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Come Bake With Me!

I am excited to announce that I will hold a bread baking workshop here in my Mountain View kitchen on Saturday, March 5.

– Update: The workshop is now sold out. Please contact me if you would like to be added to the waiting list, or to my mailing list for announcements of future workshops! –

What:   Home bread baking workshop

When:   Saturday, March 5, 2011; 9 a.m. to approximately 5 p.m.

Where:   My kitchen in Mountain View, California

Why:   Bread, learning, fun

I have already shared a lot of what I know about baking bread on this blog. But there are some things you just can’t convey with words and photos — you have to get your hands in the dough!

In this day-long workshop, we will bake two breads, one mixed by hand and one in a stand mixer. I will show you how I gauge dough consistency and gluten development, and shape boules and batards, with plenty of extra dough on hand for shaping practice. We will also talk about selection of ingredients, basic bread science, and setting up a home oven for hearth baking.

I will even feed you lunch!

If you’re interested, please contact me for pricing and details on how to sign up.

I hope to be baking with you soon!

– Update: The workshop is now sold out. Please contact me if you would like to be added to the waiting list, or to my mailing list for announcements of future workshops! –

Pizza in a Countertop Oven

If you have space for a countertop oven, I highly recommend one. It can replace your toaster, but a good-sized one can also do most of the things your regular oven can do — roast your chicken, broil your fish, bake your cookies, toast your nuts — using only a fraction of the energy of your big oven.

And if you have a baking stone, you can even bake a loaf of bread, or a pizza sized just right for one or two people.

I adored my Cuisinart Brick Oven when it worked, but after I had two of them quit on me in the space of three years (the top element died in one, the door spring in the other) it was time for a change. The Breville Smart Oven came to live here a few weeks ago, and the first hoop I had it jump through, other than toasting bagels (at which it performs marvelously, by the way) was my favorite white pizza — potatoes with rosemary and garlic.

For pizza, the hotter the oven the better, and a stone is essential for a crisp crust. The Cuisinart oven went up to 500F, but most countertop ovens, including the Breville, max out at 450F. Even so, I still got a pretty nice pizza, on the stone I saved from the defunct Cuisinart. Preheating the oven/stone for at 30 minutes gets the stone good and hot; skimp on this step and you risk an underdone crust.

Then there’s the question of how to get the pizza onto the stone in one piece. My regular peels are too big for the little oven, and my giant spatula is too small for a 10-inch pizza. Corrugated cardboard to the rescue! I cut a piece just wide enough to fit into the oven cavity. After rolling the crust out on the counter, I dusted my homemade peel generously with a mixture of white and semolina flours, and assembled the pizza on it. It slid off and onto the stone like a charm.

Get the recipe…

SFBI Video: Shaping a Baguette

The San Francisco Baking Institute, from which I graduated earlier this year, has launched a series of baking videos as a companion to its comprehensive textbook, Advanced Bread and Pastry.

I can’t comment on the series in general as I haven’t seen it, and there is an annual access fee, but one of the free sample videos is on shaping a baguette. It’s worth a look. It explains the process in clear detail, but starts from the point where the dough (about 350 grams) has already been preshaped into a cylinder.

Read on for how to preshape the dough…

This Will Amaze and Delight You

World Class Baking

Mike Zakowski loads breads and rolls into the oven.

Last month, when many people had World Cup Soccer on their minds, I was privileged to meet a small group of hugely talented bakers who came together at the San Francisco Baking Institute to prepare for a very different world cup: the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. In the 2012 “World Cup of Bread Baking,” which is said to be the Olympics of the baking world, teams from twelve countries will compete for Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals as they promote international awareness of baking as a highly skilled craft.

Craig Ponsford, Chariman of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, sponsor of the USA team, graciously spent some time discussing the history and structure of this prestigious competition.

The Coupe du Monde was founded in 1992 by Christian Vabret of the Ecole Française de Boulangerie d’Aurillac to honor the art and craft of artisan baking, promote baking education and technical skill, and foster international goodwill and appreciation of traditional regional artisan breads and techniques. It is held in Paris every three to four years in conjunction with the trade show Europain. The previous Coupe du Monde’s top three teams are invited back to participate in the next event. Other countries must compete for the remaining nine slots through four regional qualifying competitions, the Louis LeSaffre Cups.

Jeremey Gadouas works on Viennoiserie.

(Read more…)

Kneading Conference 2010

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan Maine, where bakers, farmers, millers, teachers, students, and friends came together for two days to celebrate grain and to bake and break bread together .

The keynote speakers, author and master baker Jeffrey Hamelman and sustainable agriculture leader Fred Kirschenmann, gave thoughtful and compelling talks.

All baking was done in wood-fired ovens…

(Read more…)

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  • Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king.
    --Louis Bromfield

  • a few of my baking books

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