A Big Day for Peter Reinhart

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.

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18 Comments

  1. November 17, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    […] stiff competition. Having recently acquired Artisan Breads Every Day; and having tasted sticky buns baked by Peter Reinhart himself; and having baked Reinhart’s sticky buns, twice; and having grown up in Lancaster County, PA, […]

  2. July 30, 2010 at 7:28 am

    […] stay, or whether we would be eating here or at restaurants. Flush with my recent audience with Peter Reinhart and my success making his sticky buns recipe, I decided that I would mix up a big batch of sweet […]

  3. July 9, 2010 at 8:45 am

    […] meeting Peter Reinhart at the Western Reserve School of Cooking and sampling a host of his baked goods, including two […]

  4. June 26, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for gloating about, oh sorry, I mean sharing, your experience with PR!! I am very jealous. THREE KINDS OF STICKY BUNS AND BABKA! You are a lucky man! I bought the new book and am very excited to learn his new methods. Great pictures.

  5. Sara said,

    June 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

    How fun! Is the implication that PR is a sort of pope of bread baking? For all us BBA’ers I guess so ;-).

  6. June 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

    A big congratulation to Peter … and you.
    That would be a wonderful highlight for any of us who love baking breads!
    Great photos!! Thanks.

  7. Renee said,

    June 24, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Very cool! I’m jealous because I doubt he’d come near me. What a great experience!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 25, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      Probably cold comfort, but he said this class was his last for the foreseeable future. He’s working on a pizza show for PBS and doesn’t know when he’ll be back on the road.

  8. June 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    What a meaningful experience. Just looking at the photos, I learned so I can only imagine how much you took away. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Anne Marie said,

    June 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Did you have him sign your beat up book?

    What part of Eastern PA, I’m from the Poconos

    • gaaarp said,

      June 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      I grew up in New Holland, Lancaster County.

      I took my book, beat up cover and all, and got him to sign it. I also had him sign my chef’s coat.

  10. Frieda said,

    June 24, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    What a great opportunity! I’m glad that you shared it with us….hopefully, I’ll get ot meet him some day ~

  11. Kayte said,

    June 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I feel like I was almost there…almost, not quite the same, is it? Thanks for sharing, all this was very fun to hear about. And, btw, NO ONE told me there was going to be three kinds of sticky buns or I would have made much more of an effort to get there! Great photos.

    • gaaarp said,

      June 25, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      No one told me about the sticky buns either, or I would have made much more of an effort to starve myself for three days before the class.

  12. Julie said,

    June 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    What a great experience that must have been. To learn from such a master baker! His books are the ones I keep thinking about buying.

    • gaaarp said,

      June 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      You’ll never regret buying one of his books.

  13. Abby said,

    June 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Sounds like such a fantastic morning! Thanks for all of the pictures and descriptions; kind of made me feel like I was there . . . maybe someday! =)

  14. June 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    What a fun experience. It is so neat to get to meet someone IRL who has been a teacher to you through their books. There is a connection. I’d love to meet him some time. Glad you… errr I mean HE had such a great opportunity. 😉


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