Who in the world doesn’t really love fresh baked bread. The aromas and salivating initial tastes, are among the best flavors in the cooking cosmos. Today I am writing my first blog and sharing a Christmas present, my wife gave me, from “Make it Sweet”, in Austin Texas.
It was a Bread Baking class for three hours, tutored by a very sweet and knowledgeable lady, Heidi Swiderski. I must add that Heidi was both entertaining, instructional and displayed an obvious flair for making her students comprehend and retain her proficiency. Heidi learned all her baking skills from her Grandmother and started baking at 9 years old.
Somehow during the first segment, the conversation turned to using Black Cocoa (used in darkening Oreo’s) in baking and decorating pastries, cookies, etc. Heidi asked the student “Did you blow your nose after using the Black Cocoa”? I had no idea what she was referencing. Apparently chefs that use this ingredient inhale a certain amount of the powder and shed a “Black Ooze”, to put it nicely! I thought to myself that this was going to be an interesting class!
The bread dough is made by mixing flour, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl. The salt is added at the last moment, as it stops the yeast from activating (see Heidi I was paying attention). You then add olive oil and warm water (between 95 and 115 degrees). You are ready to mix.
We divided into three groups of four to create the dough for Focaccia bread. I was very fortunate to team up with three great ladies. Earlier, as we were introducing ourselves, Jan Graedner stated she was from Wichita Kansas and had driven all the way for this class. Needless to say I was impressed.
I then found out her two daughters were in the class also. Katie Rohe from Houston and Jinny McCall from Austin. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. I would not have made it through the class without their support and encouragement.
After we were sure the dough was smooth, we added a little last minute flour to smooth out the dough. We placed Virgin Olive Oil in the bottoms of the pie plates. We took the dough off the mixer and filled four pie plates with 24oz dough each. Thanks Jan and Katie for completing most of this task.
We poked holes in the dough, drizzled additional olive oil on top and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and Sea salt. We let it rise for about 15 minutes. The dough was baked at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Tasting commenced immediately after pulling the bread from the oven.
Heidi then told us that you know the dough is just right after you give it the “BT” (Booger Test). I was caught completely off guard and almost choked with laughter.
Heidi instructed the class on the properties of yeast and taught facts instrumental in the handling of this popular fungi. She emphasised how important it was to check the yeast
before you put it into your dough which was a great tip! There are three kinds of yeast (Fresh, Quick Rise & Dry Active). Fresh is hard to find unless you buy it in bulk and are a baker. Fresh also dissolves faster and is used at about half the weight (Bakers use mostly weight measurements as opposed to fluid measurements) of the other two types. The other two are basically interchangeable and just vary in rise time. Yeast is best mixed with warm water between 95 and 115 degrees. If the temperature reaches 120 degrees the yeast begins to perish. If it reaches 140 degrees it dies! We learned that salt kills yeast and sugar feeds yeast.
In the second half of the class the work tripled and I discovered how inept I really was. We watched Heidi make the dough for the soft “Dinner Roll Knots”. It was a very tedious process and the dough has to rise three separate times. You need at least about three hours. Heidi prepared each student’s dough ahead, given the lengthy prep time in the interest of time. After receiving our dough each of us were to roll it out and have approximately 7 or 8 rolls. It looked easy.
Heidi demonstrated additional forms the rolls could take including clover leaf, a single knot and a pretzel shape. There was a discussion about the fact that all the rolls do not have to look perfect. One student named Maria stated that her husband always said, when she made imperfect rolls “They don’t have to look perfect. I am not going to dance with them. I am going to eat them”! I thought this was apropos!
You have to roll each dinner roll out by cupping your hand in a “C” and pushing hard in a circular motion. Jan and Katie had no problem, but Jinny and I did not fare as well. I think I did 2 out of 8 successfully. Heidi came to my rescue and helped. (Jinny and I decided that we would stay with Cheese Garlic biscuits we discussed separately, as they take about 25 minutes to make and bake). After rolling the dough into the circular mounds you roll them out into 8″ to 10″ or longer lengths.
After you roll these out you double the roll, twist and tie a knot. Not as easy as it sounds for an new baker, like me! The rolls are then baked at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes and are soft dinner rolls when they are finished.
It was an amazing experience and I recommend you take Heidi’s classes if you are ever in Austin. You will not be disappointed and to top it off you get to sample fresh baked bread. There is nothing better.
I have to tell you that my wife Kim instructed me not to come home with flour paws (hand prints) on my rear. As soon as I walked in the door at home she told me I had flour on my rear. I promise I don’t remember!
For complete instructions and recipes it will benefit you to take the class. Contact info follows: Heidi Swiderski at www.envypastries.com or www.makeitsweet.com and sign up for the classes. It will be well worth your time!
As this is my first attempt at this blog, I would appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism. I can only improve with your evaluations. Thanks and Safe Travels !!!
Great post Mike. You inspire me to go out and try new things. And also shows me why I love the culinary field it’s a lot of fun.
Love Love Love the blog!!!! I am so proud of you for paying attention in class!!! 🙂 I am looking forward to having you in class again … I will give you more “interesting” stories 🙂
Hope to see you soon!!!!