The Fresh Loaf

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Johnson & Wales Univ. Artisan Bread Course

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lisah's picture

Johnson & Wales Univ. Artisan Bread Course

Hi Everyone,

I finally attended the Johnson & Wales Artisan Bread Course in Charlotte this weekend.  WOW!!!!!  I am so excited.  It was a dream come true for me and it was all that I hoped it would be and much more.  If anyone has any questions at all about the course, I'm happy to share.

We used the professional steam injected deck ovens, a steam injected convection oven, and we made a variety of doughs including straight, biga and poolish.  And the best of all was learning how to make that incredible crumb with big big holes.  That was a big win for me.

As I have time, I'll start posting some of the more important learnings for me so that you might find something new to try.

Lisa H.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I didn't realize there was a weekend course in Charlotte.  It would be something I could actually just drive to.   I'd love to read about what the course covered.


lisah's picture

Today is Wed following the class.  So far I’ve baked the baguettes and the fruit and nut ciabatta we baked in class.  The results were excellent and I do not distinguish a difference between my home baked loaves and those we did in class.  That is a very big win for me.  Especially with the baguettes.  I have used my own formula here, but I modified it according to what we learned in class, and I am using the techniques I learned in class.  The key difference between my formula and what I learned in class is yield, the use of a starter vs. poolish and a bit more yeast in mine.  I like to bake same day and the results were so similar that any differences were undetectable to me.


Here are the most important takeaways (many I already knew in theory, but I hadn’t used them consistently or correctly in the past.):


1.      Use a Couche:  mine is from King Arthur.  It resulted in an entirely different outcome than without one.  The couche draws the moisture from the very wet dough, leaving a dry skin and wet interior. The result is a crusty outside and chewy inside with big irregular holes.


2.      Use more water than I had been in my formula:  We’re targeting about 75% hydration of water to flour. (I was using too much flour to the water before.) The extra water results in far larger holes and a much nicer crumb overall.  (Note:  if you don’t use a couche then the dough is too wet for a baguette to turn out just right.  So my takeaway here is be consistent in my use of the couche for the baguettes and the ciabatta.)


3.      Add the autolyse step:  By mixing some of the flour with all of the water and letting it sit for ½ hour prior to adding the balance of the ingredients, the outcome was much improved.  The biggest impact was on the crumb in that the dough was more active and alive at the end.


4.      Knead on the first setting for 1 minute then 2nd for 4 minutes:  This is less than I was doing before.  I was kneading until I could pull an extensible windowpane without tearing.  The Chef had us knead less to where we could pull a windowpane thinly, but it could still tear.  This also was due to the dough being more wet than I was doing.


5.      Pull the edges of the dough in versus kneading between rests:  The outcome was a much more active dough with many more big bubbles.  This affected both the taste and the crumb.


6.      For the baguettes, shape each loaf into a rough log, sealing the seam. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes, then shape into the baguette:  In general the baguette was much improved in terms of shape, rise and oven spring.


7.      Place my stone on the 2nd to bottom rack (vs. bottom):  I had it too close to the heating element.  I baked the baguettes at 480 and they came out perfect.


8.      Use a Silpat to bake the baguettes or other breads on – on top of the stone:  I was so surprised to hear this when the Chef said he did this at home.  I tried it and low and behold, the outcome was excellent.  I won’t do it any other way now.  Prior to slashing, placed the shaped dough onto the Silpat.  Slash the loaves.  Place the Silpat on a bakers peel heavily floured.  Then slide the Silpat onto the preheated stone.


9.      Steam 3 times: Steam once before they go in and then twice during the first 3 minutes of baking.  Here’s where I invented my own technique.  I realized from watching the ovens at the school that spritzing with a sprayer bottle wasn't yielding anywhere near the amount of steam that the professional ovens did.  So I placed one of my round lodge pans (the one with the triangles) on the bottom rack during preheating.  Then I filled a squeeze bottle (like the ones used for ketchup at a diner or picnic) with water. Just prior to inserting the loaves I squirted a good amount of water onto the pan.  Then in went the loaves.  Then I squirted again in the pan and on the sides and bottom of the oven.  Lots and lots of steam resulted from this.  I was careful to stay away from the electrical element.


10.  Formula (note this is my formula not what was used in class)  I use more yeast, my final rise time is about 20-30 minutes shorter, and my yield is for fewer loaves (4 vs. 8):


16.5 oz King Arthur All Purpose Flour (I’ve found it is better for artisian breads than the bread flour)

10 oz water (you want the dough to be on the wetter side)

1 tsp course kosher salt

1 tsp instant yeast

8 oz (1 cup) starter (white flour) refreshed twice – once then again after 4 hours as follows:  1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup water– 4 hours later add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.  Use 2 hours later or when starter is very active. (Note this is my method not what was used in class). 


In the end, one cup of this starter is equal to about 4 oz of water and 2.25 oz of flour.  Using the bakers percentage of measure this all equals out to 18.75 oz of flour and 14 oz of water.  14/18.75=75% hydration.


Fruit/Nut Ciabatta variation (This was the class favorite and my family loved it too) Again this is my variation of what was done in class.  In class these flours were added in smaller percentages and to the poolish versus the dough.  Also I’m using here about a 1/3 more sugar.)


Add 1/4 cup cup rye flour

Add 1/4 cup whole wheat flour


Increase water to 12 oz.  Knead with the paddle not the dough hook until the dough pulls away.  If it doesn’t pull away after 4 minutes, you can add a little more (tsp at a time) of white flour.  But keep the dough very wet.  With the paddle attachment still on add:


1 oz sugar

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup walnut halves

2 cups dark raisins


Resulting dough will be very sticky and wet.


