The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

XIV - A Day at Lighthouse Bakery School

lumos's picture

XIV - A Day at Lighthouse Bakery School


Today’s blog is the report on the bread baking class I took last Wednesday at Lighthouse Bakery School in East Sussex, UK.

Ever since I read US-based TFLers’ blogs/posts about the wonderful courses they had at SFBI, I really wished one day I’d be able to attend a course like that. I spent hours and hours in front of PC, trying to find a short course or one-day class, and Lighthouse Bakery School’s courses were the ones that ticked most boxes for me.

 The school is owned and run by Rachel Duffield and Elizabeth Weisberg, the artisan bakers and ex-owners of a very famous artisan bakery of the same name in Battersea, south London.  After several years of successful retail business there,  picking up a few awards along the way,  they decided to close the shop (before I got there!!!) and moved to the beautiful countryside in the midst of East Sussex a few years ago,  starting the wholesale business with the bakery school on the same premises.

  From what I'd read and heard about their old shop  in London and their breads,  I knew Rachel and Elizabeth really  cared about how bread should be made and taste, but I wanted to know if they were the good teachers, too, before I jumped in.  Luckily, our fellow UK-TFLer, Juergen had attended one of their courses a while ago and he assured me he learned a lot from the experience, so I booked a place in French Baking class which took place last Wednesday.



Before the course started, we all sat around the big table, set in one corner of the workshop,  introducing each other and having a friendly chat over tea & coffee with lovely croissants, pain au chocolat and freshly picked local apples. (Still regreting I didn't pick one up and eat it or take home....)

(The bookshelf in the corner were full of bread and other baking books, many of them very familiar to TFlers and looked like they'd been used a LOT.......And the clock on the wall shows how too early I arrived.)

 The course started with Elizabeth’s short lecture about the history of French bread making and origin of some famous French breads,  basic terminology of breadmaking and the explanation about the breads we were going to learn to make during the course; Flutes (short baguettes) + epi, Pain de Campagne,  Brioche,  Croissants + Pain au Chocolat,  Pain de Meteil.  Yeah, quite a lot to be baked only in 6-7 hrs! :p   So,  after donning a new apron with the school’s logo and a brief tour of the workshop.....,

....... learning about the equipments we’re going to use and going through the obligatory ‘Health & Safety’ instructions, we eagerly got on with what we came for; making breads!


Each of us was also given our own personalized folder in which the timetable of the day, ‘Class Notes’ on ‘French Baking,’ ‘Equipments,’ and the list of basic infomarion/terminology for bread making were neatly held together along with the formulae of the breads we’re baking on the day.


This is a copy of the timetable.

09:30   Welcome tea and coffee

10:00   Introduction

10:30   Weigh Down and Mix Flutes

11:00   Weigh Down and Mix Pain de Campagne

             Weigh Down and Mix Brioche

11:30    Divide, Scale and mould Flutes

12:00   Laminate Croissants → rest

12:15   Weigh Down and Mix Pain de Meteil

12:30   Fold Croissants → Rest

             Bake Flutes

13:00  Fold Croissants → rest

            Take Pain de Campagne

13 :15  Take Pain de Meteil

            Make up Pissaladiere (for our lunch !)

13:45   LUNCH

14:15   Bake Pain de Campagne

            Make up Croissants

14:45   Bake Pain de Meteil

            Divide, Scale and Mould the Brioche

15:00   Bake the Croissants

15:15    Bake the Brioche

16:00   Finish Baking


 The whole day proceeded more or less as planned…..I think…...  I mean, there were so many things to do and all the schedule was in Elizabeth’s head (and on a white board behind us :p),  we were just following her instructions throughout the day as to what needed to be done, when to do and how to do it.


In spite of quite tight and full scheduling, the class was run in very convivial and relaxed atmosphere, thanks to very nice and friendly fellow students and very thoughtful and intelligent teaching and conducting skill of our fantastic instructor, Elizabeth, through the day, with equally enlightening Rachel taking over for the Croissants-making sessions. Each of us got to play with use a special rolling-machine professionals use to roll laminated dough, too!


Half the croissant dough was made into pain au chocolat, learning how to place two thin bars of chocolate on dough-rectangular and fold it to make it look just like the ones you buy in a shop.

(Shaped croissants getting egg-wash before going into the proofer. Mine’s are the centre and right ones in the third row from the top. Two top left ones are by Rachel.)


