The Fresh Loaf

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

This past Friday, I taught a class on rye breads at the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  The class was scheduled to run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Three different breads were featured: the rustic pumpernickel from ITJB, Eric's fav rye (compliments of the late Eric Hanner), and a vort limpa.  That gave a nice sampling of the diversity of rye breads.  We were able to bake both the pumpernickel and the vort limpa during class; students then took the dough for Eric's fav rye with them to bake at home.

I had had some concerns about the drawing power of a full-day class on a week day.  As it turned out, all 20 slots were taken, with a waiting list in case of any cancellations.  So, yes, there is enough interest, in spite of the schedule.  No doubt the inclusion of a $20 gift certificate for Pryde's of Westport, a local kitchen supply store, figured favorably, too.

A number of the students were familiar to me from previous classes, which makes for a pleasant time.  Based on what I saw and heard, and what came through on the feedback forms, it was a fun day for the students as well as for me.  Most were new to rye breads and to sourdough, so they were pleased to gain some new experience and to receive some starter to take home to use for future baking.

One of the Center's requirements is that the instructor provide food for the students.  In the case of an evening or half-day class, that is typically something to snack on; usually whatever is being made in the class.  In the case of an all-day class like this one, it is lunch.  It was a no-brainer to plan lunch around the three breads being taught.  That led to cold cuts and condiments and pickles/olives/peppers, with fresh fruit for dessert.  

Consequently, I needed to bake bread ahead of time to have it ready for the lunch of Friday.  That worked well, since it also did double duty as object lesson so that people could see the finished product, too.

If you have baked the rustic pumpernickel from ITJB, you know that it is dark and dense and fragrant with rye.  There's no molasses, coffee, cocoa, or caramel color in it, nor does it have a prolonged bake.  My belief is that the scald contributes strongly to the dark coloring and the moistness of the finished bread.  Then, too, all I can find in local supermarkets is Hodgson Mills stone-ground rye flour, which is pretty hearty stuff in its own right.  Even with heavy steam, the loaf experienced some cracking but no blowouts.

The vort limpa is a party in a compact loaf.  It is redolent of molasses, orange zest/juice, anise, fennel, cardamom, and beer.  With a smear of sweet butter, it's practically dessert.  And it still makes for some darn good sandwiches and toast, too.

Many, many of you have made Eric's fav rye and know that it is a stellar example of a deli-style rye bread.  It makes a magnificent base for a wide range of sandwiches.  While I enjoy the bite of the caraway, my wife often prefers it when I substitute either fennel seeds or dill seeds for the caraway.  No matter how you tweak it, this is a seriously good bread.

With those out of the way, I needed to build up my starter to have sufficient for 21 batches (20 students + 1 instructor demo) of the pumpernickel and Eric's fav rye, plus enough to give away.  That turns out to be a lot of starter.  Really, really, a lot.  Keep in mind that this class was initially planned last summer.  At that time, I was focused more on pulling together the bread descriptions for inclusion in the advertising and the formulae to go into the student's class booklets.  There should have been some thought given to the amount of prep.  I know that now.  Yes, I do.

For instance, this is what all of the scald for the pumpernickel looks like with half of the sponge incorporated.  You can see that it occupies most of one end of my kitchen's island:

The lighting isn't very good; it's all down light from the ceiling and island light fixtures.  There isn't a lot of ambient light at 6 a.m. in January here in Kansas.

This is the second half of the pumpernickel's sponge, ready to mix in with the scald; nothing but rye flour and water, and it smells wonderful!:

Sponge and scald, ready for the final mix (I could have used a big spiral mixer right about now).  Note that the sponge is lighter in color than the scald, even though both are made with the same flour:

Needless to say, it took a number of trips to schlep all of the ingredients from my kitchen to the car, and then again from the car into the teaching kitchen.  I suspect that we will rerun this class at some future date but there may be a change in the lineup that reduces the amount of prep I have to do.

There aren't any photos of the actual class.  I didn't think to grab my camera on the way out the door and there wasn't time to use it, anyway.  

