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Breakfast Breads Class at the Kansas City Culinary Center

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Breakfast Breads Class at the Kansas City Culinary Center

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:

 

Comments

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Looks like a great class, Paul.  Bravo!

-Floyd

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

And I owe you a big "Thank you!" for The Fresh Loaf and what I have been able to learn here in the past few years.  I'd been baking for probably 25 years or so when I first found TFL but my understanding and ability has improved immensely because of the generosity of this community.  Thank you for creating and shepherding this wonderful community and invaluable resource.

Paul

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Those are very encouraging photos as well!  

-Mini

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I was able to capture just a fraction of what went on yesterday morning.  I'm sure that you would have had a ball if you had been there.

Paul

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Paul,

What comes through in these photos is the intent involvement of all of your students.  They all look like they are enjoying themselves which, for me, translates to the fact that you prepped well so as not to confuse and confound them with lots of input.  It is apparent that you did cover a lot and have certainly given them all a base from which to continue baking.  Well planned and executed :-) I imagine your classes will only continue to grow once the word gets out.....something about baking bread has the ability to do that - draws you in and hooks you :-)

The Master Baker looks satisfyingly bushed after it all!

Can't help but ask - Who got dish duty?

Thanks for posting this with all the photos too.  Very inspirational....I so love seeing these small  bread baking classes sprouting up throughout the world.  You in Kansas,  Andy in the UK,  Mark in Montana, Varda in Massachusetts,  Codruta in Romania...I am sure there are others.  Those are what come to mind at the moment.

Take Care,

Janet

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

is to understand the "why" of things and how they work, Janet.  Consequently, when I have an opportunity like this, I want to do more for the students than simply rehash the recipe.  They can pretty much do that on their own.  A class like this should leave them with an understanding of dough feel, flour selection, technique, how different variables affect outcome, etc.  If I can accomplish that, then I feel that I have provided value for the time and the money that the students have invested in the class.  

There was a bit of confusion at a couple of points but we managed to get to clarity eventually.  The lack was in my initial presentation of some of the material.  Most of yesterday's students are fairly experienced cooks but relative novices with bread.  As one put it, "I'd rather make lasagna for 50; bread always seems too difficult."  Like the others, she went home with the feeling that bread is fairly manageable after all.

Bushed would be an appropriate word, but bushed in a good way.  

Dishes - KCCC staff did theirs, I did mine.  It's not like working for Mark, where I had to do all of them!  ;-)

Paul

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I just re-read how I worded part of my response to you.   Using the word 'input', by itself was highly misleading and not a good choice here, because it could imply that you were not at all prepared and so filled a lot of the time covering up the fact that you had no idea where you were headed thus the unnecessary input that could happen if you were disorganized and not presenting your information in a logical sequence which I know is NOT the case at all :-)

What I was thinking of in the way of unnecessary confusion was chatter not at all related to the task at hand.  The kind of nonsense that I see when I am  in our local bank and they have their big screen TV on a cooking channel....First off, I loathe having a TV in a bank but that is another topic entirely...Second....I find that the cooking shows they choose to display are simply embarrassing to watch due to the comments that are made by the presenters that are designed to entertain rather than educate...

Does this make sense??? Feel like I am using too many words and not being any clearer at all....sorry....My intent was to commend you on a job well done due to your expertise, your thorough planning and prep. for the event but most of all your passion about what you were presenting which involved educating them to the 'whys' of what they were doing.  Giving them a sound base from which to work in the future.

Sometimes the correct words simply escape me and I don't re-read what I have written well.

Hope this adds a bit of clarity rather than more confusion :-}

Take Care,

Janet

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I didn't take your comment to be anything other than positive.  

That said, I definitely came away from the experience with some ideas for how to improve in the next class.  Despite your kind words, there were a few points where I wasn't crystal clear in what I presented to the students.  That can be fixed.  And it will be.

Thanks again for your feedback.

Paul

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Phew, thanks for letting me know.

...a little ambiguity keeps everyone on their toes...I will proof read more carefully rather than simply checking for spelling...

Janet

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

You look like one of those celebrity bread baking chefs we see on TV!   Chef Paul is  taken so what Nom de la célèbre will you sport?

