Back to school to enjoy the 2nd instalment of Christmas gift from my boss, Caspar. 2-day Advanced Bread Baking. Seriously serious stuff.
Bread making is exhausting. Was on my feet all day (10AM to 4PM) for both days. Dean worked the class really hard.
And I loved every minute!
Day 1 (Saturday)
The very first thing we did was got started on the Pain Miche Sourdough. The prep of sourdough begins with a levain (pre-ferment), a combination of flour and water made several hours (sometimes days) in advance of mixing the final dough. In view of time, we didn't make the levain in class. Instead, Dean provided each of us with with the amount of levain required in his recipe.
Miche is a combination of flours, levain, salt and chilled water, mixed together to form a dough. Then left to proof for 3 hours. There was a lot going on since we would be making 6 different breads over the two days. So it was important that we marked our own doughs.
Mixed 11AM - Ferment 3 hours - Knock back 2PM - Rest for 1 hour - Scale 3PM
While Miche was proofing, we made baguettes. I never knew baguettes could be done so quickly.
Mixed 12PM - Proof 1 hour - Knock back 1PM - Rest for 30 min - Scale 1:30PM
My baguettes turned out weird-shaped. Knew I had no talent all along! :-)
Churned out some Feta, Caramelised Garlic, Tomato & Basil Rolls using baguette dough.
Everything else needed long fermentation so the rest of the day was spent prepping for the breads that we would be making the following day:
o Ciabatta. Made a biga (Italian Starter) to be used in making ciabatta the following day. The biga was covered with plastic wrap and left under our work bench to ferment overnight.
o Fruit & Nut Rye Loaf. Soaked the grains that would go into the Fruit & Nut Rye Loaf. This was covered with plastic wrap and left under our work bench.
o Beetroot & Thyme Bread. Made a Starter dough using flour, instant yeast, dried thyme and cold water. This was covered with plastic wrap and left under our work bench to ferment overnight.
o Pain Miche Sourdough. After Miche was knocked back and had a chance to rest (for 1 hour), we placed it in a proofing basket and bid it good evening. It would spend a night in the fridge for slow fermentation.
Day 2 (Sunday)
9:30AM: Arrived in class and saw that Miche had found its way from fridge to bench, where it had been waiting since 8AM.
10:30AM: Into the oven goes Miche.
Having left Miche baking happily we proceeded to make the Fruit & Nut Rye Loaf, ciabatta, and Beetroot & Thyme Bread.
Here's how the Pain Miche Sourdough (made with rye, wholemeal and white flours) turned out.
Comparing crumb structures (from the top): baguette, ciabatta, sourdough
The fun foundation class is thought by Dean Brettschneider himself. Today we learnt the technique of hand-kneading the dough.
Using the same basic white bread dough, we were able to create two breads of very different texture:
- White Bread loaf that is well-risen, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. The crumbs are small and evenly distributed;
- Fougasse that is more of a flatbread with larger, uneven crumbs.
We also made focaccia but mine is hanging its head in shame. :)
My take-away from today's workshop:
(1) If the dough feels very wet and sticky at the beginning, it is normal. Don't immediately add flour to make it easier to handle. The ingredients take time to mingle, make friends, and work magic together.
(2) Kneading is essential for a well-risen airy loaf.
(3) The secret of easy and effective kneading by hand is to rest for 30-45 seconds several times during the kneading process. This allows the elastic flour protein to relax a little before further kneading.
(4) For a fluffy loaf with a fine crumb (or 'holes'), the dough is given a "knock-back" in between proofing to expel the gas.
(5) For Fougasse the dough doesn't require knocking back, allowing gas to be trapped, thus creating the porous interior perfect for dipping into soup or soaking up gravy.
(6) Bake loaves (in a tin) on the lowest possible rack of the oven.
(7) Fougasse needs to be baked on the highest rack of the oven.
(8) Baking your bread in a steam oven gelatinizes starch on the outside layer of the dough, producing a bread with a crisp and evenly browned crust.
(9) Baking your bread on a pre-heated pizza stone gives the dough a strong shock of initial heat, puffing up the crust.
Am at home all week for the Christmas holidays. The mobile phone is on silent mode. I've ceased to check my work emails. It's my feeble pursuit of tranquility. Living with emotionally needy parents can be draining. On Sunday I attempted (unsuccessfully) to read a book. With every 2 pages I read my mum would appear by my side with either a question, something to discuss, or something to say.
Yesterday I finally spent half a day on my own - out of the house, sipped fruit tea and read my novel. A much needed (albeit brief) liberation.
This afternoon, while Mum was busy at the sewing machine, I made a batch of Drop Scones. Quickly at speed of light and quietly as a mouse I moved, and even managed to snap a few photos before the sun got smothered by layers of dark clouds.
I haven't taken a proper break since July. Work has been super crazy - Collision Training in July, Regional Meeting in August, the arrival of our new boss in September followed closely with Q3 financial reviews.
During the weekends my energy is devoted to demanding parents who are keeping me on my toes.
I'm flat out exhausted.
So life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it occasionally hands out a peach. Sometimes two or three. What do you do with peaches? Your savour them, of course. A few weeks ago my work took me to Sentosa island, where I enjoyed a fab lunch with several peacocks at close range. It was an awesome, awesome experience.
Recently, a friend reminded me to take time to smell the flowers. Today I did just that!