Mar 14, 2014

Wish I Was Here: Firehouse Bakery and Bread School

I'm heading home for a good friend's wedding at the end of August. I haven't taken care of any of the big details yet like booking flights, paying for flights, and losing fifteen pounds, but I am ahead of myself with a steadily growing mental list of things I want to do/ways I want to gain back fifteen pounds while I'm home. Along with the usual "visit Nana early so the scones are still hot," "eat garlic chips and cheese," and "stock up on knickers from Penney's and Dunnes," I am adding a few more ambitious to-dos to this trip. One hopeful is a visit to a "Bread and Breakfast" (as I like to call it) on a little island off the coast of West Cork ...

Located on picturesque Heir Island (also known as Inishodriscol), in Roaringwater Bay in West Cork, the Firehouse Bakery and Bread School offers small class sizes, local ingredients, a wood-burning clay oven, and instruction from teacher/author/master baker Patrick Ryan. It also offers the chance to learn a skill for life.

I've always been intimidated by bread. Sadly (or happily?), this intimidation does not affect the eating of bread, just the baking of it. I have never made a bread that required any yeast or kneading, so in truth, I have never made bread. No point boasting I've sky-dived or hiked Mayan ruins when I have a cinnamon-bun-shaped, gaping hole in my life's education. No more filling that void with other people's bread!

A day's course includes return ferry to Heir Island, full day hands-on baking experience, baking your own bread in a wood fired clay oven, lunch with wine (with Roaringwater Bay serving as the back drop), and—wait for it—a fresh-baked goodie bag of bread to take home with you! You can also prolong this delicious experience by staying overnight on Heir Island at Roaringwater Lodge (right next door) or at another of the island's accommodations. You can even take a sailing class in the bay. I would just walk the island and eat bread and then walk some more and eat some more bread. I can't imagine a better holiday ... or, come to think of it, a better way for a visitor to Ireland to get an authentic taste of Ireland.

Classes are limited to 6 participants to ensure an intimate learning environment. This is great if you are lucky enough to book a class before 6 other people beat you to it. Not so lucky if, like me, you are not on the ball. Looks like classes are booked out until October right now but you can email the school to be added to their waitlist (that's what I did, as well as crossing all fingers and toes.)

In the meantime, you can start your own schooling with Chef Ryan's book, Bread Revolution: Rise Up and Bake!. Also, be sure to check out Ryan's collection of short videos with Lisa Faulkner on the BBC's food website How to Cook videos.

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