A couple of years ago a request came from nabim for a baker to give a couple of presentations for a training organisation called Grainchain.

Nabim (National Association British and Irish Millers) along with the HGCA (Home Grown Cereals Authority) is the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) formed the training coalition Grainchain to educate children, via home economic teachers within schools about the benefits of wheat and wheat products, namely bread, and all its benefits.

Grainchain has a great resource website http://www.grainchain.com/ especially for its intended audience of school teachers. It certainly would be worth your attention if you are looking for some ideas or class practicals, if you work with youngsters from time to time.

Over the last couple of weekends I have been sent to both Coatbridge school in Glasgow and also to Parliament Hill School in London. I gave two “hands on” sessions in basic bread-making, with an average of 20 persons per group. Each session lasts for one hour and 50 minutes and, within this time, the delegates learn the techniques of hand-kneading the dough, handling up, final moulding and proving and baking, so it’s quite a rush as you would expect. However, at the end of each session, the delegates take home the fruits of their labour, hopefully with some knowledge and appreciation of our art and craft, and pass it along to their students.

I ask, of course, some pertinent questions about their classes to their students, and how bread, as a subject is delivered. The answers I receive are sometimes shocking to the point of disbelief.

“Oh, we only get 50 minutes for practices at our school,” some say. So I ask: “How can they teach bread making in 50 minutes?” Answer: they freeze the dough. They also cannot use real yeast because of the form filling it requires.

Every now and then, I have a little practical fun – just to see if the educators are up for a laugh. I start by saying that: “This is special yeast – made especially for craft bakers – it’s especially bred to taste sweet, almost like strawberries!”

I just want to see if their level of inquisitiveness has been pricked. And, do you know, some put a huge chunk in their mouths?

You should see their faces. I’ve never seen so many contorted mouths... wonderful.