River Cottage HQ, Dorset: Day 4

River Cottage HQ, Dorset: Day 4



By Beth

I headed to River Cottage HQ on the last day of the course feeling quite sad that it was the final day I would spend there. I’d really enjoyed my week and knew I was going to miss the exhilaration of entering the kitchen every day not knowing what I would be cooking. The final day of the course had been the day I’d been most looking forward to though so I was going to enjoy every moment!

To start with we checked our sourdough dough that had been left overnight and I was pleased to see it had risen nicely. We then folded our dough in the bowl and covered it again and repeated this twice with hour intervals through the day. 

Then we set to work on another loaf but this time a white bloomer. The dough was made with flour, yeast, salt and water which we mixed to form a rough dough and kneaded this until it was smooth. We then folded it in half four times and flipped it over and used our hands to cup it from underneath, gently helping it form a round shape. Like the sourdough, we then covered this back in the bowl and let it rise for about an hour.

Next we started to make rough puff pastry, which was going to be used with the guinea fowl we had left in the fridge from meat day to make a pithivier. We mixed flour with salt and butter and added water to make a firm dough before we shaped the pastry into a rectangle. We them rolled the dough out to 1cm thick and folded it into thirds, turning it and repeating, folding it a further five times. Then we covered it in cling film and placed it in the fridge.

Joe, our chef, then asked us to gather around the front whilst he showed us how to make doughnuts. He had already made the dough, since he told us it was quite tricky to do since it was a very wet and sticky mixture, so divided this into 20 pieces which he weighed to make sure they were all the same size. We then took a piece each and rolled it out into a ball ourselves before giving it back to Joe. He then covered these with cling film to prove so they doubled in size.

Going back to our loaves, we pre-heated the oven and put a baking tray into warm. Then we cut a quarter of the dough away and put it to one side and then began to shape our white bloomer into a rounded rectangle shape. We then sliced three lines horizontally into it before removing the heated tray and placing it in the oven for 30-40minutes.

Whilst the bloomer was cooking, we began working with our sourdough. We took the dough out of the bowl and shaped it into a round on a lightly floured surface before covering and leaving for another 20minutes. Then we took a prove basket and dusted it heavily with flour before taking the dough and placing it in the basket before covering and leaving to rise.

Our white bloomer was now done so we took it out of the oven to cool. I was quite impressed with the shape and colour of mine and it was much better than the loaf I had attempted to make at home the previous week!


With the dough we had put to one side, we were told we were going to make pizzas so we followed Joe outside to the outdoor pizza oven. He showed us how to shape our pizza dough, using semolina rather than flour to dust it with, and then we began to shape our own.

We had a range of delicious toppings which the chefs had put together and I chose pulled beef, beetroot, onions, courgette, buffalo mozzarella and mint along with their homemade tomato sauce for my pizza. Since the outdoor oven was so hot, Joe cooked our pizzas for us and they were served so quickly in about 5 minutes!


Other than what I’d eaten locally in Southern Italy, it was definitely one of the best pizzas I’d ever had! We all sat together for a big communal lunch on the last day and enjoyed our pizzas looking out over the countryside with a glass of complimentary cider brandy each. It was a lovely moment and the memory brings a smile to my face now just writing this.

We weren’t allowed to relax for long however as we had more dough and pastry to attend to in the kitchen! Going back to our rough puff pastry, Joe showed us how to make a pithivier shape and fill our pastry with our guinea fowl so we took both out of the fridge and began to roll our pastry out. I have to say that mine was so solid I had to bang it down with my rolling pin! Eventually it softened and I was able to shape it and managed to create the pastry shape quite well. It looked delicious when it came out of the oven so I was looking forward to tasting it!

Next we were trying our hand at sweet pastry by making choux pastry and a crème pattissiere to go with them. I was surprised by how easy choux pastry was to make by heating water, sugar and butter until melted then adding flour and water and beating until the mixture comes away form the pan. We then removed it to a cold bowl and added eggs before whisking to form a smooth paste. It was definitely something I knew I would be practicing again at home! We piped our mixture into small rounds onto a lined baking tray and popped these in the oven until they were golden.

The crème patissiere was also not too complicated and we heated milk and cream with vanilla and meanwhile whisked egg yolks and flour until combined in a bowl before adding the hot milk and cream and whisking together. Putting the mixture back in the pan, we stirred continuously until the mixture boiled and thickened and then left to cool. Once the choux pastry was ready and cooled, we mixed some double cream into our crème patissierie and piped this into the choux pastry to make delicious profiteroles! Whilst we were doing this, Joe had been deep frying our doughnuts and we were given one each to coat in sugar and fill with our cream which were a very naughty but yummy treat!

Finally we went back to our sourdough which had risen a lot in size and took this out of the prove basket, adding a criss-cross pattern onto the top before placing on a baking tray. We spritz the bottom of our ovens with water and left to cook for 20minutes. Taking it out of the oven, my sourdough was a good shape and had a great colour and more importantly, tasted fantastic.

With a glass of champagne in our hands, it was time to bid farewell to all the cooks I’d met, our chef Joe and River Cottage. I had enjoyed the most fantastic four days there and they really were some of the most fun four days I’ve had learning everything from meat, fish, veg, bread and pastry. If you are thinking about doing a course at River Cottage then stop thinking and book away as you will not regret it. I am already planning an excuse to return to learn some more fantastic kitchen skills.

Thank you for having me River Cottage – it was a blast!

Dotty Dishes was a guest of River Cottage.

Sykes Cottages, The Lake District

Sykes Cottages, The Lake District

River Cottage HQ, Dorset: Day 3

River Cottage HQ, Dorset: Day 3