Pardon me if my dough is a bit gassy

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Tomorrow, the first week of school will come to a close and this weekend, I will catch up on some much needed rest. I've had some incredibly long days, waking up at 5:45 AM and busy as a bee till whenever it is that I finally get to sleep. I am truly amazed at the sheer amount of information that has been able to make its way into the gray matter encapsulating my brain, considering I've only been in school a meager 4 days. Week 1 is almost over and there are 23 more to go. Each and every one, filled with special little gems that I can't wait to uncover. Like a geode, I only have a rough idea of what the surface looks like, but once inside, it's radiant, colorful and beautiful. For the 6 1/2 hours a day that I've been in school this week, I've been having one hell of a time in the best sense possible, absolutely loving it! The class size is quite small. As of day 2, we have a nice round number of 14 students. The instructor is nothing short of amazing. He is incredibly knowledgeable, amicable and most importantly, patient. I get a real sense that the instructors at the school truly care about educating each group of students and creating the best possible learning environment.

Now that my sappy little speech is out of the way, onto the fun stuff. I've been learning to bake a proper loaf of artisan bread. The fancy doughs and additions can wait for later, as we have been working with a very simple dough to master basic skills of scaling, mixing, shaping and fermentation. The first day in the lab, we worked with dead dough, or dough that contains no yeast, which enabled us to essentially pummel the dough just short of murdering the glutenous mass of flour, water and salt. The subsequent two days have involved fermenting the dough and working on shaping baguettes, batards (that crazy football shaped loaf), and boules (y'all would know these as bread bowls). Truth be told, shaping a proper baguette is a bit of a bitch. Much more involved than I had expected, the second day of rolling out a bellisimo baguette was much easier the first and my technique will inevitably improve on the charm-filled third try tomorrow. Already, working with 3 different mixes of the same dough, we have been able to see just how finicky the fermentation process can be, varying from day to day and even batch to batch in 2 batches that were mixed 20 minutes apart from each other. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that when making bread at home, you 'punch down' the dough after letting it rise, to smash the air bubbles caused by those gassy little yeast cells. In a commercial setting, this is called 'degassing the dough', it sounds much more streamlined. I think I'll use this term in an improper setting sometime soon and gauge the reactions.

While I drink some fresh brewed coffee rather late at night to keep me in a quasi-alert state, I'll let you peruse some pics from this week and I only wish I could upload the smell of those baguettes as they fluff up in oven.

First day of proper baguette shaping. I invite you to bask in the lack of consistent size and length.


The 'robot oven' which I halfway expected to reassemble into a transformer after loading the loaves onto the oven racks.

Hot little hunks of dough as they rise and crisp up in the belly of the robot.

The first lab day's yield of beautifully caramelized treats.

My teammate's rather gassy bit of dough.


My final products on day 3 in the lab. Baguettes and boules.

At the end of each day, the instructor stops at each student's station to critique our final products. Here, we were analyzing the crumb structure and how it relates to our handling of the dough. More importantly, a rather delicious looking slice of bread ready to be toasted and filled with bits of melted butter!


8 comments:

takako said...

Your breads look very great for a first timer! Very impressive! This is the area that I've never even tried to attempt. So would you say it's difficult or it's just time consuming??

Circuit 23 said...

i, for one, am very respectful of our robot oven overlords.

Bill said...

I'd say two things:

1- Wow that is awesome &

2- I am going to a decent bakery, today, and buying some bread like that!

Rach said...

Once you understand the variables that make up a good loaf of bread, it's more time consuming than anything. Good things come to those who wait, right? ;)

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Hi Rachel! I enjoy being in class with you. What a week, hm? Here's to 23 more great ones!

Anonymous said...

Looks great. Loving the blog. Couldn't be more proud!

drfugawe said...

Rachel,
Hope you don't mind if I tag along while you log your fascinating adventures - you are living a piece of life I regrettably missed - maybe I can recapture a little by following your chronicles - Have a blast!

Foptimus Prime said...

I agree with Takako. Those loaves look /amazing/!

I'm /so/ jealous, and I wish I had the temperament for baking. I don't know if I could pull it off. I'm not good at following recipes, and I don't time things when I cook, either. I think these two qualities would hinder my ability to bake. :D I'm so glad we get to watch your adventures in cooking via this blog.

Also, MORE PICTURES OF FOOD PLEASE! That is all.

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