Nice teaching and baking.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

whole branding/trademarking thing, dab.  I did go so far as to have Bread Man embroidered on the chef's jacket, since that is how my family occasionally refers to me, but that's about all.  

It was the KCCC staffers at my "audition" who suggested that I use a chef's coat, or at least an apron, while teaching.  Their view is that it enhances the teacher's credibility with the students. It's kind of in line with the old "Look professional, act professional, be professional" line that some of my early mentors drummed into me back in the days when a three-piece suit was de rigeur for an engineer.  As I quite willingly told my students, most of what I know is self-taught rather than something that I learned at a culinary institute.  To borrow Pat's phrase, I'm just a "raggedy home baker" and feel more than a little fraudulent in a chef's coat.  Although the 3/4 length sleeves are great for staying out of the dough while mixing or kneading...

Thanks for your compliments.

Paul

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello Paul:

  I really enjoyed your post on the bread making class!  I too teach Thai cooking from my home but it is more informal. I am in a "talking stage" with the Community college near my home to do a community cooking class at their culinary department.  I glean a lot of technical  knowledge from reading your post and  I realized that you are definitely very organized and very knowledgeable.  The commercial kitchen at the college seems intimidating but I will try to overcome it in order to do a good job teaching there( if the final plans are acceptable to me and to the college). Lucky for me, I have a chef outfit. ( I wasn't going to use it before reading your post, now I will) 

Thanks for sharing, I learn a lot from your post.

mantana

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

My prior teaching had been home-based, too.  There is a significant change when you move to a larger venue.

Organization and preparation are very important.  So is flexibility and an ability to improvise, when you realize that your plan and reality are diverging.  Leave some time in your schedule to accomodate things that take longer than expected.  And have some unscheduled activity that can be inserted if things are getting done sooner than you expect.

If you can arrange it, try a rehearsal in the commercial kitchen of something that you want to teach.  That will help you know where to find things and how to operate the equipment there.  If the college has someone on staff who they can assign as your teaching assistant, so much the better.  That individual should, one hopes, already be well acquainted with the kitchen and equipment.

Best wishes for your new endeavor.

Paul

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello Paul:

  Thank you very much for your kind advice. The school invited me to come and observed their regular cooking classes and also their Community classes. They offered for me to teach on Sat. when the regular cooking classes  are not in session which work perfectly for me. The classes will probably start next year in Spring and summer.( Depend on the interest).  A lot still have to be work out and plan before I can committed to do it. 

Again thank you very much and I am looking forward to your next post on the cooking at school.

mantana  

proth5's picture
proth5

Nice jacket.  But if you really want to project an air of authority, you need the hat.  "My teacher" puts on the baker's hat when actual baking is being done and takes it off when there are lectures.  We are told that since s/he has a hat s/he is always right.  Oui, chef!

And don't you love washing dishes?  I love washing dishes.  Piles and piles and piles of dishes.  I love it!

Seriously - looks like you had good fun.  What kind of oven do they have and could you bake all at once or did you need to go in shifts?

Pat

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

with the  coat.  There are real chefs who teach at the Center; best not to be outed as an impostor.  I'll rely on my bass voice for the authoritative part (my first son-in-law says that I scared the daylights out of him while he was dating our daughter).  The grey hair doesn't hurt, either.

Y'know, I don't remember the make of the ovens.  They were two electric wall-mounted convection units.  We baked about 4 dozen kolaches in one go and about 3 dozen Enlish muffins in another pass.  The main kitchen has at least one Blodgett, gas fired I think, and a pair of huge restaurant-style gas stoves with two ovens each.  I don't recall the brand of those, either.  Guess I will have to pay more attention when I go back in December.

Dishes, for me, are similar to exercise: best enjoyed after finishing.  

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

got ovens on the brain right now.  Aren't the high capacity ovens fun?

I got my jacket under duress - but finally feel comfortable in it (I had mine embroidered with "Raggedy Baker").  It is standard culinary attire - and you don't technically need to be the "chef" to wear one.  It is amazing the credibility and access it gives you.  Button that thing on and you can walk into most kitchens.

Looking forward to hearing about your next class. 

Pat