Class #7 of the Can It Academy Food Preservation and Cottage Arts Certification Program: Bread Making
I was so excited to walk into the Can It Academy and see Erik Knutzen there as our guest speaker. I’m a big fan of Erik and his wife Kelly’s blog Root Simple. Erik was there to teach our bread making class which made perfect sense as he is the organizer for the LA Bread Bakers Meet Up Group.
My experience to date with bread making revolved around a bread machine I got at the height of their popularity back in the early 1990’s. (Did I just age myself?) I was excited to start making fresh bread for my family but instead I would get mostly dense loaves best used for door stoppers. It killed my desire to keep trying and as I’d watch Julia Child’s knead and knead and knead her dough on TV, I felt this ‘real’ way was just too much work for a busy, new mom like me. Bread making went out the window. Until now.
After a short lecture in which Knutzen couldn’t emphasize a digital scale enough, he had us shaping loaves with a wet dough recipe in a matter of minutes. All I could think was, I must have missed something, because that was way too easy!
This wet dough recipe is revolutionary for me. When you work 60 hours a week but still want to cook homemade meals for your family, this is the perfect technique! According to Knutzen there are four important aspects to this: your digital scale, a wet dough, a long fermentation time and a Dutch Oven (preferably, but I’ve since made it in a loaf pan… more on this later.)
There’s a bit of bakers math when talking about the hydration ratio, so I’m not going to talk about it, since math gives me the heebe-jeebe’s. I’ll just trust in what I’m taught. It’s good to have faith in others abilities for teaching and recipe development! ‘Josey Baker Bread Book’ is supposed to be an excellent resource, as well.
The no knead loaf we made was measured out for us and we mixed it in bags to take home. (You don’t have to mix it with your hands, I left my bag zipped closed and massaged the bag thoroughly in just a few minutes from the outside.)
The ingredients in bread making haven’t changed much in the last 30,000 years: grain, water, salt, and a culture (a store bought yeast or a starter). The starter, or mother, gets the fermentation process going and bread bakers always keep a batch of a starter somewhere in their kitchen. Knutzen brought his own to share with us, so we also all went home with a little jar of starter. We were told we need to feed it every day by removing 1 Tbs of starter and replacing it with 1 Tbs purified water and 1 Tbs of flour. (This is for a few reasons.. it cuts down on how huge this could potentially get, but it also feeds the existing starter.) I wasn’t sure if I was ready to except the responsibility of feeding my starter everyday, but I haven’t missed a day since and it’s just become part of my daily routine now.
To get that crispy crust, you’ll want the bread to steam. This can be achieved by either using a lidded dutch oven, a pullman loaf pan with a lid or if you just use a regular loaf pan without a lid, you’ll want to add a baking sheet to the bottom rack of your oven and add some water to create a steam. We used a few different things in class so we could see how they all would turn out. (Delicious, if you were wondering!) Knutzen loves his Lodge cast iron dutch oven, below. (The red dutch oven did have a lid on while cooking, it was just removed to show us how the bread looked.)
This gorgeous boule is formed by letting your dough rise in this…
With this white dough, you can make a boule too, or shape into sandwich bread, a baguette, a ciabatta… just about any shape you want. And the longer you let your dough sit (up to two weeks in the ‘fridge!) the more of a sourdough flavor it will take on.
While we waited for our bread to bake, Chef Miller whipped up a batch of butter in no time flat. (Now that was pretty cool!) He simply poured unharmoginized heavy whipping cream into a blender and whipped it into butter! (Ultra pasteurized cream will not work.) It will first look like whipped cream but you want to keep going. Then keep going some more until it starts looking like the photo on the right. Like butter!
Remove the butter from the liquid (you now also have buttermilk!), place in a cheesecloth and let drain. Viola, butter! (You may want to add salt before adding to a container.)
This was just a great class. Our instructors made bread making ( and butter making) seem so easy, and it is! I’ve since made it at home and we’ve been enjoying it ever since.
If you really get into the different bread recipes and techniques out there, you may want to join the LA Bread Bakers Meet Up Group, if you’re in the Los Angeles area. They buy different flours in bulk so you can get a high quality grain, as well as grains that are hard to find in the market, like Sonora, an heirloom wheat. And if you really get into it, you can mill your own…
Take-aways from the bread making class:
- I really can make fresh bread, even with my crazy schedule!!!
- When shaping your white dough, do it on a floured surface. When shaping a whole wheat dough, however, a wet work surface is better. Who knew!
- As with all the fermentation we’ve been learning about, make sure your water is purified since you don’t want chlorine in it.
- If you buy a good yeast, buy it in a big, commercial packet and freeze what you don’t use.
- Two cups starter = 1 package active dry yeast. Hopefully a good recipe will give you an exact measurement.
Resource for locally milled flours in the LA area: Grist and Toll
Here are links to the six previous articles in this series: