All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Professional Help for the Exorphin Junkie #1

I get Professional Help for my Addiction - #1

I have been baking bread and blogging about it for about a year now (baking longer than that, but only blogging about it for a year), and I figured it was time I got some professional help.  I took my first ever bread course today at the nearby college.

This bread making course is a rather intensive 2-day course, and our instructor is one of the chefs at the college's Culinary Arts program.  When I say it is intensive, I don't mean that the loaves we made were difficult or time consuming.  No, I just mean that we moved along fairly rapidly, and made a total of 4 different doughs in one solid day of baking.  I didn't have a lot of time for taking pictures.

This course is something my wife and I have done together, on this cold Saturday in February.   We have been looking forward to it for a long time now -- almost like a vacation.  And although I was warned by several people that I probably wouldn't learn anything I didn't already know, I expected to learn quite a bit.  And I wasn't disappointed.

Chef Stephanie has been teaching for eight years, and has had lots of baking experience before that.  Many of the restaurants that she worked in serve Mediterranean meals, and some of her favourite breads are in the Mediterranean style.  That is what we worked on today, for our first lesson.

She handed out some recipes and an apron to each of us, and we began.  I have posted the recipes from day one here, in case anyone else wants to peruse them.  They are volume measurements, not recipes given by weights.  (I may be able to get the weight measurements from her, I'll see).

Chef started us off with a Rosemary Focaccia, which I thought was a great idea because there is virtually no forming of the dough: you just mix the ingredients, get a feel for it, let it bulk ferment, and then press it onto a pan. 

My focaccia

While it is proofing the second time, we were making our second dough, essentially the very same ingredients, only this time we added Sundried Tomato and Chevre (Goat Cheese).  Here, she showed us how to roll up the dough with the cheese inside it.  It is essentially the same as pushing down the dough like we did the focaccia, but instead of proofing it like that, we sprinkled some cheese on the bread and rolled it up like a log.

I got to use a dough hook on a mixer, first time ever: mostly, I do all my kneading by hand

My sundried tomato and chevre loaves: before the final proof, and after baking

While that was proofing, and we were baking our focaccia, we made the same loaf using Black Olives and Gorgonzola Cheese.  By now we were getting the hang of it.  This was made exactly the same way as the Sundried Tomato and Chevre loaf.  The interesting thing about these loaves, I thought, was the way she had us brush olive oil on the tops, and score the loaves BEFORE the final proofing.  I had always only ever scored my loaves just prior to putting them in the oven.  For these loaves, this pre-scoring worked well, although I really didn't see any meteoric oven spring on any of my loaves.

My olive and gorgonzola loaves, before proofing and after baking

The final loaf of the day was a Walnut and Caramelized Onion Loaf, which she allowed us to make into a free-form loaf.  I made my dough into a couple of smaller boules, and they retained their shape and didn't sag out over the parchment paper, like some of my whole wheat doughs do.  If you use bread flour, bread is a lot easier to form.
Walnut and Carmelized Onion Loaves
One of the Convection Ovens
I was pleased with the way the surface of these boules turned a nice light chestnut colour in the College's convection ovens.

Almost the entire haul of bread, made between the two of us
My wife and I came home with a lot of bread.  We ripped into my Focaccia on the drive home, and we ate some of the Black Olive and Gorgonzola loaf and the Sundried Tomato and Chevre loaf for supper tonight with a soup, and we froze some.  We'll be delivering some to our moms in the morning.

These loaves squished down a bit on the ride home.  Imagine, we forgot to take some bags with us.  Next time, we won't forget

The breads we made today are easy to make, and they taste good.  They do, however, all use bread flour or all-purpose flour.  My interests, as I have been blogging and baking, have turned almost exclusively to whole grains, but it is good to make other breads once in a while to remind oneself of the possibilities.  I am not sure whether the bread recipes that Chef gave us will translate well to whole grain flours, but I am sure going to give it a try.  (I already have a whole wheat focaccia recipe that turned up recently on the Fresh Loaf blogs by Marie H that I want to experiment with!)

The next day, we cut into the Walnut and Caramelized Onion Loaf.  We both think that this is the best of the loaves we made.  The Onion imparts a nice scent and a surprising amount of sweetness.  The roasted walnuts provide texture and colour (they leave the white bread stained a bit purple -- the digital photos here don't quite deliver that colouration, unfortunately), as well as an interesting taste.  This is a nice bread, almost like a desert bread, it is so sweet.  You can't eat this all the time, it is far too starchy.  But it is nice as a treat.

