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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hands-on bread baking class

Rye bread rolls
I have the computer back - yay! - and I'm currently on 2 weeks holiday - yippee! There's lots to catch up on with the backlog of posts I have, but I'll start most recently. Yesterday I went to a 1/2 day hands-on bread baking class at a place I've been visiting for a while to stock up on my Dutch cocoa and other baking bits'n'bobs.
Those who've been reading a while know of my irrational fear of yeast. I seem to have enormous difficulty trying to make anything that involves yeast and it really pi**es me off! Witness my very first attempt at hot cross buns . Ahem! I don't feel like a "real" home cook unless I've mastered bread. And none of this poncy bread machine rubbish - real, get-your-hands-dirty stuff. I did manage to make a proper, hand-made wholemeal loaf last year that really impressed me, but its flavour and texture were still lacking a little.

Marg & Maree's Baking & Breadmaking offer all kinds of classes and demonstrations, and as I'm on holiday and have time for self-indulgence I decided to go along and see how bread making is really done. After I came home with something like 5 kilos of bread I thought I'd gone a bit overboard, especially as I'm not really eating bread at the moment. But that's gone out the window; this bread is goooood!

White loaf
There's a maximum of 6 participants, so the class is very personal and friendly. After a bit of a talk about the properties of bread baking we took control of a bowl of dough that Maree had made up early that morning. Because of time contraints, and the amount of time needed for bread to rise a couple of times, we started off with this dough that had already had its first rise. With this we were to make a plain white high-tin load - as pictured above. My first time with soft, risen bread dough was a revelation; the stuff actually feels warm and alive! A bit off-putting at first. And if you're not bossy and authoritarian with it, it just will not behave for you. We were told kneading or pumelling wasn't required; just work and shape our dough, but with firm movements. Also chucking a whole lump of dough into a tin means the loaf won't cook well (too dense) so we were instructed to either roll it up like a swiss roll or divide it in two balls and place in the tin. As you can see my two balls were a bit uneven in size. Oops.

Not being able to stop when something is simple and perfect (I'd never make a good artist) I got excited with a random mixture of seeds, grains and polenta over the top. Added fibre! Also makes it easier to identify your tin. This bread is top stuff- it's not soft or fluffy like you'd buy in Baker's Delight, but that's a Very Good Thing. Our teacher believes the bread they sell in commercial bakeries is undercooked, so as to achieve that soft, fluffy, insubstantial texture.

Spelt french sticks
We then moved onto french sticks. This was fun because we now got to start off our dough from scratch. Because I have some friends on wheat-free diets I asked if I could make some spelt-flour bread. Spelt is an ancient grain used by the Egyptians and Romans, and a member of the wheat family. Many who can't tolerate wheat can have spelt, but not those with Ceoliac disease, because it still contains gluten.

We were shown various ways to shape our bread and encouraged to try a few. I'm quite impressed with my twisted loaf! The bottom loaf is simply a whole lot of balls of dough. You can pull each one off for a small dinner roll, but I didn't have huge success with shaping my balls, as you can see! Because we were slightly short of french-stick baking trays (they're very cool - like corrugated iron) everyone could only bake two sticks. Because I had "special" bread I got to bake all three. Hehe. There's a tip for you if you want to take home extra bead!
The spelt flour worked really well. I would have preferred to make a spelt load and plain french sticks, but this was better than I expected. I can hardly tell a difference in texture between the two types of flour.

Bonus buns!
We then moved onto large bread rolls. This time I chose to experiment with some rye flour. You can't use rye on its own because it's too soft so you need to use a base of half plain white flour. From that I added 1/4 light rye and 1/4 dark rye. I was the only one who took this route so it was easy to keep track of my bread!
Again we were shown various ways to shape it and encouraged to try them. Knot rolls, Kaiser rolls, Hamburger buns, Plaits, coils, flowers etc.etc.etc. We were make 6 rolls but would only bake three in indivudual tins; the three I chose are in the picture at the top of the post. I'm particularly pleased with my knot roll; it came out perfectly!

Now I'm going to give you a little tip if you're greedy or covetous (I am both). You only get to bake 3 rolls. After that you're given a demonstration of how to make coffee scrolls, using a soft bun mix and lots of spices. Because of time contraints you don't get to sample these buns as they're still rising when the class ends. However, if your daily activities take you past the shop later in the day OR if you are wiling to hang about and lend a hand with the cleaning and washing up later, you are welcome to take some of these home for yourself. It's only an extra 1/2 hour or so. And I highly recommend sticking 'round just to sample the coffee scrolls - rolled up around raspberry jam and iced with fondant. I got to take 3 home. Mmmm.

