I’ve been counting down (up?) to week 11 — the first of two and a half weeks of bread — ever since I got the curriculum outline. This was the week we’d finally get to make the things I’m most passionate about! And week 11 (as well as 12 & 13) certainly did not disappoint.
We started the week with a lesson on the 12 steps of bread making as well as learning about the different types of yeast out there. I’ll skip the details on the 12 steps (read here if you want to learn more), but it was interesting to see all the steps that I already knew about laid out in particular terms. As for yeast, we talked about the difference between instant and active dry, as well as natural and fresh yeasts. I have always used active dry at home, but we use instant at school. Fortunately there is an easy conversion to change between the two, but the biggest part for me was learning that instant yeast doesn’t need to be activated in a bit of warm water before mixing, the way active dry does. We also discussed bakers percentages and desired dough temperatures. I love how technical this week got!
Then we started baking. And baking we did. We made pretzels, bagels, ciabatta, baguette, soft dinner rolls, pain rustique, grissini, fugasse, babka, liege waffles, brioche and more. Throughout the week we had a few sad failures: The yeast on our first batch of brioche was just straight dead. We incorrectly scaled our pain rustique and had to restart it. It was good to get the failures out of the way early though and fortunately we were quick enough to recover and make them later in the week.
Everything else turned out insanely good. Having a powerful convection oven and a steam injected deck oven does wonders for bread baking. Unfortunately a lot of what we made would be tricky to remake in a home oven, but some of it is doable! The bagels were very chewy and tender, and the pretzels turned out perfect. Both of those are easy to do in a home oven, but require a few special ingredients and tools. We dipped the bagels in a boiling malt syrup solution before baking them off, and of course the pretzels were dipped in a 5% lye solution before baking as well. For the liege waffles, we made them with european butter and pearl sugar in order to get that crispy sugary crunch that liege waffles are known for, and topped them with a square of caramel and a dusting of powdered sugar.
If this was just the start to the bread weeks, I couldn’t wait for the next couple of weeks! We had yet to get into sourdoughs, as well as lamination. And the next week was full of guest instructors and another field trip. I’ll save those stories for the next one..
Field Trip to Craftsman and Wolves
That week we also had a field trip to Craftsman and Wolves. Chef and Owner William Werner spent the afternoon showing us his digs and showing off the super cool pastries that his team is doing there right now.
His bakery has some of the most advanced tools and machinery one would want in a bakery – a humidity controlled room for holding chocolates, a blast freezer for entremet making, and huge copper pot cooker for making jams and caramels, plus so much more. The space is open, airy and full of natural light. And the food that they put out shows that. We got to try a lot of different things including their new pate de fruit flavor (grapefruit and aji chile!), a persimmon and buckwheat entremet, and a stunning riff on a pumpkin cheesecake (the photo in the bottom left corner that looks like a sun).
Getting to see the behind the scenes production of Craftsman was really awesome, but the real highlight was getting to talk to Chef William for a while about his career and path to Craftsman, as well as getting advice from him on how to approach the industry, staging, interning and thinking about what you want to create. His shop is doing some of the most beautiful and interesting pastry work in the city and he clearly brings much of the creativity to the table.