On the menu for Week 2:  Basic white bread and chelsea buns.

The Art of Breads

On Thursday night I began the second course that I am taking this fall, The Art of Breads (the other course is Breakfast Breads which began last week). The goal of the course is to learn how to make a variety of breads and in the process, learn about the components of great bread including flour and yeast.

My evening got off to a wonderful start when a very sweet classmate of mine came up to me and introduced herself by telling me that she reads my blog. She was very nice and said some really positive things about this site, which made me feel great! It’s such a pleasure to know that there are so many avid bakers and cooks out there that I can share my passion with. On that positive note, it was time to start class.

I immediately liked our instructor as she took the time to discuss and define the ingredients that we’re using. We spent considerable time talking about yeast, flour, salt and sugar and what their respective roles are in baking bread. As the course progresses, the instructor explained that we will delve deeper into not only those ingredients, but others as well.

The instructor made up a batch of what was referred to "modelling dough". This dough had no yeast in it but was used to demonstrate the various free-form shapes we could try when we actually got down to baking. It was all a bit of a blur as most of us were still trying to wrap our heads around the basic push-pull kneading motion. Still, it was exciting to see all the possibilities.

Having collected all my ingredients, I started by making a slurry of water and yeast. I added the flour over the slurry, and then all of the other ingredients (sugar and milk powder) over the flour. The dough came together very quickly in the mixer and at that point I turned my dough onto the table and began kneading.

Dscn3146My kneading motion was quite awkward and clumsy at first. Our instructor demonstrated a kneading method where we use one hand to gently guide the dough and the other to pull the dough over itself, push it away, pull it over itself, push away and so on. But after a few minutes, my motion became a bit smoother. I’m definitely looking forward to having an oven again so I can try this at home.

The type of bread that we were making was essentially a basic white bread. After the bread was proofed (the school has proofing machines to do this), I divided my dough into four and made three round loaves with slashed tops called boules, and I attempted to make a Vienna roll. The Vienna roll requires that an indentation is made along the middle of the ball of dough, the two sides are pushed together and the seam is rolled under. My Vienna roll was not so Vienna-like but it was my first try so hopefully I’ll have an easier time in future.

Because I didn’t have to share my bread with a partner, I got to go home with four piping hot loaves of bread. I don’t think my car has ever smelled better!

Breakfast Breads

Just as with last week, this week’s class was a whirlwind of dough and baking. I got to class early so that I could get a head start with scaling my ingredients as we were making two recipes:  chelsea buns and croissant dough. The croissant dough was frozen and will be baked in next week’s class so I’ll discuss that next week.

I got to make chelsea buns with a partner this week, which was nice as we were able to share the baking and clean up duties. The dough for the chelsea buns consisted of yeast, bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder and shortening (while we are using a bit more butter in this course, we still mainly use shortening for baking). After making the dough and letting it rise for half an hour, we rolled it out into a rectangle and spread a caramel glaze and cinnamon sugar on the dough. We rolled it up, sliced it into pieces and fitted our pieces into round baking pans, the bottoms of which had more caramel glaze and pecans.

After turning out my chelsea buns, I realized that I miscalculated the amount of caramel glaze that I used to spread on the bottom of the pan. I should have used a lot more as my buns were a bit dry. Usually, the glaze should cover the top and drip down the sides. Still though, the buns were quite good and I will try these at home except, of course, I will be using butter NOT shortening!

The best part of the class was when I finally met the Muffin Man in person. The Muffin Man has a great blog called Do You Know the Muffin Man? and as luck would have it, he’s taken many of the George Brown courses. I was thrilled to realize that he was in my class. He’s a real sweetheart and when he found out that I didn’t have a partner, he actually helped me out by cutting out the parchment rounds for me to line my pans with. Muffin Man … I thank you!

Overall, I’m enjoying this class immensely with one exception, that being the scaling of ingredients. Some of my classmates are a bit discourteous when gathering ingredients. I’ve been jostled and even blocked from access to ingredients. This is quite a departure from the cooperative atmosphere that existed in my Basic Baking course. I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. But I am a bit surprised at the almost competitive edge to gathering ingredients for baking.

Here’s hoping the remaining four classes will be a bit tamer!