On the menu for Week 4: Vienna Rolls, Oatmeal Bread, Croissants and Danish Pastry
The Art of Breads
Now that we’re into our third week of this course, we’re all getting used to the rhythm of scaling ingredients, preparing dough, allowing the dough to rest and rise, preparing the dough for the proofer and finally baking. Bread class has taken on a very comfortable feel and everyone is enjoying the atmosphere. I’m especially enjoying the opportunity to knead dough. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is one of the most relaxing and pleasurable things you can do!
In class we prepared dough for Vienna Rolls and Oatmeal Bread. The Vienna Roll dough consisted of water, yeast, bread flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, oil and eggs. The dough was easy to make and work with. We used the dough to work on our bread-shaping skills. We formed knots, twists, braids, boules and a few other interesting shapes. I can tell that it must take years of practice to become a skilled bread shaper and bread baker!
The dough for the Oatmeal bread consisted of yeast, water, bread flour, rolled oats, bran, sugar, salt, shortening, milk powder, honey and molasses. While we didn’t try any fancy shapes with this particular dough, it was good experience in terms of working with stickier bread doughs as this one was definitely sticky. The end result was very good. The bread was sturdy, but not too dense and it was great toasted with a bit of butter and honey. I can see myself trying this one again.
In each class, our instructor has spent significant time talking about ingredients, the most important being yeast. In class we used a type of yeast called "baker’s compressed yeast". It’s also known as fresh yeast. It usually comes in a block, very similar to a block of butter. It has a very strong yeasty smell to it and a crumbly texture. Fresh yeast should be refrigerated and will usually last in the refrigerator for anywhere from 10 to 14 days. Surprisingly, fresh yeast can be frozen. While it won’t have the same leavening power if frozen and thawed, it will still work just fine. I had no idea you could freeze fresh yeast as I thought freezing it would kill the organisms in the yeast.
As I wrote last week, it’s all fascinating stuff!
As much as I’m enjoying this course, it leaves me exhausted! Unlike my other courses where we’re able to take breaks, this is four straight hours of scaling, baking and cleaning.
Two weeks ago, the croissant dough that we had prepared and frozen had to be thrown out after the school’s freezer broke down. As a result, last week we remade the dough and froze it to be rolled, shaped and baked in this week’s class. We followed the same procedure for our danish pastry dough.
Our croissant dough consisted of yeast (baker’s compressed yeast), water, bread flour, salt, sugar, milk powder, butter and … roll-in fat. More on that later.
We made our croissant dough by first making a dough of the yeast, water, flour and other dry ingredients. To this we added a small amount of butter. We rolled this dough out on our work surfaces being sure to roll it into an evenly shaped rectangle. On one half of this rectangle, we placed our roll-in fat, separated into dollops. We folded over the other half of the dough, and began to reshape the dough into a rectangle. We then performed what is called a single fold which means we folded one-third of the dough over and then folded the other third to form an even package. We turned the dough so that the seam faced us. We once again rolled our dough to a certain size and then performed the fold again. In between each fold, we let our dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes. We did this four times before finally freezing our dough.
The dough was thawed for us so when we arrived in class, we were ready to begin rolling our dough to form croissants. We rolled the dough out into an even rectangle and then divided it in half lengthwise. We then cut each dough half into 16 equal triangles using a ruler. We filled some of the triangles with chocolate, and some with almond paste. Starting from the wide end, we rolled our croissant up tightly and then curled the ends inward. We egg washed our croissants before they went into the proofer. Once baked, the croissant were very good. However, after a day, the flavour of the roll-in fat became quite noticeable.
Our danish pastry, which consisted of yeast (baker’s compressed yeast), water, bread flour, milk powder, eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, butter and roll-in fat, was made in the same way as the croissant dough. To form our danish pastry, we divided our dough in half. The first half of the dough was rolled into a rectangle and spread with a poppy seed filling. This was then rolled up into a log and cut into rounds. The second half of the dough was spread with a nut butter filling and cut into strips which were then twisted and formed into rounds. As with the croissants, the danish pastry was great out of the oven, but disappointing after a day or so.
In class, we did not make these doughs using all butter. At a certain point, we used an ingredient called roll-in fat in place of butter. The reasoning is that due to the heat in the class, the butter would be too soft to work with. And since we’re students, most of us making these doughs for the first time, roll-in fat is easier to work with. I briefly considered researching roll-in fat to find out exactly what it is, but then decided against it. I don’t care what roll-in fat is because I plan on NEVER using it. As one of my classmates very accurately noted, the roll-in fat smelled faintly of movie popcorn butter. If I make croissants at home, I will be using all butter! You can be sure of that.