a weekend of bread
A few months ago, I wrote a post about arte bianca, i.e., the art of making bread (literally, white art). I am passionate about making bread (fare il pane), just as I am passionate about making cheese (fare il formaggio). This past weekend, I attended a workshop at the San Francisco Baking Institute, a wonderland (paese delle meraviglie) for bread and pastry makers. It was a birthday gift that I gave to myself. The Institute holds professional courses in bread and pastry making. This year, they have offered weekend-long classes that are perfect for baking enthusiasts for whom a week-long commitment is practically difficult. The workshop I attended last weekend was called "Specialty Breads at Home."
The first photo shows six of the seven breads we made during the weekend. The beautiful loaves are the instructor's production displayed for the end-of-class photo-op. From the left: ciabatta, 100% whole-grain, miche, Finnish rye, pear buckwheat, 100% whole-wheat pan. We also made challah.
This is a sample of my own production: miche (in the back), 100% whole-grain (left), pear buckwheat, and Finnish rye (in the foreground). For some reason, I have problems flouring the loaves before baking, which explains the difference between the surface of my breads and those of the instructor. Besides regular flour, we used whole-wheat, pumpernickel, rye (farina di segale) and buckwheat flour (farina di grano saraceno). We also used flaxseed, sunflower and sesame seeds, wheat germ (germe di grano) cracked wheat, rolled oats and dried pears. Five of the breads were hand-mixed, so I will soon try to make them in my kitchen (I don't have a stand-up mixer and I don't plan to get one, even though that means giving up on the idea of making panettone at home).
The main differences between making bread at the Baking Institute and at home are: the oven (forno) and the amount of dough. The bread we made during class was baked in bakery-size ovens. However, there was also a home oven and the instructor used it to demonstrate techniques to approximate at home conditions typical of bakery ovens.
Have you ever handled 10 kg (22 lbs) of bread dough? That's me moving that quantity from the table to the tub in the foreground during my first workshop at the Institute ("Sourdough Bread at Home") in early March (thanks to Orso for the photo). I like mixing bread dough, seeing it come together under my eyes thanks to the action of my hands — so much so that looking at a mixer in action makes me quite impatient.
At the end of each day, we tasted the breads we had baked. The schedule was such that we tasted ciabatta and challah on Saturday and the other five breads on Sunday, a real feast of flavors and textures. I brought home all the bread I made, so, as you can imagine, there is a good amount of bread in our freezer right now.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words and expressions mentioned in the post:
or launch the un weekend buono come il pane audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]