Sunday, May 17, 2009

The bread maker

Seeded bread rolls dusted with rice flour for the rustic look

Lesson VII, VIII, IX

Breads truly epitomize what baking really is; it is both an art as well as a science. People tend to assume that baking is a craft and when they think of the pretty decorations on cakes; they automatically classify baking as an art.

Through the three classes on bread making that we had this week, I’ve begin to see how baking is as much as a science as an art.

I have always been fearful of baking breads. Never made a successful one much to my dad’s dismay. He’s a bread lover and that love runs in my family. Sadly to say, my only attempt to make parsley rolls ended up in a complete disaster- inedible, hard and extremely chewy rolls. Bread making continue to elude me as I did not understand the fundamentals behind bread making- that’s the science bit of it.

For me, this week’s classes ended the mystery behind bread.

Chef M*ichael started off Thursday class going through key culinary terms such as fermentation, retardation and proving. He also went through the steps (about 12 steps) for bread production and the purpose of each ingredient.

He spoke about how the precision of the scaling of ingredients is especially vital in bread-making. Additional salt would affect inhibit yeast growth and hence slow down the fermentation process. He also explained the fermentation process in detail; it is when yeast acts on the sugar and starches in the dough to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol which gives the dough its structure and flavour.

To encourage fermentation, one needs to be very meticulous about the temperature of the environment, the water as well as the flour. We were also learning about the equations and formulas behind bread-making.

All that information opened my eyes to the world behind bread-making. I would no longer just be a consumer of bread but also a maker of bread.

Bread is so fascinating. I leave class feeling really accomplished for I leave with four to five loaves of bread each day (excluding the bread rolls). That is about 2 kg weight of bread- probably able to feed three to four families with kids!

What amazes me most is that with just a few basic ingredients- flour, fat (butter or shortening), sugar, salt, yeast and water, I can make bread.

We made a wide variety of breads including the classic white bread, wholemeal bread, pepita (seeded) bread, soft sweet rolls and crusty dinner rolls. The part of the lesson that I look forward to is making the different shapes of bread, sprinkling the breads with a variety of seeds (poppy, pumpkin) and flour (semolina, rice flour, polenta).

The most rewarding part?

Eating my very own bread rolls with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Pure happiness.

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