Follow all of the rising and other steps above.  Shape into logs and when ready slash vertically down the length of the log.  Bake until dark, but not burnt. 


Summary Steps:


1.      Mix all the water and enough of the flour to make a soft dough.  Let it sit for 30 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and knead on 1st speed for 1 minute and then on 2nd for 4 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides (clean-up).  Stop kneading now.

2.      Turn out and place in olive oiled covered container (note I use an antique bread bowl that I think makes a difference for my bread)

3.      After about 40 minutes-60 minutes, when the dough is puffy and doubled, pull the edges to the center pulling a skin and turn over.  Recover

4.      Repeat above step

5.      Turn dough out and cut into number of pieces you want.  Shape into rough logs or ovals.  Cover and rest for 30 minutes.

6.      Preheat the oven (baguettes 480)

7.      Shape loaves – place on well floured couche pulling the couche up on each side of the loaves to support them.  Cover with a linen towel or wrap.  Keep in a cool area.  Let rise for 40 minutes.  Important note here.  This rise is shorter because you don’t want to fully rise the dough.  You want it puffy, but not doubled.  This results in much better oven spring and a better overall crumb.

8.      Place loaves on Silpat on floured dough peel.  Slash loaves.  Slashing is not down into the dough, it is at an angle into the dough so you are lifting a layer of the dough.  It reminded me of the lip of an envelope, but not as sharp an angle.

9.      When slashing the baguettes, your goal is to make sure the top right of the slash is on the same vertical as the next slash and so on.  If you placed a ruler along the length of the baguette the top right of each slash would touch the ruler down the length of the ruler.

10.  Steam before putting the loaves in and again twice during the first 3 minutes.

11.  Bake until very golden brown.


Bon Appetite!


P.S. Great page listing culinary sources on the JWU website is:

Susan's picture

Can't wait to read all about your adventures in class! Photos, too, please, if you can.

Susan from San Diego

lisah's picture

The course was given on Friday night from 7-10 and then again on Saturday from 10-4.

 In the course here is the first lesson we learned:

 Straight dough method (hand kneading) - this was a very interesting technique for me.  Not the usual turn and fold.  The dough was wet.  More wet than I'm used to.  I'll get the formula posted soon. 

We put the dough on the wood table.  With just a small amount of flour we squeezed the dough at intervals up the length of the dough.  Like rungs of a ladder.  Then when we reached the top, we pulled the wet dough up and over itself and turned it a half turn or so and did the whole process again.  This was to go on for about 5 minutes.  Then we set the dough aside to rest for 40 minutes.  Then we pulled and stretched it from one side to the center. and then again and again until we had gone all the way around the round of dough.

 This process was then repeated again in 40 minutes.  The dough was then shaped.  You could then bake it or let it sit overnight for 12 hours and then bake.  We did both.

Half the dough was placed in willow baskets.  Important note:  we learned never to use wheat flour in a willow basket.  That was news to me.  He said to use Rye or other flours.  Which we did.

For the dough baked that day, it was placed on a couche to rise.  We shaped them into large torpedos.

The bread was very good with a very nice whole structure.  Frankly, very similar to daily loaf I bake now using my sourdough starter.  So I think I'll use my own formula but will try the technique I learned while there to see if I can further improve the crumb structure.

I have one loaf from the class frozen in my fridge.  When I defrost it I will cut it and post the photo for you.

When I have a little more time, I'll post more insights fromt the class.  Feel free to ask me questions.

charlene in va's picture
charlene in va

I was amazed to check in here and see that you had been to this class.  I'm going this weekend - April 5-6.  It's the Level 2-Artisan Bread class.  I've never been to a class like this before so I am really excited and glad that you had a good experience.


It's about a 4 hour drive for me so dh and I are spending the night.  Please share more of your experience. 

lisah's picture

I understand Chef Harry is the same professor for that class.  You will love him.  He is great.  I would even take the same class again as I think the practice wouldn’t hurt at all.  He moved me light years ahead of where I am now.  I’ve been baking bread for 25 years, and it was only recently that I actually bought videos (JWU has them) and saw firsthand how someone else bakes bread.  Everything I know comes from books and years of practice.

So it was such an extreme pleasure to be taught by him.  I also really enjoyed the chance to use professional equipment.  That was really cool.

If I could do my life all over again, I would have gone to Johnson & Wales and become a pastry chef, and a master bread baker.  That would be a dream come true.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll get that chance.

Bon appetite! 

MapMaker's picture

I look forward to hearing more about your class.  I attended an artisan bread baking class at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN two years ago.  Four and a half days on the shores of Lake Superior baking all kinds of breads in a wood fired brick oven.  It was fantastic.  I'd recommend it highly.

This June my wife and I are going to Norwich, VT where I will be attending an Artisan Bread Baking at Home at King Arthur.  Has anyone out there taken any classes there?  I'm looking forward to the experience.

Any other classroom experience people want to share?

lisah's picture

I haven't taken a class there, but I was there last November while in VT on business.  I was so excited to go to there store.  I'm hoping to take a class there eventually.  Maybe later this year.  Would love to hear about your experience.

MapMaker's picture

In the past I looked at J & W's website to see if they had classes such as you describe.  I wasn't able to find anything that looked like classes for the general public.  When I read your post I looked again and still couldn't find them - can you give me a hint?


lisah's picture
MapMaker's picture


Thank you LisaH.