What I learned in a week of bread school:
- The things you think will be easy turn out to be hard.
2. The things you think will be hard turn out to be easy.
(Except when they actually do turn out to be hard.)
3. Baker’s Math is a THING, people. Now that I’ve seen how easy it is to convert recipes using metric weight instead of cups and tablespoons, I will never sniff at weighing out ingredients again.
4. Technology is your friend…
5. …but so is good ol’ muscle power.
(OK, I knew this already, but dealing with the volumes at Bread School–in comparison with my wee bakery–really hit that home.)
6. Dough is alive. Again, I knew that too–in theory. But until spending a solid work week studying and manipulating those four basic, precious ingredients–flour, water, yeast, salt–I never appreciated the truth of that statement. Handling those great lumps of dough, patting and pulling and prodding to determine readiness, I came to think of them as powerful animals, like horses, which need careful attention and reining in if you don’t want them to gallop away.
7. Gluten has become such a scapegoat, I really feel sorry for the lil’ protein. I realize this is a controversial topic, but if you want a scientific assessment of the issue, please check out this article by Michael Specter of the New Yorker.
8. The folks involved in bringing good grain, good flour, and good bread back to local communities are MY KIND OF PEOPLE. Like Stephen Jones, founder of the Washington State University Bread Lab. He starts his sentences with words like “chromosomes” and “endosperm,” and ends them with words like “cookies” and “love.”
Here’s what his work has sown:
Our Mission: The programs of the Bread Lab work to breed and develop publicly available varieties of grains and other crops that will benefit farmers, processors, and end-users while enhancing access to affordable and nutritious food for all members of our communities.
Our Vision: Through innovation and discovery, and an appreciation of the culture and traditions that define what we eat, the Bread Lab plays a major role in moving food systems in more meaningful and just directions.
Or Kevin Morse of Cairnspring Mills, which we toured. Here’s what they’re all about:
Local grain, local flour, local flavor
Cairnspring Mills works directly with farmers who share their commitment to sustainable agricultural practices and mills their grain with care to maintain a transparent supply chain. Each batch of grain is milled separately to preserve its unique identity and flavor; each batch of flour can be traced back to the origin farm.
And probably the most important lesson I learned: how much I still have to learn. Ain’t that always the way?
Any bread lovers out there care to chime in at this point? How ’bout some bread puns–I loave ’em!