My students were an interesting group.  The youngest may have been in their late 20s or early 30s.  The oldest were, well, older than me and I'm 57.  One couple took a day off from work to attend.  All were alert and inquisitive, with lots of good questions.  We had a lively discussion about how to begin and maintain a starter, which would have been shorter if I hadn't misunderstood a key part of one inquiry.  ;0  During the course of the day, there were a lot of questions about dough consistency and how it was affected by the amount of flour or water people worked into their doughs.  I had talked at length about how sticky some of the doughs would be and not to try to kill the stickiness with flour.  A few still wound up with some stiff doughs that needed more water.  Some students were almost completely new to bread making while others had some good skills.  Tips on shaping and docking and slashing led to another flurry of questions.  These are all areas where the hands-on aspect is hugely valuable, since a book just cannot provide that tactile feedback.

It was very satisfying to share these breads with such an eager group of learners.  And it was a very full day.  I was happy to climb into bed that evening.

Since one student was a no-show, and since I had intentionally made more starter than I expected to use, I wound up making a double batch of Eric's fav rye on Saturday and a double batch of Hamelman's sourdough walnut raisin rye on Sunday.  We have happy friends.

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Whew!  All of the planning, all of the strategizing, all of the preparation, all of the anticipation, and poof!, it's all history now.

Thirteen wonderful students showed up a few minutes before 9:00 this morning for a class on breakfast breads at the KC Culinary Center, ready to learn about kolaches and sourdough English muffins.  With the support of my able assistant, Kay (who somehow managed to stay out of the photos), I was able to get through all of the material in the allotted 3 hours.  Along the way, we talked about flours, sourdough starter maintenance, dough texture, the differences between sticky/tacky/dry doughs, how to adjust dough moisture content if it was too sticky or too dry, the advantages of weight measurements over volume measurements, why English muffins are better fork-split than sliced, how kolaches can play sweet or savory, and a other life-altering topics.  Flour flew, laughter rang, dough got onto all kinds of surfaces, muffins and kolaches were consumed.  I think just about everyone took a chunk of starter for further experimentation at home.  All in all, it was a fun morning.

Several students said that they will return in December for the Christmas breads class, so I'm not the only one who thinks things went well.  And Kay, who has seen a bunch of classes and instructors, said it was a good session.  She is excited that the classes I have scheduled for this term feature breads that no one else has taught at KCCC.  

I did manage to squeeze in a few photos when the students were busy and I could step back for a moment.  There aren't as many as I would have liked but, hey, I was just a bit busy most of the time.

First up, 3kg of sourdough starter on Friday evening, ready to go into the sponge for the English muffins.  This is the result of two builds, one Thursday evening and another Friday morning:

If that sounds like a lot of starter, take a look at how much sponge it launches:

The Coke can gives an idea of the scale.  All of this had to be transported this morning from my house to the culinary center.  I might try a different strategy next time...

Next up, some English muffin consumption:

Yeah, they were good!  This group thought so, too:

And then it was time to go to work on kolaches:

And another table of kolache bakers (the young lady at right front will be heading off soon to the Johnson & Wales culinary school in Denver):

And the third group of kolache bakers:

As you can see from the photos, the students really focused on what they were doing.  They asked lots of good questions and made sure that they understood the answers.  It's fun to work with a lively and interested group like this!

The format for the class involved some "TV cooking" to make sure that we covered all of the bases in the amount of time that we had.  We actually worked backwards, beginning with shaping prepped dough for the English muffins.  That was followed by shaping the kolaches, also working with prepped dough.  Then we came back to the English muffins, cooking them and taking a short break to eat some muffins, answer questions, and talk about what we would do next.  I demonstrated a cheese filling for the kolaches and used it to fill some of the kolaches.  Since we were time-constrained, I used canned cherry pie filling to fill the rest of the kolaches.  The kolaches then went into a preheated oven.  Then it was back to the work stations to mix the final English muffin dough, using the prepped sponge.  Once that was mixed and kneaded, each student bagged his/her dough and put it into the refrigerator to griddle at home later.  Then we shifted to the kolache dough, with each student preparing, mixing, and kneading the dough from scratch.  That, too, was bagged and refrigerated to take home.  We finished with some questions and answers, much of which focused on how to use the starter that I handed out (which was at 50% hydration) if they were to make another batch of the English muffins at home, given that the EM recipe calls for 100% hydration starter.  That gave a good opportunity to underline measuring by weight and to explain how adjust quantities of flour and water to achieve a specific hydration level.  I never said "bakers math" out loud but that was effectively at the core of the discussion.  Once that process was clarified, we were at the end of our session.  Everyone gathered up their doughs and their starter samples and headed home.

