If you've seen my instagram feed it's no secret I love Flour and Stone, the small inner city bakery cafe in Woolloomooloo, Sydney. For me it has the trifecta; it's unpretentious, has beautiful baked goods and friendly staff. I don't drink coffee, don't judge me, so can't comment on that!
There are so many choices, my top three; the doughnuts, filled with either lemon curd and ricotta, or raspberry compote and vanilla custard, can't decide which I like more, you'll need to try both; the gorgeous fine apple tart; and the much blogged about panna cotta lamington. Who decides to poke holes in slabs of sponge, pour panna cotta over the top, leaving it to soak, transforming the sponge to light, vanilla-y, custardy deliciousness? I'm very happy someone did. For me it's the fine apple tart that sums up Flour and Stone; it has few ingredients, is beautiful in its simplicity, yet the skill behind it is obvious.
Although happy to "stalk" Nadine Ingram, owner of Flour and Stone, over on instagram, I was pretty damned excited when I learned about a baking masterclass she was holding at the Lost and Found Department. It took just a few minutes to buy two places, and less to convince Deb, my food adventure buddy, to come along. That's Deb, holding the basil in the image towards the bottom of the page; she first took me to Flour and Stone last year when I moved back to Sydney, so it was great to go to the masterclass together.
This venue is incredible, more on that later. Introductions were made outside, under the vast open sided tent. Nadine filled us in on her background and experience, wow, was friendly, genuine and unassuming. Talking about Flour and Stone, Nadine's passion was evident, as was her support and commitment to her staff, I'm guessing she's a great boss. You can't go wrong with a baker who has a gorgeous old Breville mixer called Neville! She was also, I'm struggling for the right word here, steely maybe, I don't think she'd take any crap from anyone!
We covered 3 recipes in 5 hours, alas not the apple tart or doughnuts, but, zucchini, gruyere and chilli rolls, chocolate salted caramel tart and lemon drizzle cake. Nadine was very open about where the recipes came from. I didn't take notes, from memory the pastry was based on a Lorraine Godsmark recipe, another, I think the bread dough, was Bill Granger's. The lemon drizzle cake recipe may even have been her grandmother's, or perhaps I'm making that up, the point though, there is no ego here.
I like to think i can bake, am comfortable in a kitchen, but Nadine, she is at a whole new level! Making caramel can be a bit stressful, for me there's always a wet pastry brush on hand, occasional burnt fingers and pans of useless crystals... I'm guessing she's caramelised a LOT of sugar, but Nadine was sooo comfortable. With a pan and stove she'd never used, Nadine turned her back on the sugar and moved on to something else. There was occasional swirling of the pan, but generally it was left alone until it was good and ready, and it was perfect :) All of the recipes were cooked with ease, and lots of tips and tricks shared in the process.
I've made the lemon drizzle cake a few times now, still tweaking the recipe to suit my oven and cake tins, but it's a keeper. I'm still hoping to bake more bread this year, I know, it's nearly June :) But the pastry method was the best tip for me, leaving grape sized lumps of butter, then smearing the dough on the bench until just streaks remain. The chocolate salted caramel tart is next on my hit list, I'll keep you posted.
Now, a few words about the workshops at the Lost and Found Department, trying not to gush, bear with me. The workshops are held at a property on Sydney's Northern Beaches, it's actually Sylvia, the business owner's, home, but I'll call it prop heaven. Everything here is BEAUTIFUL, everything. I could have spent the day taking photos, vignettes everywhere. The kitchen is all marble, mirrors, timber and chandeliers, a butcher's block and vintage pieces. Serious kitchen envy. The fabulousness continues in the garden; there's garlic, herbs, finger limes, yes, finger limes, i've wanted to plant one for ages... chickens and bees. So maybe not "a few words"! Let's go with more photos :)
Under the big top tent festooned with chairs, the long table was set for lunch. Silvia is all about the detail, the table setting was amazing. Vintage cake tins and spanish moss lined the centre, and from the string garland above dangled mini pastry moulds, muffin papers and rosemary. There was mismatched vintage cutlery and tea cups, raw edged squares of muslin for napkins. I'd love to see what happens at Christmas.
Silvia's lunch was delicious, lamb slow roasted on a slab of pink salt, with salads and Nadine's zucchini gruyere rolls. Then, after a small breather, tea in those vintage cups and slices of lemon drizzle cake. Back in the kitchen to finish off the chocolate tart. While it cooled, waiting to be sliced, boxed and added to our take home bags, we wandered the gardens, picked finger limes, basil and nettles. Sylvia was super generous, sharing the bounty from her garden.
All that gushing about the kitchen and garden, I forgot to mention the natural rock pools, one big enough to swim in, others smaller, and a solitary, perfect water lily. Of course.
If you're lucky enough to be in Sydney, I definitely recommend the workshops, for the escape as much as the class itself. I think Nadine is holding another masterclass, later this year, well worth it. In the meantime, get on over to Four and Stone and pick a favourite...