First day of December and snow was falling. The perfect start to winter. It seemed even more fitting that I’d spend my afternoon in a cozy BCAE kitchen baking delicious, fresh bread.
Chef and baker Kelley Geller greeted us at the beginning of class by telling us a little bit about herself and explaining our agenda for the day. We’d be making three breads: baguette, focaccia, and brioche. In the name of time – and bread is a time-consuming business – Kelley had already created the brioche dough and would just show a demo of how to do it yourself. Lucky for us though, we all walked home with brioche dough to bake ourselves.
Right away, we split into small groups who would be our baking partners for the afternoon. Kelley did a demonstration of each step and every group followed suit in completing their own steps. We alternated between working with the baguette and the focaccia. While one was rising, we worked on the other.
For both recipes, we had to create the dough, usually with a combination of yeast, flour, water, and sugar. There are various types of flour (news to me) to use depending on the type of bread you’re making. Some flours have more protein, and therefore more gluten, which makes the bread chewier. Bread flour, which we used in the baguette, called for bread flour, which has the most protein. Given the crunchy, chewy nature of a baguette (versus the more fluffy focaccia), this makes sense.
We spent time making the dough for each bread, then let it rise. We repeated this process a few times (I did say bread was time-consuming to make), and each time the dough increased in size.
Once the focaccia had risen completely, we seasoned the dough with olive oil, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and pepper, and put it in the oven. Kelley noted the importance of evenly baking the breads; if you are using more than one rack, in the oven make sure to switch the top bread to the bottom, and vice versa, halfway through the bake time.
With the baguette dough, we split it into 3 sections and rolled it into the traditional shape. Kelley added a surprise twist and suggested we add Gruyere and cayenne to the middle of the baguette. How could I refuse?
I walked out of class with a lot of bread, no question. One of the best parts was being able to fill my own apartment with the smell of fresh bread as I baked the brioche the next morning. Wait, I take that back. The best part was making cinnamon French toast with that freshly baked brioche loaf. Amazing. I’m officially switching my career to bread maker.