Baking, Europe, France, Pastry School, Recent, Study Abroad, Travel
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Gastronomicom Week Five: Bread Week

We have returned to bread week. And I feel a little bit like the unofficial mother of my classroom.

That wasn’t on purpose, but we got a new batch of students starting today and there were four new people in the class. Obviously I spent half of my time wondering if they were doing okay, and after repetitively asking one of the students if she was doing alright Chef told me in exasperation that I was being like a mother and that the other students were fine.


Anyway. With the chaos of adding students into our already very tentatively formed class ecosystem, we moved with the pace of slugs the entire class. Understandably the new students didn’t know where any of the tools or ingredients were–as I didn’t know even just a few weeks ago–and actions and processes I have now done a handful of times were completely new as well.

Also as you may remember, bread is not my forte. Like, not even a little bit. And after the creative happy place that was entremet week and plated dessert week (and yes, I know that there is a bit of post-traumatic-selective-remembering going on) it is a little unbalancing to find myself unsure with the bread recipes.

For example, when I look at an entremet or a plated dessert, I can get a good idea of what the recipes would look like, or vice versa. But with bread, I don’t have the slightest idea what more yeast or more flour or separating the different kinds of flour in a recipe and mixing them in separately will do the outcome. And I am totally freaked out that I didn’t wrap my dough in plastic wrap well enough and I will be greeted by dough exploding from my bowl in the morning.

Today in class we worked on four recipes, but we didn’t actually make any bread start to finish. We started by making fermented dough, which we will use throughout the rest of the week. The fermented dough needs to sit overnight before it can be used, so it was important that we do it today.

After that we made the dough for our baguette a poolish–and don’t ask me what that means because I don’t have a clear understanding myself! I will get back to you about that later on. And after letting the dough rest–we didn’t have time to complete it with the time remaining–we prepared two little recipes that will be added to bread tomorrow. One was an almond cream, which I am already thrilled about, and the other was the rehydration of some dried fruits for a stollen bread.

Of course, when that was all finished, I was put in charge of cleaning. For the week. Merci Chef for the beautiful present of being in charge a second week in a row T_T Ah well. In the end, everything is a good opportunity for learning, right?

Tuesday brought, well, more bread.

We completed the stollen that we had begun the day before with the rehydration/infusing of the dried fruits, and we also completely finished our baguettes sur poolish.

Turns out in order to be called a “baguette” the bread has to be a very specific weight, length and shape–and anything less or more than that is technically required to go by a different name. A baguette has to be 300 grams and has to maintain a relatively rectangular shape without tapering off at the ends. Since our dough was in the ballpark of 900 grams, we ended up making two actual baguettes and two small “ficelle.”

This sounds all fancy in French, but in all reality, baguette means wand and ficelle is the French word for string–so we actually just made wands and strings today in class.

The stollen was actually quite simple to make, as it started with a fairly regular bread dough and then was kneaded with the fruits from Monday as well as a variety of nuts. After the little pieces of stollen were shaped, we topped them with almond cream and more fruits and nuts before letting them rise and then bake.

 Most people probably think of large loaves of stollen, particularly around Christmas time, but it is actually a delicious bread that can come in many shapes and is great for breakfast. I think stollen is delicious, and freshly made and hot from the oven it was even more fantastic. That said, I think I would use dried fruits that were unsweetened, particularly if I were going to eat the bread for breakfast as Chef recommended, if I were to make the bread again. The combination of the candied oranges and the sweetened dried fruits added a bit too much of a sugary sweet edge to the bread for my taste.

We finished off the day by preparing the dough for our “rustic” bread recipe that we will be making tomorrow.

Wednesday things went fairly well in pastry, I was more organized with the cleaning and assigned people tasks properly. That said, the struggle is always so real. Finding the balance between being a pushover who is not listened to and being a dictator who is in control of everything is a challenge.

We worked in teams while making our breads today—one person making the ink bread and the other making the soft bread and then coming together to make the pretzel. We are still slow as molasses with the baking and the cleaning but for the most part people were in high spirits.


There were a few mistakes to be had with topping the pretzels with seasoning and egg wash and our ability to properly flour the bread baskets from yesterday (the bread completely stuck to the canvas) but everything turned out fine in the end.


The pretzels were actually made with some beer–which was new to me in baking–and I got super excited to go back home and try the recipe again with my brother’s beer. Maybe someday we will go into a business together, and have some crazy alliteration like Brehm’s Beer Bread or something even more ridiculous. It could happen.

We didn’t have time to make our sandwiches though…which I was really salty about because I once again didn’t pack a lunch in anticipation of having a beautiful sandwich.

So I ate a few slices of cucumber and a protein bar as my meal T_T Luckily for me my roomie made lobster in cuisine class and she gave me her entire plate because she is the nicest person ever. Merci Evonne ^_^

Thursday was…well, it happened.

We started by measuring the ingredients for our Kings Bread and our Flaky Bun, as well as the Paysene Pomme Bread. One recipe at a time we watched Chef make his dough and then made our own—attempting to keep our stations clean in the process.

The apple bread and flaky bun were left in the refrigerator, but the Kings Bread and the Squid Ink Bread were able to be completely finished today.

And let me tell you, they were both amazingly delicious. I thought I had anticipated what they would each taste like, but the Kings Bread is incredibly soft and has a touch of sweetness without being overpowering, and the Squid Ink Bread was incredibly nostalgic as it reminded me of a meal I ate in Korea last winter with a friend just before I returned to the US.

What I am learning from bread week is that even the most unassuming desserts and pastries have the potential to touch the hearts of the people they are shared with.

We successfully, finally, made our sandwiches as well, and thanks to Chef I had a beautiful lunch. Really, it was an amazing sandwich, and I was so proud that it was made on a baguette that I made myself!

Since we were so incredibly slow this entire week, we had to change out two of the originally planned recipes for a new recipe that Chef gave us on Friday. While I am disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to try out the original recipes, the alternate recipe was an herbed goat cheese bread which was incredible. I really didn’t expect that you could incorporate such a soft cheese so completely into the dough of a bread like that–and I’m excited by how many alterations this recipe could have to take on slightly different flavors.

With the goat cheese bread started, we also had to finish our flaky bread and the apple tart. Some parts were a bit rushed, but I was incredibly amused when we got around to preparing the flaky bread, since the final design of the bread was to braid the dough and roll it up into a ball before baking it.


And of course none of the boys in the class had even the slightest idea of how to start a braid. It was hilarious to watch.

The apple tart–paysene pomme–had to be rolled out quite thin, which was a bit of a struggle. In the end though, the tart tasted all the better for the effort.



The week ended with enough bread to last three weeks (and my roommate and I racing against the clock trying to consume everything before it went stale). I think I learned a lot this week, but let tell you, I am so excited for Entremets week! Let the complicated dessert adventures begin!



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