The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Spreading the loaves

pmccool's picture

Spreading the loaves

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.



SylviaH's picture

I loved all the smiling faces!


lumos's picture

I must say they are very lucky people to have a friend like you.  Good on you for spreading the joy if bread making!

Thank you for sharing your wonderful day, Paul. :)


proth5's picture

like good fun. Great idea to have them take the bread home - it's always a panic to find sufficient oven capacity.

breadsong's picture

Looks like mirth and merriment were in the mix!
So glad you had a fun day with your friends, and how nice of you pass along some of your bread-baking knowledge!
:^) from breadsong


Syd's picture

Looks like a lot of fun Paul.  I notice you are using "Snowflake" flour.  Khalid mentioned using it, too.  (I am pretty sure he did, although I will have to go back and make 100% sure).  What is its protein level and how does it compare to American flours?



pmccool's picture

Hi Syd,

The bread flour is listed as 11% protein content and the Nutty Wheat is listed as 12% protein.

As for how they compare to American flours, that's harder to qualify.  One of the things I did in my first couple of months here was run some test bakes of a simple lean bread with varying hydration levels.  My impression then was that higher hydration levels were required than for a similar bread in KC.  There are other variables at play that I cannot control, particularly humidity and elevation.  There's more than a 3000-foot difference in elevation and the humidity here, even in the rainy season, is markedly lower.  It would be interesting to do a side-by-side bake using an American flour of similar protein level but not so interesting that I want to put another 5 pounds of flour in my luggage for the trip home.

The other thing that I have noticed is the texture of flours.  "Brown" flours in particular show a big change in particle size from one brand to another.  Eureka Mills tends to mill theirs more finely, though not as fine as Wheat Montana does, while Snowflake has big chunks of bran in the flour.  For the coarser grinds, a long autolyse is more a necessity than a convenience.

Now I'm wondering if reverse culture shock will include a re-learning curve for U.S. flours when I get home.


rossnroller's picture

The pics radiate fun and friendship. Bet none of you will forget that day. Special.


trailrunner's picture

I was wondering how to accomplish the same thing as I have been asked several times to do a group bake/teaching session. The removal of the rising bread to the person's home provides them the experience of " watching it grow" and then the wonderful fragrance of the bread baking. What a perfect day you had. What a lovely ending for you and beginning for them,c

pmccool's picture

For anyone who has been asked by friends about baking bread, I would suggest you do something similar.  If all you "accomplish" is having a fun visit and the demystification of bread making, it will be worth it.  The biggest takeaway of a session like this is an understanding of how the dough should look and feel.  Almost everything else can be conveyed in writing but the tactile qualities just don't translate well to the page.  Being able to say "That looks kind of dry.  Try adding more liquid." while someone has their hands in the dough is something that can only be done in person.  Plus, it's a huge confidence boost for the student to know that "this" is the way the dough ought to feel at various stages of development.

The subsequent baking at home lets the rest of the family enjoy part of the process, in addition to not overwhelming the host's facilities. 


Mebake's picture

How cozy, and warm that kitchen must have been, Paul!

I've used Snowflake nutty wholewheat flour before. True, It does need soaking.

Hope you're enjoying your stay in South africa. We'd love to see more of your bread blogs, when you get back to the states.


wally's picture

Wow, how much fun was that, Paul!  Like a cocktail party but with a twist.  And I'll bet everyone came away going, "WOW, I made bread!"

Great idea for a get together.  Thanks for sharing!


PS - I'll wager that afternoon becomes an object of much conversation.

pmccool's picture

Yes, it was fun!  And yes, I think it will be talked about for a while.