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: