“YOU’RE going to bread school?!”
said almost everyone I told I was going to bread school. The usual next response: “Oh, lucky!!!”
They were right about my good fortune, but wrong to be surprised at my need. Before I started getting paid to bake, I was always a pie/cake/sweets gal–bread, not so much. And though I’m now entering my 8th season of professional baking, I spent the first two seasons as Assistant Baker, i.e., managing neither bread nor oven. When I trained to be a Head Baker, the people who trained me had received no professional training. Now, “We do this because it works” works just fine most days, but it leaves two questions unanswered:
- What do you do if it doesn’t work?
- What if something else worked even better?
Therefore I was THRILLED when my current boss, who bought Holly B’s Bakery from Holly B, decided to make the investment to send me to an intensive, 5-day, 38-hour course in Bread Fundamentals. I knew I had a LOT to learn. Like, everything.
But the answer to “What did you learn in Bread School?” is so big and complex, I’m going to turn this into two posts. Or maybe more! That knowledge might just ferment and grow, like a certain little yeasty-beast I’ve been hearing about all week.
I should also say off the bat, in case you’re a sourdough enthusiast, that this class covered pretty much everything BUT sourdough. Those breads require a class of their own. Hopefully, someday…
But back to Bread Fundamentals. Long story short, King Arthur Flour Baking School is the brainchild of King Arthur Chef Jeffrey Hamelman (world’s mellowest rock star chef) and Washington State University Bread Lab’s Stephen Jones. They teamed up several years to begin offering intensive baking classes (mostly bread) out here in the Northwest. King Arthur, of course, has been offering classes forever, all over the country but especially on their Vermont home ground. Lucky, LUCKY me–this workshop was under 20 miles from our ferry terminal!
I started on Monday, wide-eyed. So much of this was new to me, starting with the uniform. At Holly B’s we wear aprons, but I’ve never worn Chef Whites!
Then there was the equipment in the teaching room.
Best of all, however, was the combination of Chef Jeffrey’s short lectures followed by immediate demonstrations and hands-on guided practice. Here he demonstrates a Challah braid:
Now here’s my own careful step-by-steps (different braid on this one):
Chef Jeffrey also wowed us with possibilities. Here’s an amazing 3-tiered Challah he built
I thought it looked like a ferry boat. 🙂
The teaching was always firm and immediate, but gentle. (As a teacher, I sure appreciated that; I think from TV chefs I expected to be snapped at.)
By the end of Day 3, we had made baguettes with three different doughs; whole wheat batards, oat loaves, challah, brioche, sunflower seed rounds, and…I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Day 4 we got FANCY:
One more picture of my new, freshly-baked confidence:
Next post: So what DID I learn in Bread School?