Yes, yes, I know that now that my life has resumed its "normal" rhythm, I should get back to baking. (And I did do a pretty good first bake in the new oven - which was eaten before pictures could be taken - but which showed me just how many adjustments I was making for my old oven and what kind of better results I might get with one that actually works.) But believe it or not I had never been to Las Vegas and in one of those jet lagged induced flights of fantasy that I sometimes get, I had booked the tickets and registered for some lectures, and well, here I am at the IBIE (International Baking Industry Exposition.)
Sadly, in my quick turnaround at home, I packed my bags with the standard "four day domestic commute" accoutrements - which does not include a camera. I'm sure that official photos will soon be available and they will be much better than those I could have taken (not that it's hard to take better pictures than I do...) We all have lost opportunities to deplore.
My primary mission today was to cheer on the USA Baking Team at the Louis LeSaffre Cup. For those of you who don't follow this closely (Mark!) this is the preliminary competition that decides which two countries from the Americas region will compete at La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie at Europain in 2012. As you recall, the US placed out of the top three last Coupe (you are all keeping track of this, right?) and instead of getting an automatic ticket to Paris, needs to compete its way back.
IBIE is first and foremost, though, a trade show and there are always ripping good things to see. With all apologies and with due respect to those who see bread baking as a spiritual quest, I just love the big machines with the robotic arms that automatically mix, shape, and with the aid of tiny water jets even slash breads before conveying them to the oven. I could watch those big machines all day. While the artisan in me is suspicious of the bread that they produce, the engineer in me just thinks "Cool."
On my way back to the competition area, I passed the LeSaffre Yeast booth, where a very nice man gave me a one pound brick of LeSaffre's new "High Power" instant yeast. That should be interesting to try. The same very nice man also gave me a several lifetime's supply of plastic scrapers (and those who really know me know that I will travel vast distances and attend expensive classes just to get a free plastic dough scraper.)
I also scored a chocolate covered brownie - on a stick - from the Callebaut booth.
But, on to the competition. Team USA is:
Michael Zakowski - Bread
Jeremy Gadouas - Viennese pastry
Harry Peemoeller - Artistic piece
Today team USA, Team Canada, and team Mexico were baking. One of the advantages of attending these competitions is that one gets to see and taste the output from bakers who are at the top of their craft.
By applying my talent for infinite patience, I managed standing room within feet of the judging area and very near to that legend of baking Christian Vabret. I will have to say that it was a bit unthinking of the event organizers not to provide M. Vabret with a translator. Although I understood him, I could see him become visibly discouraged that so few people comprehended what he was saying. He deserves better. I was also puzzled that with Canada and Brazil in the competition that materials and signage were in English and Spanish only. Oh, well.
I'd have to say as a completely unbiased spectator that Team USA rocked!!!
Team Canada's (and Mexico's) and Team USA's breads were very different in style. Mr. Zakowski tends to bake his breads very boldly and includes a small amount of levain pre ferment even in his baguettes. Tasting is believing. I need to give some serious thought to bolder baking (now that I have an oven that works) and the hybrid baguette.
Mr. Gadouas' pastries were excellent.
Mr. Peemoeller produced an artistic piece celebrating the role of immigrants in the diversity of America and its breads. He included a highly abstracted version of the Statue of Liberty( with the flame made from a piece of croissant), a silk screen on dead dough version of the Declaration of Independence and a laminated live dough Constitution along with many examples of breads and allusions to the hard work building this country that was done by immigrants. It was brilliant. The two French gentlemen behind me remarked on the irony that the great symbol of America was really French. But I think that's what Mr. Peemoeller (with an accent that makes one think he might have moved to the US from somewhere else) was really trying to say. That America has the ability to take the best of the world and shake it up until it is all part of our identity. (I spent a lot of time watching the Armed Forces Network - I break out in public service announcements sometimes.) Which goes to show the power of his bread creation, that it actually could move one to deeper thought. It rocked!
Canada is a strong contender also, with really delicious pastries. M. Dumonceaux, who did the pastries made pain au chocolat where he laminated a cocoa butter and cocoa layer right into the dough (plus added the chocolate batons.) That was just too much (and I mean that in a good way.)
Sorry, but your feckless correspondent could stand no longer and left before Mexico's breads were judged.
For the individual looking for deck ovens for the home, Team USA had a Miwe Condo deck oven. It was extremely compact and had a mini loader integrated into the oven design (sooooooo cool...). I have spoken to an individual who has a Miwe in his RV. This seems interesting. I will go to the Miwe booth tomorrow.
But hey, I'm in Las Vegas! Enough of this blogging stuff - someone get me a martooni!