Artisan Bread Workshop

8 November 2012

I tempted fate by posting the bread recipe I use, two days before attending an Artisan Bread Baking workshop.

Tucked into the back room of the Homesteaders Emporium, eight of us learned the basics of making a good artisan loaf at home. Our teacher, Florin Moldovan, was unfussy and straight forward. We talked about the theory of baking bread for a good hour, learning about what baker’s percentages mean (the amount of flours, water, yeast and salt in any given bread recipe) and the twelve steps of making bread.

I learned to knead in a bowl, which was much easier and less messy than what I’ve been doing on a counter. My Kitchenaid kneads well of course, but as I’m feeling my way with my local flour, I want to feel my dough change under my hands. I was proud that my dough received praise and a good pinch from our instructor!

Half of the benefit of these classes, I feel, is having an experienced baker trapped in a room with you, and willing to answer all your questions. We went over whether it’s worthwhile to try and steam a home oven before baking (no, not in his opinion), when and how to put your bread baking on hold by putting dough in the fridge, the benefit of pre-fermentation. I’ve read several great books on baking bread (namely Dan Lepard and Rose Levy Beranbaum) and I felt as though all those bits of knowledge finally made some sense.

Florin voiced his frustration with peoples’ obsession with bread still warm from the oven. It needs to cool down and finish baking – just like a roast, it needs time to rest after it comes out of the oven. “Any idiot can make good warm bread,” he said, explaining the real test comes when the loaf is cool.

From what I learned in this workshop, I’m thinking I’m going to have to experiment with using half of either kind of my Urban Grains flour with all-purpose white. I want a good loaf, but with some loft. I’m not fond of ultra-worthy brown bricks that make me feel like I should be picking the chaff from between my teeth afterwards.

I trudged home from the workshop in the pouring rain with a bowl of dough, fermenting away, enough for two loaves. From the Homesteaders Emporium, I bought two bannetons, or proofing baskets, which I’ve wanted for awhile. It’s a great resource for home baking equipment, as well as candle making, meat grinding, sausage making, urban gardening, bee-keeping and pretty much anything else in that vein.

You can take Florin’s beginner Artisan Bread workshop at the UBC Farm, there are classes once a month until February listed on their site. If you’re thinking about baking your own bread, or like me, want to consolidate bits of knowledge you’ve pulled from everywhere, I highly recommend this workshop.

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