(Pain au chocolat being egg-washed by one of the students)



 (Flute shaping practice. Mine is the finished one in the foreground)


(A part of Flute dough was made into mini-epis. Mine’s the second from left)



(Pain de Meteil in proofing baskets)


(Dough proofing, with a reflection of me taking the picture. :p)


(Proofed Pain de Campagne being turned out to be scored and baked)


(A fellow student  snipping the top of brioche loaf before loading into the oven)


  All the breads were made with  Shipton’s flours and were fresh yeast based, including Pain de Campagne which used poolish (made with a mix of white and rye) instead of more commonly-used levain. (They have a separate course, “Advanced Baking,’ to teach about different kinds of pre-ferments and sourdough)  Flutes and Pain de Meteil were also poolish-based (former made with all white flour, latter 100% rye = the first time for me),  all the poolish already prepared in advance for the course.  Their formula for croissants used overnight-dough, so we ‘practiced’ how to weigh the ingredients and mix, but the actual dough we used for laminating+shaping+baking was prepared in advance to cold ferment overnight.

 The class was slightly overrun and it was almost 5:30 when we finally finished, all the breads, almost cooled, packed and ready to be taken home.

(Some of the finished breads cooling on the racks, each designated to each student)


 So, unlike the courses at SFBI,  Lighthouse's  courses  are more geared towards home bakers with some basic knowledge and experience in bread making.  But still,  I quite liked how it was run, especially how  very accommodating  both Elizabeth and Rachel were about everyone's need (including a certain bread-obsessive with geeky questions and requests. :p), no matter what degree of breadmaking experience or knowledge you had or had not under your belt.  The class size was small enough (7 of us on the day. I think maximum number is around 10) for them to keep a watchful eye on us, so that they would notice straightaway if anyone needed any help or advice.

 The things I enjoyed most were the hands-on experiences with real-time guidance from the pro-bakers ,  especially on window-pane tests and finger-poke tests, and also being able to experience how the dough should feel like when it's kneaded, bulk-fermented and proofed; the things you can’t really learn sufficiently just by  reading books or watching videos. These were the main reasons why I’d wanted to attend a breadmaking class for a long time,  and I’m really glad I was able to take home these valuable experiences with me.

   A  few of the down sides were  1) all the kneading was done in the machine and no teaching on how to hand-knead the dough, which would’ve been very useful for home bakers,  2) the deck ovens  didn’t have steam-injection system,  3) except for the overnight-dough used for croissants, all the breads were bulk-fermented/proofed in a proofer with the temperature set at 30 C, not allowing the dough to develop the flavour well enough.    I understand they use long-fermentation for the bread they make for wholesale , so the reasons for 1) and 3) were probably due to the scheduling issue more than anything,  and  some formulae in prints we were given  recommend cold retard to improve flavour as an option.   But with 5 different kinds of breads needed to be made in 6-7 hours, something had to give, I suppose. 

As if to prove the breads we made at the class were not of their usual standard for wholesale, pissaladiere we had for lunch (the dough had been already prepared in advance for us to add toppings before baking) and croissants and pain au chocolat (see above) were very, very good.

(Breads for a wholesale order cooling on a rack; rye breads on the top with Pain au Levain below)

 I can see it’d be very difficult to make up a class that can appeal and accommodate  both beginners and more experienced bakers.  Personally, I’d have preferred if the class were concentrated on a fewer kinds of breads, so that we could’ve had spent more time on each bread with more ‘hands-on’ experiences, especially kneading, shaping and learning how to check the gluten development and fermentation properly.  But  that sort of appoach might be too boring or tedious or even intimidating to more general (as opposed to geeky :p)  home bakers, while the present format may be a good starting point for many,  giving them a good glimpse of many aspects a certain  category of breads (in our case, French breads)  in a limited time and helping them to broaden the bready-horizon, making breadmaking inviting enough for them to start exploring deeper, gradually, if they wished.

Elizabeth told me they were thinking of starting a two-day course some time in a near future. Don’t know what level of students they have in mind for the new course, but, whether it’s one-day or two-day, hopefully they’ll have some courses that’d cater for intermediate – advanced home bakers one day with even more hands-on time and teaching about finer elements of breadmaking process.  But for them to be able to do that in a way it makes sense business-wise,  probably we need more bread-geeks in UK!  :p


The display of the bounty brought back home, half the brioche, half the Pain de Meteil, half the Pain de Campagne, croissants, pain au chocolat and a Flute (with single, long scoring). The other halves and one pain au chocolat had already been given away to our neighbour with three boys - didn’t know I’d bring back so many breads and our freezer was too full to store all of them - and epi already consumed by the time I took my camera out.   (Sorry for the weird colour.  Wrong setting on the camera.......)




