Monday, March 7, 2011

Bread-Baking Skillshare

This past Saturday, three Tufts Slow Foodies (Maya Behar, Maggie Holmes, and I) squeezed into a tiny, yet lovely kitchen in Somerville to learn all about the art of hearth bread-baking from our very own Nicole Tichenor. Nicole took us through a recipe for Pain de Campagne, or “country bread”, explaining all of the intricacies involved in the two day process. For time’s sake, Nicole prepared three loaves (two boules and her first baguette) in advance so that she could show us how to set up the oven for hearth baking. The hearth baking method involves placing a skillet filled with water on the top rack and misting water on the sides of the oven to produce steam, causing the bread to rise rapidly and resulting in a delightfully crispy crust. The loaves were done in only about 15 minutes but required at least 45 minutes to cool, leaving us with plenty of time to chat about everything from wedding planning to the science behind good bread. Amidst the conversation, Nicole put the three of us to work to create our own batch of dough, using the starter, or Pâte Fermentée, she prepared the day before. We each took turns mixing ingredients and kneading the dough until the consistency and temperature was just right and ready for the first of several rises. We rounded out the afternoon with a small taste of the finished baguette and each left the skillshare armed with a loaf of freshly baked bread, a printed step-by-step recipe, and the knowledge and confidence necessary to try hearth bread-baking in our own kitchens. In fact, Maya wasted no time and picked up some bread flour and yeast on her way home!

Three key take aways from the skillshare:

1) Use good quality ingredients

2) Follow directions EXACTLY (this is where I usually go wrong!)

3) Stay focused and “keep your head in the bread”

Thanks again to Nicole for sharing her bread-baking skills with us!


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