Wow. Day three has come and gone and I’m wiped. We didn’t start until 2 pm today, so I was thrilled to have a little extra time to sleep in this morning. My mom had to call me at 9:30 to coax me out of bed with the promise of a latte. We had a nice leisurely morning and wandered out of the hotel around noon to find a beer shop called Half Time. According to the website, it has the world’s largest selection of beer. The employees were also really nice and helpful. If you’re a beer fan and in the area, I highly recommend dropping by.
After that I was super cranky pants because I was very hungry, so we made an emergency lunch stop on the way to the CIA. I was much happier afterwards.
We started out the day by learning about enriched dough. Apparently the term “enriched” indicates that the bread has some kind of fat added to it. In the case of the challah we made today, that would be eggs. Here are my takeaways from the enriched dough lecture:
1. One of the most common mistakes home cooks make when making bread is that they under develop the gluten. This means that they don’t work the dough long enough to properly develop all those nice gluten strands.
2. During the final proof, you can test to see whether the dough has finished proofing by way of the “wet finger” test. This means you wet your finger and then give the dough a good poke. If the dough springs back quickly, then the gluten hasn’t fully relaxed and the bread hasn’t finished proofing.
3. Enriched dough gets an egg wash to make it nice and shiny. To really get a good sheen, you need to egg wash it twice. Once before the final proof and once right before you put the bread in the oven.
4. fun fact of the day: The cuts you often see on the top of bread serve dual purposes. First, they help with the structure of the bread, release steam and help with even rising. Second, back in ye olden times, there would be 1 baker for a village with a communal oven. All the towns folk would bring their bread there to be baked and the cuts on the dough, like brands on an animal, were marks of ownership. The baker could look at the cuts to see to whom each loaf belonged.
After we discussed enriched doughs, we turned back to pies and pie fillings. One thing I forgot to mention yesterday is that when rolling out any kind of dough, you want to use BREAD FLOUR for dusting. I don’t remember exactly why, but I think it has to do with wanting to add as little starch as possible to the dough.
After lecture we took a quick break and then started on our challah bread. Basically, we dumped all of our ingredients in a Hobart mixer (!!!) and let it churn away for about 12 minutes. Afterwards, we turned the dough out into a bowl for the bulk (or bowl) fermentation.
Next we turned to pies. My team was making 2 apples pies and 2 pecan pies. My team mates started prepping the fillings while I got the pie shells ready. We rolled out several circles of dough last night, so I slid those rounds into the pie tins and made sure they were pressed in well and trimmed the sides. For the two apples pies I made lattice tops and for the pecan I fluted the edges. Afterwards, I jumped back in with apple filling prep. We filled the apple pies, covered them with the lattice and threw them in the oven to bake while we went to supper.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned what we’ve been doing for supper, but we are eating in one of the dining halls with the students. The food is prepared by students and service is done by the baking and pastry students in their one service course. Culinary school dining halls are like none others.
After dinner we portioned out the bread dough and worked it into 1 lb balls (pre-shaping). Then we set those aside under a cloth for a “bench rest.” Otherwise known as letting the dough rise and the gluten relax again.
Back to pies! We finished up our pecan pies and the rest of the teams got their pies in the oven (apple and cherry).
Next, Chef demo’d how to properly shape the challah. In case you were wondering, this involves dividing each ball into 3 pieces, doing this tucking maneuver to get any skin that’s formed in the middle of the pieces and then rolling each piece out into a foot long robe that tapers at each end. Then the bread is braided, starting in the middle. Once that side is braided, the bread is turned 180º, flipped over and braided the rest of the way. Then the bread went into the proofer for the final fermentation.
While the dough was proofing, Chef showed us how to cut up the scones and he made the curd for a lemon meringue pie to demonstrate how to make a custard-based pie. Well, technically lemon meringue pie is a curd, because there’s no dairy, but the principle remains the same.
Fun fact: professional bakeries often sprinkle a pie crust with dried cake crumbs before adding a curd or custard filling. They also sometimes use the bread crumbs between the pie filling and pie topping. The crumbs help absorb moisture and keep the filling from weeping.
So we cut up and baked off about half of our scones, leaving half for the last day. The scones were very yummy. My team decided to make a scone with dried cherries and chocolate chunks with a sprinkling of sanding sugar on top.
We also made the “poolish” for Thursday’s ciabatta, which is a kind of bread starter, and did the mise en place for the ciabatta as well.
Finally, the challah was finished proofing and we gave it a second coat of egg wash before popping the loaves in the oven.
While the challah was baking, team 3 made a chocolate cream pie, because yum.
Finally, the challah finished cooking and we had loaves of warm bread to take home with us!
Want to know what happens next? Click here for the 4th and final day of Baking Boot Camp!