At its essence, bread is comprised of four main ingredients; flour, water, yeast and salt. In my eyes, this simple quartet of ingredients is like the blank canvas of pastry. It is the allegorical grandmother of Pain au Chocolate, Sugar Brioche, Craquelin, and other yummies (Basically, many of your classic breakfast foods for sugar junkies).
My mind is on bread right now because I’m currently in a production class called “Hearth Breads and Rolls.” Here, we’re learning to mix dough, techniques of shaping and other traditional bread baking skills. For example, yesterday I mixed ciabatta dough, learning to gently squeeze the dough and handling it as little as possible to create its typical, irregularly shaped interior crumb structure. I also learned (or attempted to learn) how to shape Kaiser rolls (mine looked only slightly haphazard).
I had a moment yesterday (I think while untangling my rope of Kaiser dough) when I started to look at these methods, not just as learning to bake bread, but embarking on the road to developing fantastic pastries (dessert, of course, always being the ultimate goal). Understanding the development of dough strength, airiness, flakiness, the development of crust, and all those other wonderful, scientific things. These are my ABCs of baking that I’m learning. It’s exciting.
I think the most important nugget of knowledge I’ve received thus far is something The Chef explained. The Chef (a wonderful, if not slightly difficult to understand German man) said that the craftsmanship of bread baking comes from the energy in your body that’s transferred into the bread, giving it life. I thought this was lovely.
So, Here I go! Off to bake bread and give it life! And perhaps eventually add some sugar….