PETER AND ANN FROST take a bread making course in the breadbasket of East Anglia.
Neither of us has ever needed an alarm clock when away in our motor caravan. The birds of the dawn chorus have always made enough noise to gently wake us from the sleep of innocence.
Sunlight finding the cracks around the blackout blinds has often added a visual aspect to the waking experience.
But nothing beats the delicious odour of fresh bread that woke us from our sleep at Denver Windmill where the baker was stocking up on her loaves for sale with an early morning batch of rolls, scones and bread of various kinds before handing here bakery over to us amateurs for a day under instruction in her kitchen.
That early morning baking made breakfast easy and delicious. Bread, home made jam from the mill shop and good strong coffee – what camper could ask for anything more.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The two day course is carefully designed to take we bread fans through the whole process of producing our daily bread.
We started just down the road from the mill in a huge field of almost ripe organic wheat. The farmer explained the choice varieties of wheat for stone grinding and baking.
We looked at other grains. Spelt was a popular choice with some home baking enthusiasts. Barley and rye were also explained and malt for use in some interesting blends.
Next we looked at harvesting, threshing and we saw how the grain was cleaned and separated ready to go to the mill in heavy sacks.
It’s easy to talk about Denver as a single windmill but in fact it’s more a comprehensive history museum of traditional stone ground milling.
The original windmill was built in 1835 yet it was only twenty or so years later when a steam powered mill was built in outbuildings here. That steam mill still grinds corn but in the 1920’s the steam engine was replaced by a rattling Blackstone Oil engine which still runs today.
More modern still is an electric powered Barron Dreadnought Stone Mill which has been grinding corn here for just half a century. Each of the mills produces subtly different flour from a variety of local Fenland grains.
If you are lucky your two day course will show you the whole history of stone-ground flour milling in one location. Certainly there will be a chance to take a close look at the amazing old machines that use wind, oil and electricity to grind our corn into flour.
Flour is just one of the ingredients of a good loaf. We’ll learn the magic of yeast, of sourdough, of the various foods the yeast needs to grow and bring its miraculous lightness and flavour to our best baking efforts.
The Mill offers a number of different bread making courses. The cost is about £20 and £25 per person plus the charge for overnight camping or the cost of a local B & B.
Choose from beginners or sourdough Stollen at Christmas, or Spelt bread making. Full details are on the website and courses can get booked well ahead.
We loved our course and went away with lots of good ideas and tips, some wonderful stone ground flour to keep baking for a month or two aaas well as a loaf or two.
Since this article was written the Mill at Denver has lost its sails in a storm. It still grinds flour using the oil engine powered mill stones.
Denver Windmill, Sluice Road, Downham Market, Norfolk, PE38 0EG
Tel; 01366 384009 www.denvermill.co.uk
This article was first published in Camping and Caravanning Magazine.
A SAD STOP PRESS
I have just discovered that Denver Mill has now closed to visitors. The bread making and the bread baking courses have moved to a pub near Kings Lynn.