Because my husband is definitely the most fabulous man on the face of the earth, he decided to get me an Artisan bread class for my birthday. Not only did he set up the class, but he arranged my flight with his extra miles, and arranged my hotel stay with his redemption points as well. On Sunday, before we went to the airport, he handed me a packet with all of my flight and hotel info in it, as well as mapped directions to and from every place I would need them for. I told you he was fabulous! He even hit the bank the day before so that I would have the cash on hand that I’d need for cabs, etc. That was necessary since I really don’t know how to access our money if I’m not whipping out the credit card at Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table. Whew… I’m glad he knows how to get to it
Today was day one at the San Francisco Baking Institute. I’m enrolled in the Artisan I bread class. This is a 5-day course with a huge amount of hands-on instruction and lecture from an amazing instructor - Steven Isaac. He has worked at many highly acclaimed restaurants and hotels, and was even the corporate pastry/bakery chef for Wolfgang Puck. He worked for Daniel Leader (of Bread Alone) in the early 1990’s.
The facilities are just what you’d expect from a culinary institution. Lots of big Boos board table tops with gigantic mixers and ovens everywhere. You have this sense of freedom that you don’t have in your own kitchen at home because there is *supposed* to be flour dust everywhere!
Here’s a couple pieces of their large-scale equipment. This is a mixer, I think its called an Oblique (?) mixer. I don’t remember what the piece of equipment next to it is. Beyond that, the wooden contraption, is a grain mill. It looks nothing like the electric one that I have at home! And next to that is a dough divider - it can portion out your dough into 12, 24, or 48 pieces!
Here’s a view of the adjacent wall, that has some of the other mixers on it. Through those windows is where the pastry class participants were working. Immediately in the bottom right corner of the picture is a piece of equipment that will shape dough into baguettes, or other long shapes (batards, etc).
The left most metal thing is the large scale oven with the automatic loader and unloader. This is what we baked today’s (and I think the subsequent days’ breads in). There were 60 baguettes in there at once, and it could’ve held a LOT more than that. To the right of that is a small(ish) proofing box. We used that to proof our baguettes in. To the right of that is another oven that (I think) you proof bread in, and then can automatically move the bread from that to the oven attached. This set-up is really amazing…
These two racks sit on the wall adjacent to the ovens. The first rack, as you can see, has a ton of bannetons on it, as well as loaf pans and boards used to flip bread from the couche to the baking sheet. Next to that is the bread cooling rack.
Here are my first ever attempts at baguettes! They’re not so cute here, but this was just a pre-shaping before the actual shaping. On the bottom right corner of the board is an “M” carved out of flour - its how we identified our dough from everyone elses. Clever.
Here are my shaped baguettes! We used little green stickers, with our initials on them, on the center loaf to distinguish our bread from everyone elses. Again, clever!
Here’s a picture of some of my classmates scoring their bread with a lame. Lame is prounced as if it rhymed with calm.
And the soldiers march into the oven by way of a large conveyor belt.
They bake for about 20 minutes, at 450 degrees F.
They are starting to brown!
Here are my baguettes right out of the oven! Not too shabby for my first attempt. My scores tended to be more at an angle than straight, so I need to work on that some this week.
Chef Steven showed us how to make pan d’epis, and I can’t wait to try those at home!
And here the loaves are at my hotel room. I gave one to the sweet gentleman at the front desk. I ate one. Yes, the whole thing. And because I couldn’t trust myself with the rest of them, I gave them to the lady that was handing out wine downstairs during “happy hour”. I thought that she might know what to do with them.
All in all, today was such a wonderful experience! We spent about 4 hours in lecture, going over terminology, mixing methods, the reason for the standard four ingredients, and Chef Steven generally entertaining our silly questions.
Tomorrow we make about 15 more baguettes, as we discover how the different mixing methods affect the taste and structure. We’re told that we’re going to get quite comfy with the baguette. This is because its a very good teaching bread. Good for learning the basics since we’re only using the basic four ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast). Good for learning shaping. Good for learning slashing. Good for eating with wine and cheese - my own personal favorite. Good for experimenting in general!
Stay tuned to hear about the next 4 amazing days!