The Fresh Loaf

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Best Bread to Teach to a Class of Beginners?

GwenReeves's picture

Best Bread to Teach to a Class of Beginners?

I've been asked to teach a class on bread.

It will be whole grain, as that is what I usually bake. What do you think would be the best starting place. My daughter thinks that my usual process of soakers and biga's and sour dough etc will scare beginners.

I just tried the Basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book with good success, but it doesn't have the flavors of the longer ferments.



dabrownman's picture

is to do the different stuff about SD for them.  Give them a each some SD levain that they can make bread with and save some it to feed and then they take home.  The rest is the same as yeast bread, flour water salt.  If you want to use whole grains fine, it is just opening a bag of it like any other flour.  Just make a 123 with about 12% whole grain.  They can use that dough to do autolyse, slap and folds stretch and folds shaping etc.  Just give them a handout on how to maintain their SD starter.  You can film the class and post the video for them to see and remind themselves what and how to do it.

We Llove teaching kids how to bake SD.

GwenReeves's picture

I feel a bit humbled that you replied! Your posts are some of the ones that I follow and try your ideas.

Thank you very much.

pmccool's picture

make it as simple as possible for them.  Don't worry about maximizing flavors or textures.  That can come later.  Use a straight yeasted dough.  A simple white bread, or a honey whole-wheat bread, are good candidates.

Focus on the basics: measuring, mixing, kneading, fermenting, shaping, fermenting, baking, and cooling.  That's enough information to absorb in a first lesson. More advanced techniques can be addressed another time.

Make sure that they get their hands in the dough so that they understand the difference between drier and wetter doughs.  Give them the opportunity to see how a dough changes texture and consistency during kneading.

Emphasize measuring ingredients by weight.  It will let you talk about bakers math and hydration.  You can even show them the differences by mixing 100 gram samples of flour with 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 grams of water. That is usually an eye-opener for my students who aren't acquainted with the concept.

Most beginners view a moderately hydrated dough as massively sticky and will want to keep adding flour until it isn't sticky anymore.  Let them know that that is fine if they are making bagels but not so helpful for a sandwich bread or hearth bread.

Above all, make it fun.  Many will be terrified of making a mistake and ruining their bread.  Show them how to recover from rookie mistakes.  Let them know that bread dough is pretty forgiving stuff and easily corrected if it doesn't go exactly as planned.  Help them build confidence in their own abilities and in the bread.



GwenReeves's picture

Sound like you're a teacher. I am going to follow these suggestions.

And actually I've enjoyed every comment I've received!!

On the whole wheat part -- I was asked to teach whole wheat bread making because Some people have eaten my whole wheat bread and can't believe it's whole wheat. They want to know how I do that. Those people created this class and they are sending out invites to the public. I'm an RN that just happens to LOVE bread. That's what got me into this. 

Typically I just read comments from TFL and try things I read. Thanks for giving me some good ideas!

pmccool's picture
  1. Introduce the class.  Talk about what the students will do/learn.  Distribute recipes and any other handouts. 5 minutes.
  2. Demonstrate measuring by weighing.  Show the difference between the weight of a cup of flour that has been scooped and one that has been filled by spooning stirred flour.  Point out how two people can follow the same volume-based recipe faithfully and have wildly different results simply because of the difference in how they fill a cup of flour.  5 minutes. 
  3. (Optional). Demonstrate hydration and give a brief introduction to baker's percentages. 10 minutes
  4. Demonstrate autolyse.  5 minutes. 
  5. Have students set up their individual autolyse.  15-20 minutes. 
  6. Demonstrate final dough. 10 minutes.  
  7. Have students prepare their final doughs. 30 minutes. 
  8. Discuss ingredients and their effects on the dough.  Could address the differences between lean and rich doughs.  Talk about fermentation, bulk and final.  Or whatever will fill 30 minutes with useful instruction until the instructor's dough is ready. 30 minutes. 
  9. Demonstrate shaping and panning.  5-10 minutes. 
  10. At this point you'll have another 20 minutes or so to wait for the students' dough to be ready for shaping.  Might be a good time for Q&A.  Also a good opportunity to talk about “How do I know the dough is ready?”  20-25 minutes.  Preheat the oven. 
  11. Now you have another half hour to fill while waiting for the instructor's bread to be ready to bake.  I usually start a second bread during this time.  The students can bag their second dough to take with them for baking at home (just put theirs in the refrigerator to wait for departure).  30 minutes. 
  12. Put the instructor's bread in the oven.  5 minutes. 
  13. While the instructor’s bread is baking, and the students' loaves continue their final fermentation, you have another 30-40 minutes, approximately, to fill.  Maybe demonstrate shaping techniques, which the students can also practice.  Maybe talk about how to tell when the bread is fully baked. Maybe...
  14. Students' breads should be about ready to go into the oven when the instructor’s bread is ready to come out.  Figure 5-10 minutes to handle that shuffle.  
  15. Now there's one last 40-50 minute block of time to fill while the students' breads bake.  Talk about the importance of letting bread cool.  Have everybody pitch in to clean up the kitchen and wash dishes.  Reward them with bread, butter, and preserves when everything is cleaned up and there is still some wait time left (using bread you baked in advance).  Maybe answer some final questions and offer final assurances. 
  16. Thank everyone for being such good students. Make sure everyone leaves with their baked bread, second dough, and papers.  

While not exactly the same, that outline is very much like my approach for the Bread 101 class that I teach.  You can certainly tailor your approach to your audience and the subject.  I do find it very helpful to identify each step and estimate the time required for each.  Note that this assumes you have previously set out all of the tools and ingredients that each student will require.

And yes, you can use a whole wheat bread as the subject for novice bakers.  Just be sure to address the reasons that you do what you do because of the flour's innate traits. 


p.s.  Odd, the list in the edit window shows steps 1-16 but the published view drops the leading “1” on the double-digit items. 

GwenReeves's picture

I will follow your outline. Like it. 

David R's picture
David R

Yeasted white bread. I know it's not your usual, but it's a basic class and you need a basic recipe. Forget whole wheat, forget sourdough, don't even THINK about a biga.

I know it's a departure for you, but in fact whole wheat is a specialty item, a bias, a niche thing. For you it isn't, I know - for you it's normal - but a basic beginner bread class is not the place for a specialty item. And we can all wish that whole grain was normal in present-day baking - maybe that would be a good thing - but it's not normal, and they need to learn normal first.

GwenReeves's picture

I agree with you, but unfortunately I was asked to teach how to make whole wheat bread. It all started because some friends ate my whole wheat bread.

Yippee's picture

what they are hoping to make. That would be my first step. Then find/create a formula that works for sure, and have your students follow step-by-step. In my opinion, it doesn't have to be a very basic formula as the gents suggested, as long as the students will get good results in class under your guidance. Anything beyond the class is long-term thinking, probably not every student will continue baking; but at least you psych them up by providing what they want during the class. 


GwenReeves's picture

Thank you. I will ask them what they hope to learn. I have 3 weeks yet to prepare and I'm bringing several different kinds of bread. But I will probably only show one basic formula.