Baking classes in March and April

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash
Given the state of the world and as part of my efforts to lessen my impact on the spread of this virus, I'm suspending my cooking and baking classes until further notice. Of course, this is not a fun decision to make but in the big scheme of things, this is minor. In the meantime, please keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy. Get information about the pandemic from trusted and trustworthy sources like the CDC and your local state and city government. Thank you and I hope to see you on the other side of this.

My favorite thing in life is to feed the people I love with food I made. There's something very primal about it and it touches a part of me nothing else comes close to touching. I think my second favorite thing in life is to teach other people how to do cook for and feed the people they love.

Cooking at home fosters togetherness, it makes for better diets and nutrition, and it's a direct and definitive NO to a culture that's tell you that you're too busy to cook and that buying junk is a better alternative. I cook from scratch and teach other people to do the same in order to make people happier and healthier and at the same time connect with and preserve traditional ways to eat. I care far more about the effort I put into the process than I do about the finished products. Those finished products are the result of my efforts but it's the effort that gives my life meaning.

I was around 20 years old when I started to bake bread. I was armed with a hippy cookbook and a short attention span and needless to say, it took me a while to get good at it. I spent the 30+ years since then learning and practicing. For the last 20 years I've been traveling and studying how to cook in Germany, France, Greece, Austria and many other places. Though the methods and ingredients change from one place to the next what never changes is that the effort is always worth it.

After a short break due to an oven problem, I'm back to teaching in my home and my class descriptions are listed under the Cooking Classes tab at the top of this page. Here's the next schedule:


Sourdough Workshop

Sourdough baking is enjoying a bit of a resurgence but it requires a bit of a rethink if you're used to baking with commercial yeasts. Before the invention of commercial yeasts however, all bread was sourdough. So this resurgence is actually a return to an older way to do things. In this class, I'll distribute a jar of my starter to everybody and I'll review how to feed, care for an use it. Since sourdough bread takes about a day and a half to complete, we'll bake off some finished dough I'll have made beforehand. Finally, everybody will mix up a batch of sourdough bread dough to take home and finish independently. I will provide a handout with step-by-step instructions to finish this loaf as well as how to maintain your starter.




Basic Baguettes

Basic baguettes is a perfect class for somebody new to bread baking or for somebody who'd just like to learn another way to bake. This is a simplified and Americanized recipe that I adapted from a technique I learned in Paris. In this class, we'll talk about some of the underlying concepts in all bread baking and we'll go over the subtleties and nuances of this particular bread type. I will teach you how to mix bread dough properly, how to knead dough and know when you're done, how to rise dough and how to turn your home oven into a Parisian steam oven. Students will make a batch of baguette dough to finish at home for the first half of the class. For the second part, students will work with dough I made and finished ahead of time, and using that dough we'll shape and bake baguettes. After the bread's made, we'll eat fresh bread and some soup and review everything.




Pita bread two ways

Long before people were baking bread into loaves, they were baking flatbreads. In this class, students will learn to make and bake pita bread at home. Pita is about the only bread I know that can be made from scratch in about an hour. Baking pita is how you get a pita with a pocket. Grilling pita on a griddle or in a skillet is how you get a chewy and more flavorful pita that you'd use in a gyro. Either way, these flatbreads are crowd pleasers and students will make pita dough and prepare it with both methods, baked and grilled. During the class we'll talk about this history of bread baking and flatbreads we'll dicuss and learn how to mix, blend and knead pita dough; and at the end of the class we'll have a taste test with some Middle Eastern dips and a recap of everything we covered.



Brioche

Brioche is made from a dough enriched with butter, eggs and a bit of sugar. From this deceptively simple dough comes everything from cinnamon rolls to braided Challah. Brioche has a long history in France and in this class, students will learn how to mix and work with an enriched dough. Students will spend the first part of the class making a batch of brioche dough to take home and finish later. In the second half, I'll distribute brioche dough I've made ahead of time and together we'll braid it into loaves of Challah which we'll then bake.




Introductory whole grain breads

Integrating whole grain flour into your bread baking is an admirable goal but the road to whole grain paradise is steep and treacherous for beginning bakers. Whole grain flours behave very differently than all-purpose flours and working with them requires some know how. In this class, I'll teach you how to blend whole wheat flour with all-purpose flour to make a bread that feels whole grain but is a bit less temperamental. In the first half of the class we'll learn about whole grain flours and we'll make a flour blend and from that, a batch of dough to finish at home. In the second half of the class, I'll distribute whole grain dough I'll have made ahead of time and we'll shape and bake loaves of bread. Once the bread's baked, we'll recap everything over soup and fresh bread.


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