Additionally, the 3 extra bread rolls that weren't placed in individual roll tins and baked were placed in a scroll tin to show us a different baking technique - the "pull apart" roll thing. You can request these to be baked as well if you want to hang about. The woman who shared her tin with me had already gone home so I scored an extra 3 wholemeal bread rolls. Bonus!

Sweet coffee scrolls
At the very end of the class, after showing us the coffee scroll, we used some spare bread dough we had to try the technique ourselves. These were just for practice and were going to go in the bin. Good food going in the bin?? I don't think so! I asked to take my raw, rolled-up dough home with me (I wasn't the only one...) so I baked these up at home. They're a little worse for the wear from the fact the bag fell onto the floor of the car when I turned a tight corner too fast, but hey... One set is rolled up with raspberry filling and the other with some very spicy sambal oelek. Again, a bonus for the tenacious!

I really recommend this class. I did it on a weekday, but they're also offered on Saturday mornings. They're also offering a chocolate decorating workshop, which I think I'll be enrolling in pretty soon!
Cost for the 1/2 day was $65, and includes all ingredients plus the advantage of taking a heck of a lot of bread home with you. Our homework is to make another loaf this weekend so we dont' forget what we've learned. Lucky bread freezes well.....

Marg & Maree's Baking and Breadmaking

54 Bell Street
Heidelberg Heights VIC 3081
9455 1611


  • Welcome back, computer!

    You made that much bread?? It all looks great, phobia over! :) Can you do the scrolls for rehearsal from now on?

    By Blogger Belinda, at 4/21/2006 12:29:00 pm  

  • Wow. Bread bonanza! It all looks great and I'm sure it tastes sensational. If you read Not On The Label by Felicity Lawrence you won't touch supermarket bread ever again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/21/2006 12:52:00 pm  

  • Bread making is nothing to be scared of - as you have now discovered. It's also a world of infite tasty possibilities. Welcome to the world of yeasty things - or not yeasty, if you go the sourdough way.

    By Blogger Frank, at 4/21/2006 02:08:00 pm  

  • That class sounds like so much fun, and your bread looks great!

    May I ask the demographic of your classmates? I always imagine these kind of things to be a "ladies who lunch" kind of activity :)

    By Blogger Kelly, at 4/21/2006 04:28:00 pm  

  • I took a bread-baking class a couple of years ago & loved it too (altho' I never realised so much BUTTER went into a brioche!). Your breads look wonderful. I expect that we will see many more yeasty creations here then?

    By Blogger cin, at 4/21/2006 05:18:00 pm  

  • phwoar! look at that knot roll, it's gorgeous! it all looks great. and glad to hear the spelt flour bread tasted good too, always wanted to try that.

    enjoy your holidays! :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/21/2006 10:59:00 pm  

  • Wow! That bread looks amazing!
    Someday I'll have to take a bread class...MMM.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/22/2006 01:12:00 pm  

  • Belinda - hehe. The scrolls were a bit harder. I'd need a few practice runs for them...so rehearsal would be the best place for the duds!

    Helen - Yes - a bonanza! I've heard of that book and keep meaning to find myself a copy.

    Frank - eeee, sourdough- now we're getting serious! I bet you're hoping to get me excited about creating my own soughdough starter too!!

    Kelly - I was the youngest there. 2 of the 6 were young housewives with kids at school and the other 3 women were older; in their 60s. I guess the usual type of people who have their weekdays free. I had been wondering the same thing as you, actually (kind of hoping some cute young guy would turn up, but hah! Hah to that!)

    Cin - I don't think I want to know about the brioche! I once made puff pastry for croissants and the butter in that was SCARY!!!

    Shauna - I'm so very proud of my knot roll. So proud I haven't yet eaten it and I bet it starts growing mould on me. The spelt bread is very good.

    Laura - It's well worth it! Especially if you're a bit scared of making bread.

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/22/2006 04:24:00 pm  

  • Oh wow Niki, I am amazed at all those different breads! You will be a baking superstar!

    By Blogger plum, at 4/22/2006 08:35:00 pm  

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