I don’t always take styled photographs of the baked goods I make in class, but the brioche is just so nice looking that I couldn’t help myself!
Awesome–now that I got that out of my system, I can talk about what we learned in the past few baking classes.
I’ve mentioned that part of our weekly homework is preparing a timeline for the following class, but I haven’t mentioned why we show up to class almost an hour ahead of schedule. Scaling. Baked goods are very precise with their measurements and ingredients so as part of the preparation for the class, we are to scale all of our ingredients for the day. This can get tricky when there are 15 other people in the class scaling the same ingredients at around the same time. This is why I show up to class at least 45 minutes earlier per day.
Being more prepared and organized means my products are going to come out great. There was one day where I dumped the wrong ingredient into the mixer and I had to start all over and scale everything again. Making this mistake taught me to think out every detail of what I am doing and which ingredients I am using next. Labelling the ingredients that look the same is also very helpful – the sharpie has become a good friend of mine!
We were taught methods of making quick breads. A “quick bread” is a chemically leavened baked good. An example is a quick bread created using baking powder as a leavener instead of using the method of yeast fermentation (which is what we learned about in our next class — and I talk about it below.)
I’ve been making banana bread for years and it was nice to finally get the facts straight. Here are some tips I learned about banana bread:
- Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another.
- Mix the wet and dry ingredients but just until incorporated. The batter should be thick and lumpy.
- Mixing quick bread just right is important so you end up with a bread that has a delicate texture and consistent crumb.
- Over-mixing causes gluten in the flour to develop, trapping the leavening in pockets. The result a heavy, uneven loaf with tunnels.
The biscuit method is where a solid fat is cut up and then rubbed into flour until it resembles a breadcrumb texture. How fine you cut up your flour defines the texture of your biscuits. The fat must be really cold so it’s best to keep the pieces refrigerated until you are ready to use them. During this process the butter coats the flour and then any water added to the recipe absorbs any leftover flour. If there is milk in your recipe, it will help with browning and also structure. If you re-roll your dough after your first set of cut outs, the second set of biscuits will not rise as much. Finally, the egg wash gives the biscuits a great shine!
This method is when the bread rises due to yeast fermentation. The proofing stages require a lot of patience and you have to know a few things to avoid disaster. The term for water and yeast together is called a slurry (just in case you’ve ever heard this word and wondered what it meant). My favourite part of the process is after the yeast ferments and the dough is punched down – a great way to get rid of any pent up anger!
The shaping of the dough is where things got tricky for me. We were tasked with making four types of knots: single-knot, double-knot, figure-eight roll and braided roll. The Chef made it look so easy but I assure you this isn’t a skill that comes easy. I managed to create my knots but after multiple tries.
Everything is so precise with baking. The ingredients are all scaled and even the dough is weighed and portioned. You can’t really get away from this step because the Chef makes it loud and clear as to what she’s expecting from us (see photo of our classroom screen below). If you only receive, for example, half the amount of rolls the recipe calls for, then you went wrong somewhere and it is reflected in your final grade for the class.
This is an important skill for people who prepare food for sale at restaurants. You wouldn’t want to give the customer more than what they have paid for. Every gram counts – and I totally dig this type of efficiency!
A few things we learned about bread storage are: It is best the day it is baked and to never store bread in the fridge. Bread should only be stored at room temperature or put into the freezer. Hard crusted breads like a baguette should be stored in paper bags and soft dough breads like brioche should be stored in a plastic bag.
I have made a brioche in the past but making it in class really gave me an appreciation for the process, instead of when I am baking at home and just trying to get it all done quickly. This is one thing I am really appreciating about my baking class—being present. While in class there is absolutely nothing I can do but listen and learn. There are no distractions and my only goal is to get all of the tasks done by the end of the fourth hour. It can be intense at times but after each class I have such a great feeling of accomplishment.
My grade for the Quick Breads class was a 79 and I received a 77 for the yeast breads class. Next week we are doing laminated doughs and croissant! I can’t wait for that!
Alive to Dead, Dough to Bread
I recently watched a Ted Talk that the Chef recommended. You should watch it too if you are interested in bread making. It’s called: The art and craft of bread and the speaker is the master baker Peter Reinhart.
Here is a quick summary about the stages of bread.
Peter says, above all, flavour rules – especially when it comes to whole grain breads.
- Scaling all ingredients. I mentioned earlier about scaling – it’s really important, especially in baking.
- The wet dough is made and this is where the flavour develops. The ingredients at this stage are usually water, salt, and yeast (leavener).
- Mixing – developing the gluten and where leavener is activated.
- Fermentation – more flavour is developed at this stage as well.
- Dough is divided into smaller units – shaped.
- Short rest period.
- Final shaping or panning (dough is put on a pan).
- Fermentation process continues – proofing (where we prove that the dough is alive).
- Dough goes into the oven –this is where the yeast officially dies (done their duty) and the sugars in the dough caramelize and create the crust. The gluten gives the dough its structure and gelatinization is when the starch in the dough thickens by absorbing all the liquid and then bursts and this creates the guts of the bread.
- Bread resting – where it cools and the proteins in the bread firm up.
- Packaging or eating of the bread.
Peter Reinhart sums up the bread making process by saying: Alive to dead, dough to bread. I love this – so much so that I made it the title of this post!
I will leave you with the baker’s blessing as stated by Peter Reinhart—“May your crust be crisp, and your bread always rise.”
* The above post was created as part of a paid partnership between myself and Centennial College, however, and as always, all opinions are my own.