Lessons 30-34: Getting to Know You, Bread

The more I get to know bread, the more I want to know bread.

I have been fascinated by the diversity of textures among the breads we have baked in class these past few lessons, from soft roll and pizza dough, to bagel and pretzel dough, to doughnuts and brioche, to our very own starters that we nurtured ourselves (you remember wild child Rye-Anna, don’t you?) I was able to feel with my own hands the differences between hard and soft dough, as well as dry and wet dough.

The process of working and shaping dough from its fermented state to the appropriate-for-baking-shape is different, depending on the dough and the result that you want. We rolled dough and braided rolls and loaves, using IKEA-like instruction manuals and going back to lessons of braiding my friends’ hair at recess during my grammar school days.

Once I used the right amount of flour on the bench and was able to roll my dough successfully, the braiding and knotting was fairly easy (and fun!) but I would say my favorite part was watching the dough bloom in the oven. You can see from the photographs just how beautiful our bread was when it came out of the oven! There are three things that New York does really well. Pizza, bagels, and pretzels. Do you dare disagree with me?

In the past week, we had the opportunity to prepare all three of these delectable items. Just as in my recreational ICE pizza class (before becoming a Career Pastry & Baking Arts student), I found the pizza dough very challenging to keep thin, but not too thin, to obtain the ideal thickness to hold sauce and toppings. The bagels and pretzels were a little easier to prepare — shape, proof, poach and bake.

Then it was time to make the doughnuts! The process for doughnut making is not too complex, but there are certainly sensitive aspects to consider when preparing them such as being sure to not overwork the dough or use too much flour on the work surface. But fried dough is delicious, and our doughnuts were no exception.

As you probably have guessed from my last post, I find bread challenging. Even the need to prepare a sponge ahead of time, sometimes days ahead of time to allow for fermentation, goes against every spontaneous bone in my body. But that's a good thing, I think. I tend to reflect on life a lot and in taking ICE's Pastry & Baking Arts program, I find myself relating the lessons I learn in class to lessons I am subsequently learning in life. After all, as much as our life is about who we are, we are often defined by what we do and how we spend our time. So here I am, learning and wanting to learn more... Next week brings our first quiz of the module (wish me luck!) along with pâte brisée and pâte sucrée.

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