I stayed to debrief with Kay and go through the student feedback forms.  One of the things that she noted was how there was lots of chatter among the students as they were leaving, which was a good sign.  Kay said that if people slide out without saying much, it usually indicates dissatisfaction.  The feedback forms confirmed what she had observed, with complimentary comments from the students.  I say that with a sense of relief, not braggadocio.  Some of the students are effectively "frequent flyers" at KCCC, so I don't want to do anything to drive them away.  Nor do I want to develop a reputation as someone to be avoided.  More importantly, bread should be fun and I want my students to walk out the door knowing that they can do exactly what we did in class and have it turn out well.

After some cleanup and gathering up what I had brought with me, it was time to go home, which is where my wife snapped this photo:

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Although my baking has waned recently because I need to reduce the bread backlog in my freezer, it hasn't gone entirely dormant.  For instance, I baked some hamburger buns today (thanks, dolfs!) as a demonstration/interview for an instructor's position with the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  It was a lot of fun and felt more than a little bizarre.  After all, I am, to steal proth5's pet expression, just a raggedy home baker, not a professional chef/baker.  Still, any time that you get to talk to people about baking bread is a pretty good time.  And I apparently managed to do so in a coherent fashion because they asked me to teach for them.

The demo was slated as a 30-40 minute session in front of six of the CCKC staff and instructors, followed by their feedback.  That's a very small slice of time to work with, so I broke it into two separate phases and applied some "TV cooking" tricks.  The first phase was to demonstrate the mixing and kneading of a single batch of dough (using pre-measured ingredients), fielding questions as I went.  Some of the reviewers are bread bakers, some are not.  From a previous test run with the dough, I knew that I did not want to add more flour to the dough.  I also knew that the butter content was high enough that the dough would not stick to the work surface.  Consequently, I only did a rough mix and dumped the not-entirely-cohesive mass out onto the work surface, which was a polished marble or travertine material.  That elicited a few questions about why I wasn't worried about the whole thing sticking, so I showed them how the butter in the dough was keeping my hands and the counter comparatively clean.  I only kneaded it enough with the push-turn-fold-push method to get everything to hang together, then started French folding, a la Richard Bertinet.  That triggered a number of questions and comments, since none of them had seen that technique previously.  They were impressed with how easily the dough developed and smoothed out, and with how it picked up the initial goop from the countertop.  Putting that aside, I pulled out six batches worth of dough that I had made prior to leaving home for the demo and put each of them to work shaping the dough into the bun type of their choice, with pointers on how to achieve the various shapes.  I gave them tips for the final fermentation and baking (they have plenty of ovens to work with at the center) and that was the end of the demo.  Next up was listening to the critiques, which were uniformly positive and provided some very useful tips for me as a presenter.

So, the next step is to work out what courses to offer and to get them scheduled.  The catalog for the November 2012 - April 2013 semester is being developed now, so my timing was good.  I'll probably teach once, perhaps twice, a month.  This promises to be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to sharing the joy of good, home-made bread with others.

Paul

 

varda's picture
varda

Today,   I made a tiny little leap to no where in particular by teaching a small class to make bagels.    Since people (including me) had limited time I did a few practice rounds, taking note of the times, so we could fit in everything, including a potluck lunch, into a 2 hour period.

