A review: Saidel Artisan Baking Institute

Rivka Benarroch,

Rivka Benarroch
Rivka loves cooking and feeding people - the more the merrier! Visit her on a Friday night and you will find about 20-30 young professionals sitting around the table enjoying their food and wine. A teacher by profession, her other main love is buying shoes - the higher the better! Rivka loves discovering, adapting and making new recipes for people to try. Her one confession: she doesn't enjoy the decorating side of baking, and prefers to stick to things that don't need much thought put into their presentation. She also gets bored easily, so likes to keep constantly busy! Rivka also blogs on TweetMyWheat.com. Follow Rivka on twitter @TweetMyWheat...

Imagine the prospect of having homemade Challot, cakes and pies arrive on your table without even having to go to the shops to buy the ingredients and switching on your oven. Sounds too good to be true? Well if you live or are visiting Israel I may have found you just the answer… Saidel Artisan Baking Institute.

I am lucky enough to be writing from yet another country, Israel. The one perk of teaching is the summer holiday, and this year I have taken full advantage of it. I have been to Europe and tasted the chocolate and beer of Belgium. Now it was time to spend some more time in Israel. Whilst planning my trip I decided it wasn't going to be my usual beach holiday, I was going to spend it trying to develop my culinary knowledge and skills. So this trip to Israel was going to include visiting bakeries to learn the trade and skills from kosher experts which I have less access to in the UK. I began researching and asking people for leads, one recommendation being the Saidel Bakery.

Having emailed and spoken to Sheryl the wife of Les the baker, I wasn't fully aware of the magical and romantic bakery I was going to visit, which is situated on the side of their house. You are hit with an amazing aroma upon entering the Saidel bakery - a warm but not stifling air and a very friendly smile from Les. You then realise this is not just any bakery but a bakery built with love and care.

It is clear that this bakery is at the centre of this family’s life, and there is a story behind its existence.  The warm air that you walk into is coming from a handmade brick oven made with fire bricks, based on an Allan Scott design and heated with a gas fire, it's like being transported back in time.  You get the feeling that this is really what is meant by the term artisan – by hand.

Les Saidel was originally a systems analyst after completing his time in the army. Just over seven years ago he found himself unemployed. As a man of many skills he weighed up his options and decided that as he had been baking bread since the age of 13 due to an inspirational teacher, setting up a bakery seemed the most suitable route to take.

When walking into this very unique bakery it is obvious that the ideas were not born over night and that the last seven years have seen much trials and errors, but all is now slotting into place. It is fascinating to watch Les work with the dough by hand, shaping the Challot, thinking that if you closed your eyes you could imagine them being made by machine not by hand. The oven itself is a work of art that has been designed so carefully and with purpose. Les does not have the luxury of space, so high up on the walls are wooden shelves that he uses to prove the breads once being shaped, as hot air rises making this the perfect location. But ultimately there is a sense of love and pride that Les and his wife Sheryl have for this bakery.

The main breads that Les produces are an eclectic range of healthy sourdoughs, one being called Rambam bread that is based on the Rambams teachings of how to cook and make bread. On display are a wide range of sourdough starters originating from all over the world, which he acquired from Dr Ed Wood who runs Sourdough International. It is fascinating to see them in their jars on the wall with their countries of origin written on them. The Saidel bakery also offers a range of cakes, biscuits and cookies, pies and quiches. All his food is made to order and can be delivered fresh to your door on a Friday. The main cities that he delivers to are Raanana, Bet Shemesh, Modim, Jerusalem, Efrat and Maalei Adumim. In addition they do gift baskets, made to order.

Another aspect of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute is that they offer a range of exciting and innovative workshops. Their workshops are suitable for all ages and for all levels. They can even be tailored for work team-building days and Bat Mitzvahs. Les is a natural teacher with a wealth of knowledge to impart to all those who want to learn something new.

I feel very privileged to have been able to shadow Les and witness the incredible operation he has created. There is something very special about this bakery. The only way to really understand it is to go visit and taste the breads yourself. www.saidels.com