All projects require materials. If you desire a good outcome, it is wise to start with good quality materials. One of the things that bread class taught me is that there is a huge difference in the quality of flour available on the market.
I could walk into my local market and pick up a 5 pound sack of flour off of the shelf. I could get lucky and get one that is relatively fresh, or it might be one that has been on the shelf for 6 months or more. It might be the right time of year for the protein in the wheat to be high enough to make good bread, or the protein might be very low and my bread might not come together well at all.
I could buy yeast off of the shelf and hope that it was well cared for along its journey to the store so that it didn’t die before I ever got my hands on it.
I could attempt to find a good 7- or 9-grain flour in the store, or drive from store to store hoping to find a multi-grain flour at all.
Or I could solve the problem ahead of time and lay my hands on a supply of good quality flour…bread flour, wheat and rye flours, multi-grain flour, even wholemeal flour to make Irish brown bread…and yeast, powdered cheese, and really good cinnamon. And have it show up on my doorstep, ready for me to start making bread.
I can’t wait!
So after a week of class, my freezer has an entire shelf that is full of various sorts of bread. Most of them, I got to try at least a couple of bites of during the week, but some of them are still a mystery. They’re all labeled, but I’m going to have to keep notes to remind myself of the ones that are worth making again.
One of the best things about a 5 day class was seeing how my abilities evolved over even that short of a period of time. My little French loaves on the first day? Heavy and gummy inside. By Friday? Light and airy, full of the proper sort of air holes, well-risen, and with a nicely browned crust. And I was able to spend some time getting my lower oven at home set up properly to bake the bread. There are tiles in there now to even out the temp as well as a pie plate with some nails for the production of proper steam for a good crust.
So the final tally of breads made:
— French bread (I lost track of how many times) (both regular loaves and the longer baguettes)
— Honey whole wheat bread (several times)
— Popovers (sweet and savory)
— Pizza dough (also used for calzones)
— 7-grain bread
— Ciabatta (several times)
— Brioche (two different methods using the exact same ingredients; used with sweet and savory filled braids)
— Sweet bread dough (used for sticky buns and braids with lemon ricotta filling)
— Roasted red pepper bread
— Olive rosemary bread
— Italian Easter bread (has three different cheeses and black pepper in it)
— Pain de campagne (rustic multigrain bread)
— Black Russian rye bread
— Biscuits (yum!)
— English muffins
— Dinner rolls
— Bread pudding with sabayon
— Tuscan bread soup
— Caesar salad
Totally worth getting up early for an entire week. And some of my friends are much in agreement, too.
The things I find to do with my “free” time…
I completely rearranged my overnights for June so that I could take an entire week-long cooking class this week. It’s “intensive bread-making”. 5 days, 40 hours. And I’m seeing this as vacation-time, because I’m not at work.
But it’s fun! Hard work in one way, because it’s different from my usual 8 hours on my feet, and it’s getting up way too early by my standards. But there’s something awfully fun about getting my hands dirty with bread dough and seeing something come of it.
Of course, this “something” is turning out to be way more bread than I can eat. So I’m handing out bread like it’s candy! And freezing bunches of it for later eating, too. (Part of me thinks that this class may not have been such a great idea after all, in terms of some of my long-term goals, but I figure I can make bread, eat what I want, and take the rest in to feed the crew at work!)
So far, in just 2 days, I’ve learned to make:
— French bread
— Honey whole wheat bread
— Pizza/calzone dough
— 7-grain bread
and there’s still 3 days more to go.