On the menu for Weeks 5 and 6:  Sour Dough Bread and Yeasted Coffee Cakes

I have fallen way behind with my posts on baking class. Here’s my attempt to begin catching up!

The Art of Breads

In my Week 5 post, I should have clarified that for my Art of Breads course, it was actually Week 4. Breakfast Breads began a week before Art of Breads.  For Week 5, we were scheduled to prepare a fruit/nut bread and challah, however, my work schedule prevented me from attending class so I missed the lesson. This was a contributing factor to my desire to try challah at home.

In Week 6, I was thankfully back in class for a lesson that I was eagerly anticipating:  sour dough. After my trip to San Francisco where I ate some truly incredible breads, I was interested in learning about sour dough starter and making a quality bread.

Sour_dough_002I was a bit disappointed.

While we did make a sour dough bread in class, we made it using a powdered sour dough starter. I missed the first part of the class so I’m not completely sure how this powdered starter comes to be. My understanding is that it’s freeze dried starter that’s used to speed up the process of making this type of bread since you don’t actually have to take the time to start, feed and ferment your own starter. Besides the powdered starter, our dough consisted of bread flour, cold water, and yeast. It certainly was easy to make but the final result was disappointing. The flavour of the bread paled in comparison to the real thing which I remember so vividly from last year’s trip to California. Local bakeries like ACE Bakery also make sour dough breads that are far superior to the taste of the one we made in class.

All was not lost, however, as we did learn about making a proper starter. While I would have preferred to make one in class and actually learn how to do it, I’m assuming that the reason we didn’t is that we would have had to either make it at school one week and hope that it survived to the following week, or we’d have to make it on our own at home. If some of us failed in our attempts to make it at home, it would certainly make for a challenging lesson. Still, though, in a course about making bread it would have been nice to actually make the proper starter. In any event, our instructor did provide us with a lot of background information and numerous recipes to try so I’m thinking I’ll take the initiative and try my own sour dough bread once the holidays come around and I have the time.

Breakfast Breads

Unlike the Art of Breads, Breakfast Breads is an elective course and much shorter in length (only six classes). But don’t get me wrong … those six classes are intense to the core! For our final class, we covered the wonderful and yummy topic of yeasted and filled coffee cakes.

Like many people, my idea of a coffee cake was always a cake baked in a tube pan or bundt pan with butter, flour, eggs and sugar. I’d never tried a yeasted coffee cake, much less one that had a filling.

I was seriously impressed!

We began by making a sponge of warm water, yeast and pastry flour. After letting this rest for about 30 minutes, we made our dough using the sponge, warm milk, more yeast, bread flour, malt, salt, an egg and butter (finally we use butter!). After mixing and rounding up the dough, we let it rest for 30 minutes.

We made two types of filling for our coffee cakes:  poppy seed (poppy seeds, sugar, honey, water, graham crumbs, egg yolk, cinnamon, lemon zest) and almond (almond paste, butter, sugar, eggs, flour).

For the poppy seed filling, we rolled our dough into a rectangle and spread the filling on the dough. We then rolled up the rectangle like a jelly roll being careful to seal the ends. we made a deep slit down the middle of the roll (leaving the ends intact) and then pulled one end under and through the slit creating a twist. We brushed the roll with egg wash and after it was baked, we brushed it with apricot glaze.

Dscn3417_2For the almond filling, we also rolled the dough into rectangles and spread the filling on the dough. But we added strawberry jam to the almond filling as well. After rolling up the dough, we placed the rolls in loaf pans. We scored the tops of the cakes so that the filling would bubble through when baking. We also brushed these with apricot glaze and topped them with drizzles of fondant.

The cakes were delicious! I even liked the poppy seed one and I’m not the biggest fan of poppy seeds.

While I didn’t get off to the best start in this course, it certainly ended on a very positive note. Our instructor who was with us for four of the six classes was amazing and I look forward to taking more of her courses in future. The first two instructors (who were substituting for our regular teacher) left a bit to be desired. They didn’t set the tone for the class and I think this contributed to the somewhat disorganized and tense atmosphere of the first two weeks, which were at times unpleasant. Happily, things settled down once our regular instructor returned and everyone began to work together in a more organized fashion.

I’m thrilled that I finally tried my hand at making croissants and danish pastry. While I haven’t had time to try them at home yet, I know that I will and I’ll be able to put my experience to good use when I finally do attempt those pastries. I wasn’t crazy about the bagels or the chelsea buns, but the brioche turned out well and again I gained valuable experience making something I hadn’t tried before in my own kitchen.

Overall, I was very satisfied with my experience in this course. Two down and only eight more to go before I earn that certificate!