Baking with Bruce
The finished product, first loaf of bread
A white fluffy storm is brewing. I am up to my eyes and elbows in it. But it is not clouds, hail or snow. Nor dandelions, cottonwood or even will o’ the wisps. It is flour. Strong white flour. Spelt flour. Flour, flour everywhere and not a drop to drink!
Yes, I am baking. I am going to be baking the bread for the lunch service at The Wildflower Restaurant based at the Moorland Garden Hotel. I am under the supervision of Bruce Cole, Head Chef and hubby is my assistant. I have never baked bread in my life! A contestant on the great British Bake Off, I will never be. I watch the participants on that programme with complete awe. I sweat and shed tears on their behalf. How they can cope with experts critiquing the sheer hard graft that is baking, I will never know.
White loaves finished. Check!
But baking with Bruce is an altogether different proposition. Originally from South Africa, he trained for many years as an apprentice, as well as doing a business degree, before progressing into working in kitchens and in hospitality. Bruce has been at the Moorland Garden Hotel for 6 months and feels it will be another two before he completely settles in (!) I get the inkling this guy really knows what he is doing. And he is very patient with me and my lovely assistant. Guiding us through the kneading process and right through to getting our loaves oven ready.
Bread making in action
Under his tutelage, I carefully weigh out the ingredients to be mixed in the forty year old bread machine. It still works a treat. We quickly get our first blob of dough into the pan, cover it with cling film and transfer it to the shelf above the heat lamps in another section of the kitchen. As it starts rising nicely, we make up the granary bread with a fantastic crunchy Cotswold flour. The yeast feels like play dough and is such fun to manipulate. I am really enjoying this!
During a quick break, as the bread is rising, we talk about sustainability. Bruce is passionate about ensuring that the meat and fish are all traceable, sustainable and local. The night before I had dined at the hotel’s The Wildflower Restaurant and must admit that the Hake I ordered was absolutely superb. Incredibly fresh and baked to subtle perfection. Bruce, or one of his chefs, go to the fish market in Plymouth in the early hours of the morning to select the best catch for the hotel’s guests. And I could certainly tell my fish had been recently caught. My husband munched on his rib eye steak which was from an animal raised locally. In fact, virtually all the produce used by the hotel is grown locally and cheeses are sourced from producers around the Dartmoor region. Cheddar Cheese from Quick’s in Exeter and Cornish Yard, an excellent bleu cheese, are both on the menu.
Crunchy Dark Flour
Finally we try out the finished baked bread. With local butter on top. It really is amazing how good fresh baked bread tastes. And I was so pleased I had helped to make it.
In his spare time, Bruce often travels over the Tamar River to nearby Saltash in Cornwall. There, at the China Fleet Country Club (which was originally run by the Navy and started in Hong Kong) he unwinds with a game of golf. The country club also boasts a driving range. The Farmhouse Restaurant and Brasserie do a good job of serving up fresh fare to guests and there is good self-catering accommodation here…perfect for families.
But do check out the Moorland Garden Hotel if you want to experience Bruce’s cooking at The Wildflower Restaurant and then get out and experience the wild beauty of rugged Dartmoor.
Rooms at the Moorland Garden Hotel cost from £100 per night on a bed and breakfast basis, and from £150 per room per night including 3 course dinner www.moorlandgardenhotel.co.uk. Avis can drop off a rental car at the hotel for a £15 additional charge: