The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Swedish Bread Class

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Swedish Bread Class

Although this past Saturday morning was wet and dreary outside, things were lively inside the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  Twenty students showed up to try their hand at a Swedish-style bread and practice several shaping techniques.  

One student arrived a few minutes early.  She has attended other classes that I have taught, too.  While we were chatting, she said to me "You've created a monster, you know."  I asked what she meant.  She said, "Well, I bought that book (meaning ITJB) and I've been baking a lot from it."  When I replied that that sounded like a good thing, she said she had killed her Kitchen Aide double ovens and had to replace them.  Apparently her steaming method had cooked the electronics and the cost of replacement was high enough that she figured it would be better spent on a new appliance, so she bought a high-end prosumer brand.  Since she bakes for markets, it's probably justifiable but her husband has apparently been grumbling somewhat.

Other familiar faces included Fuzzy Whiskers and her daughter.  The rest were as new to me as I to them but it didn't take long to break the ice and start having some fun.

The bread itself is lovely, rich with milk and eggs and butter and redolent of cardamom and cinnamon.  Just for good measure, some almonds made their way into the mix, too.  Contrary to most American sweet breads, this bread is just slightly sweet, making it an excellent accompaniment for tea or coffee.

As part of preparation for class, I had made up a double batch of dough and baked it off in four different shapes so that the students could see how the finished product looked.  And then, of course, we served it up so that they could see how it tasted, too.  There were only a few pieces left by the end of class.

Class began with a demonstration of mixing and kneading the dough while fielding questions from the students.  One part of the demonstration included the slap and fold method of kneading, since the dough is quite soft.  It's almost magical to see the dough firming up and gaining body after just a couple of minutes of this treatment, while losing its stickiness at the same time.  The students then went to their workstations and set to work with a will.  As they worked, I moved from station to station to answer questions and offer tips.  It's in this stage that I am often reminded of just how many small things we learn as we develop our skills.  Examples: "See how the dough sticks to your hands less if you pick it up with your fingertips instead of in your fist?"  "Yes, slapping it down is necessary but look at how we stretch the dough outward, too."  "It's okay that the butter isn't perfectly dispersed at this stage of mixing; you will finish blending it in as you add the flour."  And, always, reading the dough's consistency.  

Once the doughs were prepared, I had the students leave them on the bench, covered with the mixing bowls.  Then it was back to the teaching station to demonstrate four different shaping techniques.  The first was just a simple, three-strand braid.  Everyone felt confident that they could handle braiding without practicing in class, so we moved on to the next shape, which was the epi.  Although the epi is usually associated with baguette doughs, it makes a lovely presentation for a cinnamon roll, too.  Everyone wanted to try their hand with this shape, so it was back to the workstations for practice.  None of the practice shaping included the filling, since I wanted the students to gain confidence with the mechanics of the shaping method rather than having to worry about spoiling their bread.  I noticed that a few went ahead and made some braids, too.

The third shape will be familiar to anyone who has made Floyd's Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid.  As before, I demonstrated the method, then the students went back to practice it with their own dough.  It is pictured, below.

The fourth shape was inspired by breadsong's A Rose for Christmas post.  For the class, I treated it as a simple twist rather than coiling it into a rosette.  Following the previous pattern, I demonstrated the technique and then the students practiced it at their workstations.  It is also pictured, below.

What I heard, repeatedly, was "I had no idea something that fancy was that easy!"  People were surprised, and impressed, that they could turn out some very pretty breads all on their own.

At the end of the shaping practice, everyone's dough was bagged up so that they could take it home for shaping and baking as they wished.  We concluded with some further Q&A and then our time was up.

Since I had some take-home dough of my own, I baked it that afternoon.  Here's a picture:

Most of it went to friends at church this morning.

The other thing that I did this weekend was verify the formulae and run some test bakes for an upcoming class on October 14.  Here's a preview, PG:

Paul

 

Comments

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

You have a real flair for the instruction/prep as well as the baking. What a talent. The folks in your area are very lucky to have you as their teacher. c

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Some, thankfully most, would agree with your assessment.  There are some who haven't been nearly as pleased, though.  One thing I try to get across to the students is that I am a home baker too, not a professional.  For many, that's reassuring because they figure that if I can do it, they can, too.  Others have been a bit miffed that they weren't being taught by a pro.  I've learned that plenty of chatter and laughter is a pretty good sign of happy students.

Paul

varda's picture
varda

Paul,   Those Swedish loaves look great.  What nice versatile dough.   I agree with you about the too sweet.  I make Challah rolls with just a bit of sugar inside and a sprinkling outside.   Perfect with coffee.   So may I ask what that prosumer oven was that your student bought?    Just curious.   Actually trying to get into the Cambridge winter market.   Probably six times the traffic as my current market.   Have to figure out how to scale up.  Thanks.  -Varda

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

You are absolutely right about the sweetness.  One thing that I didn't get for the class, and probably should have, was some pearl sugar.  It's very typical as a topping for this style of bread. 

Y'know, the part of my brain that deals with names seems to be made of Swiss cheese--lots of holes there.  It seems to me that she said Dacor but I can't say so with certainty.  You might want to shoot a PM to Mark Sinclair, or Josh, or Wally, or some of our other TFLers that bake professionally for their recommendations.  My guess is that a convection oven by Cadco, or someting similar, would be a better pick than a prosumer or commercial range with double ovens.  It will take up far less space and it only has to do one thing.  Prices may be about the same, or even less than, the range.  And having doors that are hinged on the side instead of on the bottom is a wonderful thing.

It's a challenge to make that step from home baking to baking in commercial quantities, isn't it?  Best of luck to you.