I am thinking that a whole wheat version of this might work, too.

Best of the Four Breads: Walnut and Caramelized Onion Loaf

Notes to Myself
  • Get the weight measurements for these recipes, and then see if it will translate to whole grains.
  • What is the advantage of scoring prior to the final proofing, vs scoring just before putting the bread in the oven?  It is possible that the late scoring will deflate the dough somewhat.  It is possible though, that you won't get as high an oven-spring if you score it too early.  Hmm.


  1. Those breads look wonderful. It is so cool that you are able to take a class on bread baking. I would love to do that someday too.
    Agree on the fact that bread flour baking is easier to handle and gives more impressive looking results than whole grain breads.
    Also true that it is nice to make bread flour breads once in a while for a change. In fact, I am trying the no-knead ciabatta bread ( this weekend. I'll blog about it sometime next week.
    Looking forward to seeing pictures of your second day of class.

  2. That Chef John video that you link to cracks me up. I've seen it before -- or else, I've seen another of his breads where he is similarly sick, and does a 'Joey Tribbiani' immitation. His Ciabatta looks great and easy to make. It is essentially Lahey's technique of a long rise, ingredients are the same, they are just juggled a bit. What is different here is the way Chef John uses the plastic wrap to move it. Handling these high-hydration doughs is otherwise tricky.

    Lahey bakes his under a Romertopf bread baker, which I don't suppose everybody has. I have used an inverted roasting pan to keep the top moisty with its own steam, and that works for a poor man. If you don't get a nice crackly ciabatta crust using Chef John's technique, you could try baking it under an inverted roasting pan.

    We were going to make a ciabatta at our next class, but no one seemed particularly interested (maybe the students just weren't familiar with it). Maybe the teacher will have us make one anyway, who knows? I love the thin crackly crust on ciabatta, and the airy crumb is nice too. But once again, it would be tricky/impossible to make a ciabatta using completely whole grain. You really need long, gooey strands of gluten to hold the 'frog jelly' of the dough together long enough for it all to bake up its holey airiness.

    The King Arthur Flour Kitchens tried one that looks interesting (though it looks nothing like a true ciabatta). It requires a mixer, and it uses bread flour along with the whole wheat.

    JMonkey at the Fresh Loaf blogs made a nice version by hand using Reinhart-like techniques. It too uses some bread flour. I think I'd like to try this one someday, and tweak it to see if I can increase the amount of whole grain - perhaps adding rye sourdough

  3. With regards to your question "What is the advantage of scoring prior to the final proofing, vs scoring just before putting the bread in the oven?":

    Docking the bread is done for both aesthetic purposes and to control the way that bread rises during oven spring. As you know, undocked bread will burst randomly; docked bread has more predictable oven spring. Additionally, good docking can save an underproofed or overproofed bread. Underproofed dough has too much oven spring; docking deep can save it from bursting. Similarly, overproofed will have too little oven spring, and you want to dock shallowly to prevent too much gas from escaping.

    The only reason I could think that she had you dock before proofing is to bleed off fermentation gas in the dough, which would explain your meager oven spring.

  4. Thanks for that. I actually didn't know that the terms "scoring" and "docking" are synonymous. I always thought that "docking" was a deeper, pin-prick type of a vent, and "scoring" was a shallower slash. I learned something.

    The Fresh Loaf blog has some tips on scoring here
    but they too say that it is generally done just before the bake.

    It makes no sense to me to "bleed off fermentation gas in the dough" too far ahead of time; the scoring just prior to baking should theoretically control that bleeding off, if done properly.

    No, I think it was her own individual aesthetic impulse that caused her to advise us to do the scoring early. The intention was clearly to control the rise during the proof stage. Probably because she is used to a "production kitchen" where uniform loaves are a necessity. This was one way to control how they looked. I guess. I should ask her, next time I see her.

  5. Update: RPH_The_Baker made the ciabatta in the blog "For the Loaf of Bread" here:

  6. I did some checking re: "scoring" vs. "docking." According to an older baking textbook, they can be used interchangeably but many bakers prefer the term docking to be used to describe any pin-prick type vents and scoring to be a shallow slash, as you said. So, ignore me, you were right before!