Despite experimenting this way and that in my practices, I decided to faithfully follow Hamelman in most regards except for a couple of simplifications.   I was pleased that this approach seemed to work.   I had started a batch of six bagels the night before and refrigerated, and we started with mixing up a second batch of six, then finishing the first batch.   This was done in time (ok, a little early) to cut, weigh, roll and shape the second batch, which the students took home to finish.   

These were not bakers (bar one) who were familiar with the use of a scale, much  baking with yeast, or what not.    Everything went well, though.   People had fun, and we had a nice lunch.   Phew!

The finished product

I brought the ham

Rinsing the bagel (in lieu of ice water)

Ready to eat with plenty of treats

 

frenchcreek baker's picture

THE BEST 5-DAY EUROPEAN ARTISAN BREAD BAKING & PASTRY WORKSHOP: Guest Instructor German Master Baker

February 22, 2012 - 4:47pm -- frenchcreek baker
Forums: 

 

THE HAINS HOUSE PRESENTS

 

5-DAY EUROPEAN BAKING COURSE

MARCH 10-15, 2012

Günter Franz 

Guest Instructor European Master Baker

                              Small Class Size         Hands-On         Wood Fired Oven 

 

Learn the inside secrets to making European baked goods and specialty German breads. 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Today was a fun day, featuring a thoroughly informal and just as thoroughly entertaining class on how to make bread.  Eight friends and acquaintances received a lesson on making a honey whole-wheat bread.  Two of them thought that they would just observe but we had them up to their elbows in flour along with the rest of the group in no time flat. 

It was raucous and messy and fast-paced.  Lots of questions (good ones!) and lots of interest.  At the end, we helped Joan clean up her kitchen and get things put back to rights.  Afterward, everyone took their shaped and panned dough home for the final rise and baking.  I've already seen a couple of FB posts.

The format was simple.  Everyone brought their own utensils and I supplied the ingredients since I need to clean out the pantry anyway.  I had a sheet with the recipe and instructions printed up for each student, along with another tip sheet that, among other things, referenced TFL.  I had everyone weighing and measuring after a minimal intro, then used the autolyze time to go into a bit more detail and field questions.  There was one bobble, mine, while assembling the final dough, in that I forgot to have them put the butter in the dough.  So much for practicing mise en place!  Anyway, it was a good opportunity to demonstrate that just about any mistake is recoverable and that adjustments are inevitable even without mistakes.

We used the time for the bulk ferment to munch on a loaf of Sweet Vanilla Challah that I had brought along for that purpose, along with the demo loaf of the honey whole-wheat that I had prepared in advance.  Bonus discovery of the day: challah smeared with Nutella and coconut butter is way more than just good.  Next time you're in Florida, pick up a jar of the coconut butter.  Just sayin'.

Some pictures:

I'm pretty sure that at least one or two will use this as a launch pad for further baking on their own.  Even if it doesn't become something that they choose to do consistently, they at least have the knowledge that they can make bread on their own.  And that it can be a lot of fun.  That's a good thing to have.

Paul

SmokinGuitarPlayer's picture

Warren Prince "unconundrum" ARTISAN BREAD BAKING DEMO CLASS JAN 23 (using the Big Green Egg et al)

January 12, 2010 - 8:13am -- SmokinGuitarPlayer
Forums: 

Warren will be presenting a Demo Class on Artisan Bread Baking using the Big Green Egg on Jan 23rd at our store in Shillington, Pa.


It's FREE so if you have any interest, please stop by and watch Warren in action and sample his breads. All we ask is that you register in advance so we can plan properly. Hope to see some of our new friends on this forum at the demonstration!


Fred Bernardo (SmokinGuitarPlayer)


Here's the official press release and INFO / REGISTRATION LINKS


......

ein's picture

Hamelman's Natural Leaven Class Report

April 28, 2009 - 7:55am -- ein


I just returned from the King Arthur Flour Co’s Baking Education Center and wanted to share my experience taking the 10hr, day and a half class:  “Naturally Leavened Breads” with Jeffrey Hamelman. Being greeted by sunny 70 degree weather in beautiful Vermont was a great way to start the day and the Education Center is a light and airy building with lots of well managed work space. 

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