Mebake's picture

What a fine day you had, Lumos! Wonderful.. thanks for sharing! You should be a better home baker now.

lumos's picture

Thank you, Khalid!  Yeah, it was a real fun.  I'm so glad I did it.......inspite of getting stuck in the rush-hour traffic for more than 2 hrs on the way back home! :p 


Syd's picture

Even if it was a little too elementary and too broad for you liking, it still must have been fun playing with that laminator and the big boy mixers, not to mention the ovens. :) Was that Pain de Campagne made with commercial yeast or sourdough starter? 

Very thorough post and it looks like you had a lovely day.



Edit: Sorry, just saw that it was indeed made with a poolish.  That'll teach me to read more carefully next time! :)

lumos's picture

Thanks, Syd.    Yeah, all the breads were yeast-based, so it's not quite 'Pain de Campagne' in a strict sense.  They probably did it that way to keep the formulae simple and less intimidating for  people, but by using the poolish, they gently introduced the students to the world of pre-ferments to improve the flavour, I thought it was quite clever compromise. 

That'll teach me to read more carefully next time!

LOL don't worry. I do that all the time myself.  I thought I had the patent for that trick. :p

davidg618's picture

Sure the course could use some fine tuning, but overall it had to be fun.

I bake alone week after week in rural Florida--while loaves proof I watch my neighbor's steers graze. Like you, two years ago I went to Vermont, and joined a baking course at King Arthur Flour. It wasn't everything I'd hoped for, but it was great to talk with other passionate home bakers, and I achieved my main objective: I got to squeeze someone else's dough!


David G

lumos's picture

Thank you, David G!

Yeah, touching and window-paning and finger-poking the professionally kneaded dough were the highlights of the day for me, too! I think I was the only one who kept on asking for a permission to touch the dough outside the designated time for everybody to handle the dough.  :p

The biggest surprise I had was when I picked up the proofed Flute just before scoring from a croche. It felt so much lighter than my regular (mini-) baguette even the dough weight is more than mine.  A sure sign it's full of air pockets inside, as you know.


SylviaH's picture

Thanks for sharing your day of baking.  The days bakes look wonderful...and show the talent of the instructors and students!  I enjoyed the way you displayed the days work....very nicely done : )


lumos's picture

Thank you, Sylvia, for you kind words. 

I'd started describing what we did and how we did it in my own words, but it was getting too long, so I thought, 'Heck, it's much better just to copy the timetable and paste the photos. They'll explain much better than me!'   Occasionally, lazyness wins. :p


varda's picture

I can't believe you found time to bake all that bread and take all those good pictures too.    What a great opportunity despite shortcomings.  I'm sure you picked up a lot of tips that you will incorporate into your already high quality baking in the future.  -Varda

lumos's picture

Well, Varda, we women are blessed with multi-tasking genes, you know. If you can cope with cooking, cleaning, washing,  shopping, looking after kids, chauffering kids, answering the phone and door bell and socializing with neighbours,  etc. etc. we can make breads and take pictures. Easy.  And on that particular day, all the brain work was done by Elizabeth and Rachel, we were just like a happy flock of sheep following the two clever shepherds. :p

As I said above, the things my hands learned will be the treasure in my future breadmaking.


wally's picture

Wow, your day of baking was like a 14-day tour of Europe!  I spent 3 days at King Arthur Flour just focused on 3 classic French breads, and it still left my head in a whirl.

But I like the fact that they exposed you to a broad variety of doughs - especially your being able to play with croissants.

It sounds like a great way to decide what you'd like to learn more about.  Hopefully they may follow through with offering more focused courses.

In all events, thanks for sharing!


lumos's picture

Hi, Larry.

If I'd had the option,  '3 breads for 3 days'  like you had at KA were the sort of course that would've benefited me more, because I always feel I really need professional guidance to fine-tune the skill and knowledge I currently have to go to the next level.   But at the moment in UK, there're either classes for novice/beginners or the courses for potential-pro bakers, and not much between (there're a couple more, but they both had a few problems I didn't like) and almost nothing for more advanced home-bakers.  So, Lighthouse's courses are the nearest I can get what I want to get, and luckily they are within my driving distance.

