Bread 1: Freeform Loaves

2006-01-15

Freeform White LoavesThe first Bread class began with our instructor having us introduce ourselves. The Chef herself has been teaching at the school part-time for about 6 years, and has been working at the Metropolitan Hotel (and its affiliate Senses Restaurant) for a long time. Other students I talked to raved about this particular instructor so I was looking forward to this class. She quickly ran through safety, personal hygiene (!), lab procedures, punctuality and a lot of other stuff before skimming through our handouts. In addition to the recipes, we also got photocopies of some notes about flours.

The demo for the freeform loaf began with Chef's assistant making a slurry out of fresh yeast and lukewarm water. Chef emphasized the importance of warm water in order for the yeast to multiply and grow. Next, she dumped in bread flour, shortening, sugar, milk powder and salt. The bowl went up into the mixer and after stirring things together on low speed, the dough was kneaded with the hook for 6 minutes on medium. After a while, it made a slapping sound, and we could see the dough had formed a smooth mass (this is known as the clean-up stage). The instructor dusted the table with a bit of flour and rounded the dough by folding it over 8 times, rotating 90 degrees after each fold.more…

While the instructor's loaves rested, we made our own dough. After resting under plastic for 15 minutes, Chef degassed her dough by pressing gently on it, then divided it into 4 equal pieces by weight. She rounded them again before shaping them into small rounds, then let it rest for 10 more minutes to proof, then finished with another round of rounding. Chef took a razor blade and slashed the tops three times, and put the shaped loaves into a proofing box, basically, a sauna for bread. After the final rise, they went into the oven to bake to a deep golden brown.

I was surprised by how fast the fresh yeast acted. When I bake bread, I usually let the dough rise for an hour for each stage of fermentation, but today's class was done after only three hours. When Chef's breads came out of the oven, we all buttered a hot slice and marvelled in the wonderful taste of a fresh-baked loaf. The bread is very soft and tender and has a fantastically developed crust. I have to go out and get some razor or X-Acto blades for slashing dough. I would like to get a French bread lame (a curved razor mounted on a handle) but they're hard to find.

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