Hotel review: Machado Gallery B&B, Barford, Warwickshire

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An email pops up about a B&B in Warwickshire that offers courses – and one is breadmaking. Since I can't seem to move for weekend markets selling pricey artisan loaves or hirsute men on motorbikes on TV eulogising about dough, it is a chance to get up close and personal with a modern obsession.

Barford is a small village just off the M40, close to Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa. Machado Gallery turns out to be a large redbrick house. Front door's open, so I let myself in. Mmm, intriguing – paintings, drawings, ceramics everywhere. A fire crackles in a corner, old carved shutters frame windows and doorways, and white Verner Panton "S" chairs encircle a glass table. Ah, here's Sue Machado, a sculptor and ceramicist. The house came with its own adjoining workshop, which she uses as a studio (and for courses such as textile-painting) and gallery.

Sue shows me up to a pretty bedroom overlooking the garden. Shuttered windows, a bed with crisp Cologne & Cotton bedding, and a teeny bathroom beneath a skylight for bathing – if the clouds clear away - under the stars. I must help myself to tea from the kitchen and bring it up, but on a table there's a tray with water, biscuits and ooh, Bendicks mint chocs.

Supper in a nearby pub and an early night – tomorrow is bread-making day. Breakfast is a buffet of fruit compote, yoghurt and Sue's own bread, delicious with smoked salmon and toasted with homemade marmalade. It's why Sue added breadmaking courses – guests kept asking how to make it.

My fellow students are local, both volunteers at the post office. Soon, Ken Hope and Ann McDermott's banter immerses me in village life.

We are going to tackle rolls, fruit buns and plaited loaves – and make focaccia for lunch. Sue starts by showing us a biga, an Italian pre-ferment made with flour, dried yeast, honey and water. This quick method of breadmaking removes a lot of the proving time.

Irish Ann makes soda bread at home but can't get on with yeast. Ken bakes but his bread rolls "are more like poppadoms", he says. We set about making a biga, cover the mixing bowls of dough in clingfilm and leave the bigas to double in size.

Using her preprepared biga, Sue kneads in onions and mushrooms. We learn to flour our hands not the board, to add salt last (it compromises the yeast) and – goodness – it's lunchtime already and we are tucking in to focaccia straight from the oven.

Who would have thought kneading could be so absorbing? The afternoon flies by too, forming dough into rolls (Ken), plaited loaves (me), and fruit buns (Ann). By teatime, Sue is lifting the glossy rolls and loaves we have made from her Aga. Good enough (we reckon) to grace a fancy market stall.


• Machado Gallery (9 Wellesbourne Road, Barford, 01926 624061,, doubles from ?65 B&B) provided the accommodation. One-day breadmaking course ?25 per adult or ?35 adult & child, including eating what you make for lunch. See

Sally Shalam (,

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