Paul

varda's picture
varda

Thanks Paul,   I'll check into it.   -Varda

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Great looking breads, Paul. It sounds like a fun class.

Regarding the cooking of the electronics: at the Kneading Conference I was in a session where the instructor demonstrated the "squirt bottle and ice cubes in an iron skillet" method of steaming the oven.  It works, certainly, but I haven't used it in a long time, certainly not since we've moved into a rental with a oven I don't want to have to replace.  had a very difficult time not raising my hand and issuing a warning about it being a good way to kill the electronics on an oven, but I didn't because I didn't want to be the nag.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

The fact that my oven is soldiering on after 6 or 7 years of steamy abuse is a testament to its construction, or to my dumb luck.  Having seen and heard other stories about premature oven deaths, there's no obvious reason that I have fared better.  So far.  I have refrained from (deliberately) throwing water on the oven floor or walls, since that seems to me to be tempting fate.  Plus, I just feel a lot more at ease if water and electricity are kept at arm's length from each other.

Thanks for your comments.  It is a lot of fun.

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

about folks being miffed about not being taught by a pro (plus serious other demands on my time) is what keeps me from even trying this stuff - you've a lot more guts than I have.

After spending a week with "my teacher" I feel more than ever that my days as student in a classroom are drawing pretty much near to the end, and I have to get out and bake in volume to take the next step.  How to do?  Still workin' on it.

Congrats on your continuing classes!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

"Well, you get what you pay for."  But, when the individual is already unhappy, that's tantamount to throwing gasoline on a fire, so I haven't.  Still, I suspect that a morning with the likes of Rheinhart, Hitz, or Hamelman would set a person back a lot more than $60 or so.

Fortunately, the negative feedback has always been post-class, so I haven't had to deal with any face-to-face conflict.

Since I'm mostly an introvert with a streak of ham, putting myself out in front of people and engaging with them is the gutsy part for me.  Fortunately, I just flat-out like teaching and baking so much that it helps me get past my own reticence.

Whenever you step away from the consulting business and start a bakery, be sure to hire one or two muscular young-uns to to the heavy lifting for you.  Maybe one or your Marine buddies will be looking for a job about that time.  Baking commercially is almost as friendly to a body as pro football.

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

that baking is a contact sport.  One of the things that constant travel with a heavy briefcase (the company I currently work for seems to have a lot of money for fast boats, but needs to save a buck when it comes to laptops) is that I can pick up and carry surprizingly heavy loads with no back damage.I easily wrangle an 8 gallon canner full of boiling water and that's no mean feat for a little old lady.   It's my poor little feet that give me concern (I figured out which exact motions mess up my right arm/hand and have trained myself to avoid them while handling the bakery equipment).  Of course, if it's my bakery I can put in a chair.

However if is in my power to provide a job to a Marine - you know I'm on it!

I've actually had the opportunity in the past year to meet bakers who could use slave labor (that is an "intern") some of whom have invited me to their bakeries.  The problem is my pesky alternate skillset has suddenly become hot - and I can't seem to implement my plan to get laid off. It's very much harder to up and quit when I am compensated so unjustly for what is really very little work (albeit great inconvenience.)

Ah well, I'm off to Las Vegas for IBIE - to check out the ovens and sheeters (and work at the BBGA booth) (and maybe raise a little heck).  A gal can dream, ..

Pat

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

how about posting any finds that would be good for someone who bakes for market or distribution but who still wants to stay at home.  In other words, something to replace a typical home oven and its constraints but not something that requires the commitment to opening a full-blown bakery.  I'm thinking specifically about a recent question from Varda but she isn't the only one who would be interested.

Have fun!

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

It's like you could read my mind!  :>)

While I am saddled with the need to move into commercial space if I so much as sell one loaf of bread (at least to do it legally) I'm always on the lookout for that mythical home oven that can power some of the lucky folks forward!

But you know that sheeters are my one true love!

Pat

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Lovely write up and the class seemed to like your presentation and got a lot out of it.  Very nice bread,braids and Floyd's sorta braided blueberry cream  cheese bread is well done too.  Happy  baking

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

This class was a fun bunch to work with.  And baking = happy, most of the time.  :-)

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

We received a lovely "thank you" from a couple who had received some of this bread, telling us how much they enjoyed it with the chili they had for dinner.

Well, alrighty, then.  It wouldn't have been on my list but I'm glad they enjoyed it.

Paul

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Paul,
What a lovely idea for a class, to take a delicious Swedish dough and show people how to shape it various ways.
The breads you shaped at home are just beautiful, and the flavors sound wonderful.
I'm sure your students really appreciated your words of advice about what to expect and how the dough should feel, during the mixing and shaping processes.
Best wishes to you for your next class!
:^) breadsong

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

and not just for your gracious words.  I learned one of those shaping techniques from a post of yours, so I and my students are indebted to you for sharing that. 

To my way of thinking, one of the biggest advantages of a class such as this is learning how the dough should feel.  It's the one thing that cannot be conveyed by a book or even a video.  Learning the differences between dry, tacky, or sticky doughs is very important, as is learning effective tactics for dealing with those conditions.  For many of my students, it's the difference between continued fear of bread making and the confidence to tackle bread making.  Watching someone's face light up when they realize that they really can do it themselves is truly gratifying.

Paul

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Thank you, Paul. I am very happy your class enjoyed that shaping method - and I am indebted to Guro and his post, which taught me...the image of the beautiful bread he created stayed with me for a long time!
There is nothing like a class to see and feel how the dough should be - I agree, it's invaluable.
It must be really rewarding to pass along not just knowledge, but confidence as well, to your students.
:^) breadsong

breadsong's picture
breadsong

double post