You may have noticed that I didn’t post my usual update on Monday. Yesterday capped off my first week of basic baking classes and by the end of the day I was so tired, I swear I could smell colors. Classes begin at 5:45 am and it’s one of the only classes that requires me to drive. This means, that to make it to class on time, I have to leave by 5:30, but I have to turn my car on and scrape snow off the windshield at 5:15 if I want it to be warmed up in time.
Long story short, after a full week of this I was beat. The most energy I could muster for cooking at home was a basic pasta or mac and cheese before falling asleep on my pallet couch while Anden watched hockey. That said, I do not have a recipe for you today, but I did get a little camera crazy in class this week. Today I’m going to give you a sneak peek into life in culinary school and my Introductory Baking class. I promise to return with a recipe on Monday!
Days 1&2: Laminations
Laminations are pastries made from dough that has been folded and pressed with butter.
And folded and pressed, and folded and pressed….
Croissants, danishes, and bear claws fall into this category. On Monday, my partner, Erika, and I made chocolate croissants, aka: a little bite of heaven.
On Tuesday, we were back at the lamination station, but this time for cheese danishes.
The dough for these is made with orange zest and cardamom and smells absolutely fantastic while baking. The cheese filling is sweeter than I’m used to, which I must admit, I prefer. To be fair, it’s hard to go wrong when your filing is all cream cheese and sugar.
Days 3&4: Shaping and Baking
This time around, I was partnered with another student in my block, Allie. Our job at this station was to take dough that had been prepared the day before and to shape it, proof it, and finish it with baking in the oven. On the first day alone, we prepared four different styles: Dinner rolls, braided Challa, twisted Anadama, and knotted rolls. The first of these were easy enough, we just measured 5 oz of dough on our digital scales, spritzed our work surface with water, and rolled.
The water kept the rolls from sliding around on the surface as we prepared them. A few of these balls were rolled out and knotted.
During the proofing stage, or the final rise, these rolls will double in size. They’ll bake into one big, puffy knot that will later be used as sandwich rolls. Is it complicated? Sure. But this is culinary school and we do things with a bit of flair. Speaking of flair…
This braided Challa bread is formed with 5 strands of rolled dough. It was hard to keep track of at first, but it was pretty easy to get into a rhythm. You better believe I’ll be making these for Thanksgiving.
The last type of roll, the twisted Anadama, I foolishly forgot to snap a photo of. It was towards the end of class and we were rushing to get things cleaned up, so they went straight into the proofing box before I remembered to snap a pic. Good thing there is more from day 4!
This is what is known as a single braid of Vienna bread. You roll the dough out into a long snake, then wrap, twist, and tuck to make a braid out of a single strand of dough. It’s a pretty cool technique, but the braid doesn’t hold up as well as the Challah bread when it bakes. Instead of a small, beautiful braid as shown above, everything kind of puffs out into more of a tiny baguette. The last bread we formed, however, is simple enough to do at home and is absolutely gorgeous.
These sunflower loaves are a simple wheat bread dough with a bit of orange zest. You just roll out a 22 oz round, give it an egg wash so the poppy seeds in the middle stick, then cut some fringe and give them a little twist. When they’re baked, they look like this:
That’s something I forgot to mention. Everything in the bake shop is scaled by weight. This goes for the basic ingredients as well as the prepared dough. Sometimes, the school will come across a recipe it likes, but it’s in a combination of weight and volume measurements. If you’ve ever tried doubling or tripling a standard recipe from a book or online, you may have noticed that going from 2 cups of flour and 2 tbps baking powder, to 6 of each, never quite comes out the same as the original recipe. For the most accurate scaling of recipes, you have to measure all of your ingredients by weight.
For much of the week, we learned about and practiced what is known as baker’s percentage. Basically, you start with a recipe whose ingredients are all measured by weight, then determine the ratio of every ingredient in relation to the heaviest ingredient. This is the baker’s percentage, and with these ratios, you can make as little or as much of the recipe as you want. Every ingredient is in perfect proportion to the original recipe, so it comes out the same whether you make a half recipe or a quadruple batch. Oh yeah, and all of the school’s recipes are available through their online learning platform and I can make them whenever I want. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?