Wednesday morning was my first day in the long anticipated Intro to Baking and Pastry Class! This class is so different from the other culinary classes – literally an entire other world just one floor below us.
We started the day with almost two hours of lecture, but it was needed since none of us have any foundation of knowledge on the topic. You may think you know a lot about baking, but in two days I’ve figured out very quickly that commercial baking is nothing like baking in your home kitchen. It’s not just different equipment, it’s using ingredients like compressed yeast, dehydrated milk solids, understanding the reactions of glutamen and gliaden to produce gluten – and so much more. Look how different the baking classrooms are too – all butcher’s block tables with walls of walk-in ovens – no stoves, sink, spice racks, etc.!
The other cool thing about the Baking & Pastry classrooms is that they are on the first floor, where the classrooms have floor to ceiling windows to the street (modeled for you by Mylan)! This way people can walk by and see what the students are doing all day long, and we have a nice view of the sunny outdoors!
Onto the baking, we were broken into teams, and my team started on making French Baguettes. First we had to use these old school baker’s scales to weigh out all the ingredients.
And we added all of them (in a specific order) to this GIGANTIC commercial mixer. The picture does no justice to how big this thing is! Too heavy to pick up, so they are on rolling carts that we wheel all around the room.
We watched our dough whir and whir around the dough hook until it became a big sticky blob that was ready to rest on the table.
It came out and rested, and was then broken off into smaller pieces and rolled into baguette shapes. The dough needed to rest (or proof, in baking terminology) again, so we covered it in plastic so that it wouldn’t dry out, and then we waited. Baking involves a lot of waiting…
Meanwhile, the odd numbered teams were making Whole Wheat Rolls, so I checked in on them. The used a dough cutter to section their giant dough blob into 36 tiny sections, and then rolled them into seamless balls. All of the rolls were then painted with an egg wash before going into the proofing box to rest a little longer.
After proofing, one more egg wash, and about 20 minutes of baking, we had these!
Beautiful and delicious golden brown whole wheat rolls – crunchy on the outside, and chewy and hot inside. I am not going to allow myself to stand around and eat bread and pastries for nine days, so I’m exercising portion control and restrain from day one. I split one of these with a classmate so that I could taste, but not over-indulge.
The baguettes were proofed by now, and spread out into their full shape in the
baguette trays. We used razor blades to stiple the bread, cutting slices at the point where it would burst to give it some relief, and help it retain its shape.
Mylan showed off her wonderful stipling, and Dan drooled over the thought of warm gooey baguettes to come…
Into the oven quickly, so we didn’t lose heat, and back out 20 minutes later looking golden and perfect!
It was a fun first day in Baking & Pastry – much different from the typical crazy fast pace of the culinary classroom. I found that I’m actually really good at baking! The key to being a successful baker is doing perfectly accurate math, and following directions – both my strong suits! If I wasn’t 28 years old already, I would seriously consider staying another year at JWU to get my baking and pastry degree. But since I’m old, and need a career, I’ll do my best to soak it all up in my nine days as a Baking & Pastry student!