired luxury Shepherds’ Hut? But that’s a story for another day and you’ll find all the details about these just here:
You can find out more about The Artisan Bakehouse or book a course at: https://theartisanbakehouse.com/