So I'm so green with envy that you guys in US have SFBI and KA.  I know you're a much bigger country, but still......Lucky you!! ;)


ananda's picture

Hi lumos,

You had a busy and clearly enjoyable time on the Lighthouse course.

I think what you were really wanting could only be covered on a 2, or 3 day course.   A single day can only offer a "flavour" if you like.

Maybe we could run a TFL course at Leeds sometime this year, more to your liking?

Great post

All good wishes


lumos's picture

Thank you, Andy. Yes, it was a real fun day for me. 

Thank you very much for a generous suggestion.  Maybe one day.....I'm a bit tied up this year and probably early next, too, it's a bit difficult for me to be away from home for a few days.  And Leeds is a bit too far away for me to go, too, unfortunately. sorry.....

But it was a very nice thought, by all means.  Very kind of you, as always.



Ruralidle's picture

Hi Andy

Pleased to hear that you have secured some gainful employment, albeit with a serious degree of inconvenience.  Please email me some more info :) .  As for your idea for a TFL course, is that the one that will include croissants and brioche etc?  If so, count me in!!!

Best Wishes


AnnaInMD's picture

great creations !   My problem would be that I couldn't remember 3/4 of what was taught in such a short time. Hope the book is thorough.



lumos's picture

Thanks, Anna! :)

Yeah, it was quite a lot of things to learn.  I can imagine it could've been a bit too confusing if you'd been quite new to breadmaking, but fortunately for me, I'd had made similar/same breads myself before, so the only thing I needed to do was to compare their technique and mine to find out if there's anything I had been doing wrong or I could improve in the future, and that's exactly why I wanted to attend the course (as well as touching the professionally made dough!), so I think I could get more or less I was hoping to get.  I'd never expected I'd be learning a real advanced technique or info about true artisan baking from it, anyway, so in all, it was good.  And the formulae we were given were quite thorough with a few valuable notes that wasn't told during the course, too.


breadsong's picture

Hello lumos,
I'm sure the other students, and instructors, must have enjoyed having you in the class.
It would be fun to take a class with you - you would bring so much to the table bench!
Thanks for your interesting write up and great photos. All of the breads are beautiful, especially the oval brioche.
:^) from breadsong

lumos's picture

Hi, breadsong! :)

I'm sure it wasn't in any way as thorough or extensive or intensive as the one you had at BBGA, but it was a fun day.

It would be fun to take a class with you

Being the first time in my life that I took a part in any kind of cooking/baking class, I actually was with  my 'quiet, good girl' hat on and tried to behave myself, as much as I could....which was not too much, as you can imagine. :p  I just couldn't stop sneaking behind Elizabeth and her kneading machine and beg her to let me touch the dough and asking a few geeky questions here and there. But other than that,  I tried my best to blend in among my fellow students.....oh, except for the time I mentioned hot pebbles in the oven and slashing with a razor blade and stretch & folding in a bowl and when my fingers automatically started snipping imaginary dough as soon as Elizabeth mentioned 'epi' and.............

 I think I may well be on their black list now.....:p


txfarmer's picture

What a fun experience! I spent a weekend at SFBI last year just to learn baguette, and you covered all these different breads in one day! I really wish there's an evening course (like a couple nights per week, for a year or sth) for home bakers who work during the day. I really think it's beneficial to see how a professional works the dough.

lumos's picture

Hoot! Thank you for popping in, txfarmer! :)

Yes, it was a real fun day with lots of bread.  But if I'd had an option, I'd have chosen the baguette course like you did at SFBI, for the BIGGEST reason I chose this particular course (French Baking) was because that was the only one that offered coaching on baguette-shaping, and that's what I really wanted.

But as you said, witnessing how the pros treated the dough and actually got to touch the dough yourself (my second BIGGEST purpose) were really, really great experience.   It was a revelation how light properly developed and proofed baguette dough felt like. 

Oh..... and the tip for not to end up with a large pool of butter when you baked croissants, which happened to me a few times but didn't know why that happened.......though a large pool of butter on the baking sheet means less butter in the croissants, which means healthier, so it may be a good thing for my high cholesterol.  But still, can't deny you feel completely defeated when you see that when they come out of the oven.....:p