My wife has been an instructor in some women's groups recently that have had, as one component, some instruction in cooking. She was a bit surprised to find just how much interest there was among the women who attended these sessions in learning more about cooking. For some, it was an opportunity to expand their repertoire with new recipes or techniques. For others, it was a chance to learn basic skills that they had not been taught previously.
Based on those experiences, she has begun a series of classes in our home that will cover a range of topics; including meal planning, cooking and baking. The first class met yesterday and I found myself instructing three students on the finer points of how to make a honey whole-wheat bread. (My work schedule gives me every other Friday off.) It's an old pattern; she has an idea and I have work. ;-)
We kept everything low key. I had baked a loaf yesterday morning prior to class so that they could see and taste the finished product. They got to see the differences in measuring by volume and measuring by weight, and were more than a little surprised to see that their normal measuring methods produced some significantly different quantities of flour, on a weight basis. We allowed the whole wheat flour a short soak (not a true autolyse) and explained how that would affect the texture of the dough and the finished bread, as well as the amount of kneading that would be required. We also covered the basic differences between enriched, straight doughs (yesterday's subject) and lean and delayed-fermentation doughs. Although we weren't focusing on sourdough yesterday, I showed them my starter and explained some of the differences between naturally-yeasted and commercially-yeasted breads. While their dough was rising, we sampled the finished bread that I had baked. My wife also demonstrated some spreads and toppings that they could easily make, and provided those recipes. By the time we were done, each student had mixed, kneaded and shaped their own loaf of bread, which they took home to bake. Although I stressed the importance of allowing the bread to cool to room temperature, one already e-mailed back to say that her loaf disappeared that same afternoon. However, she is planning to make more!
There's already talk about future classes for cinnamon rolls, pretzels, bagels, and sourdough. We'll have to see how all of that plays out. The good thing is that there are now more converts to baking their own bread at home. And, yes, I pointed them to The Fresh Loaf as an excellent resource for additional information and help.