June 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm (BBA Challenge, Bread Baker's Apprentice, Bread Baking, Peter Reinhart, Techniques)
Tags: artisan breads every day, babka, baking class, BBA Challenge, braiding technique, Bread Baker's Apprentice, challah, Charlie Rice, chocolate cinnamon babka, law school, Notre Dame, Peter Reinhart, Pope, sticky buns, western reserve school of cooking
When I was at Notre Dame Law School, I visited the office of Professor Charlie Rice. Among his many travels, Prof. Rice had been to Rome, and he had a picture of himself with the Pope hanging on his wall. When I commented on the photo, Prof. Rice said, “Oh, yes. It was a very big day for His Holiness.”
I would like to think that last Monday, June 21, was similarly a big day for Peter Reinhart. He came to the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson, Ohio, to teach three classes from his new book, Artisan Breads Every Day. I was fortunate to be able to attend the first class on Monday evening.
Peter signed books and talked with participants before and after the class and was very engaged throughout the evening. He had three assistants, two ovens baking, and countless hearth breads, sticky buns, babkas, rolls, challahs, and crumb cakes going into and out of the ovens the whole time, yet he never lost focus or seemed the slightest bit distracted.
As I mentioned above, Peter was demonstrating recipes and techniques from his new book. Among these techniques is the use of minimal dough handling (i.e., no long kneading sessions) and retarding, or holding the dough in the refrigerator to develop flavor and allow you to bake on your own schedule.
In the picture above, Peter is demonstrating a stretch-and-fold, which is where, rather than kneading the dough, you stretch it out and fold it over itself several times at timed intervals. This works surprisingly well at mixing the ingredients and developing gluten.
We sampled three different kinds of sticky buns: Philadelphia sticky buns, honey almond sticky buns, and creamy caramel buns with dried cranberries and pecans. Having grown up in Eastern Pennsylvania, I know a thing or two about sticky buns. All three recipes were fantastic. The Philadelphia buns tasted just like what we used to get in Lancaster County. The caramel buns were delicious, especially with the crunch of pecans and slightly tart sweetness of cranberries. But I think my favorite were the honey almond buns.
I don’t recall ever having had babka before this class. Peter’s ingredients were great — how can you go wrong with chocolate and cinnamon? But it was the technique that really impressed me. He pressed out the dough, spread it with the filling, and rolled it up, like you might with cinnamon-swirl bread. Then, using what is known as the kranz shaping method, he cut the loaf lengthwise, turned each half so that the cut side was facing up, and twisted the two pieces together. The effect was beautiful.
He also demonstrated two-, three-, four-, five-, and six-strand challah braids. Here is the two-strand:
As you can probably tell, I had a great time meeting and learning from Peter Reinhart. He is a world-class baker, a natural teacher, and a down-to-earth guy.
And he makes a mean sticky bun.
June 14, 2010 at 9:00 am (Uncategorized)
A few weeks ago, my daughter’s Kindergarten class had a field trip to the Akron Zoo. I hadn’t originally planned on going, but her drop off and pick up times were such that it was easier for me just to take her to school in the morning, meet the group at the zoo, and bring her home with me at the end of the field trip.
I love kids, and A. is at a great age. Full of energy and curiosity. But you can have too much of a good thing. And the fact that the entire zoo was going to be overrun by kindergarteners had me wondering what I had gotten myself into.
The kids were divided into groups of five, and parent volunteers were assigned to each group. As it happened, each child in our group had a parent along on the trip, so we were one-on-one and each responsible primarily for our own child. This was a good thing for me. I am watchful and alert with my own children; when I’m responsible for other peoples’ kids, I’m an absolute mess. I become hyper-vigilant and worry that a child will get hurt or lost on my watch. So I was glad to have the other parents there so that I could enjoy the day.
The weather was perfect, and the kids all had a great time. A’s group was especially well matched. I hadn’t met the kids before, but I knew their names from hearing A. talk about them at home all the time. They all got along well, and they seemed to like being together.
With my work schedule, I am not able to get to many school events during the day. But I’m glad I took the time off for the zoo trip.
Even if there were more animals out of the cages than in them.