Bakers or Mad Scientists?

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The current breads section of the professional Baking and Pastry program is coming to a close at the end of next week.  If you've been keeping up (and shame on you if you fess up to the contrary), you know that it's been a German bread bonanza.  Rye, rye and more rye until the loaves are so dense, one could conceivably build a house out of the heavy as concrete rectangular masses.

We started with rye breads by dipping our toes in those German waters with just a smidge of rye flour in the mixes.  Just enough to carry the rye flavor through, but not enough to affect the crumb.  As we have progressed, we have very clearly seen the different characteristics that rye flour will bring to the dough as it's percentage of the flour weight increases.  The more rye, the more alien-like the dough becomes.  High percentage and 100% rye doughs are, to be honest, a nasty, pasty mess.  If your patience level allows you to actually work with the dough without losing your cool and flinging the mortar-like goo onto the window in a fit of rage, you actually end up with some seriously tasty treats.  As always, some of the breads really blew my skirt up, others were like a lead balloon.  Different strokes for different folks.

Smack dab in the middle of rye land or BFR if you get the reference, last Friday began like any other day. Getting up at 5:15 AM, heading straight for the coffee maker and getting ready for school.  At 6:45 AM, I walked through the doors to see something that made the angels sing - Frank scaling out 12.5 kilos of beer for our beer bread.  I could not pass this photo opportunity up.


Yes, beer is great, beer is fun, rah, rah, rah.  However, we discovered that the beer of Superbowl fans and bread do not a compatible couple make.  Ah well, we tried.  At least the loaves looked like footballs.

Top photo from front to back and bottom photo from right to left (because I was clearly raised in some other country and/or am dyslexic): oat rye, beer bread, heidebrot and mountain bread.  The oat rye was to say the least - awesome.  The beer bread, not so much.  To quote our instructor, Frank "lesson learned, don't use MGD".  The Heidebrot was so good, it was served along with lunch this day.  So many breads in so little time, I don't know what the mountain bread even tasted like.  It must not have been too memorable or perhaps I chose to black this out of my memory for some particular reason.

Volkornbrot. Tasty rye bread or a brick coated in bran?  You decide.

We have one more super duper MC party pooper rye bread to bake, or at least taste.  It's the pinnacle of dense, German rye breads which is sludge in a pan traditionally baked for 24 hours or more.  What the hell is this insane creation?  Pumpernickel.  Frank baked this up last night and today it was still in need of some red-hot oven time, so back in the belly of the beast it went.  Tawdry updates in pumpernickel adventures to come.

The tail end of the breads section is essentially a catch-all for the breads that just didn't fit with what we have been working on up until now.  To everyone's delight, we got to bake some ridiculously good breads and learn some new shaping skills.  I'm talking about chocolate bread, challah, bagels and pretzels, baby.  Oh yeah.  The bagels, we boiled before baking and these turned out just like the Brackman Brother's bagels I remember when the foodie fad of the moment in the 90's were bagelries.  I remember walking past the kitchen on the way to order at the registers, watching the bakers dump trays and trays of bagels into giant vats of boiling water, not quite understanding what was going on in the bagel process.  The boilers we used were large kitchen pans atop burners, but I'll admit I had a bit of a nostalgic moment while dunking the bread rings into the water and dredging them in sesame and poppy seeds.

Pretzel making made me feel like a certified bad-ass and mad scientist combined into one.  We learned how to roll out the perfect strip of dough and toss it into the air to create that pretzel-rific shape.  When it came time to bake, we dipped the pretzels in a caustic solution of lye and water (yep, this is traditional and safe once it bakes, just don't go dipping your head into the lye water bobbing for apples) before dredging with salt and baking up some of the best goddamn pretzels I have ever tasted.  Yes, that is a fact. This semi-dangerous process required us to wear two layers of latex gloves and goggles.  We were nefarious bakers for a total of 10 minutes.  Once the goggles came off, we were our normal selves once again.

A very studious class rolling out pretzel pre shapes.

My girl Linh doing her best Victor Frankenstein at the communal pretzel bath station as Frank oversees.

We made so many breads this day, it is still hard to comprehend.  I brought home 3 bags of bread and gave away two.  The third, I am currently avoiding as it sits on my kitchen counter calling to me with it's tasty treats hidden just from view.

Smitten with my creations.

Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!  Done proper.

Clockwise left to right: bagels, finnish rye, pretzels, challah, chocolate bread.

As I understand it, next week is a review and a chance for us to go buck wild in the bakery making more random goodies before we step out of the bread arena and into Vennoiserie.  Clif notes soon to follow.


drfugawe said...

God, you are having too much fun, aren't you?

Bill said...

I can't wait to see this place you have been making all the bread! Wow what a feast for the eyes.

Charles said...

looking forward to your cliff notes and helpful tips. thanks for sharing your experiences. Charles

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