First thing in class today, we scaled and pre-shaped our baguettes. I scaled three 12 ounce baguettes and had just enough leftovers for a mini one. After pre-shaping, we left the dough on a lightly dusted flour surface to bench. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we shaped the baguettes. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous! I just feel very out of my comfort zone when it comes to bread and sensitive dough. Thankfully I had taken very detailed notes, so deciphering them enabled me to remember the precise way Chef Lora had made the baguette the day before. When I finished shaping the bread, I felt a little bit overly concerned with my seemingly less-than-perfect baguette. Chef Lora reminded me that this is my first time and this is the time to make all the mistakes. Looking back, even now, I can already tell you things I would do differently so produce a more aesthetically pleasing piece of work. After the bread proofed, I slashed it with a double edged razor. I think I caught Chef laughing at me out of the corner of my eye. I imagine that I had a very serious look on my face as I stared at my razorblade and my dough. She came over and observed while I cut into my fragile baguettes. Cutting through dough sounds easy enough eh? Well, it has to be done properly! Too deep, no good. Too shallow, no good.The next step was the most exciting! I preheated the oven just after placing a bread stone on the bottom rack. Chef helped me shimmy the parchment containing my baguettes onto the stone. At the same time, I was throwing ice on the bottom of the oven to create steam. I also sprayed above the bread to create a more steam. This is essential for baguettes because you don’t want the crust of the dough to harden before the baguette has time to reach its size capacity. It makes for a nice, crispy crust and a soft, full center. I’m sorry, but can’t you imagine Giada saying the sentence I just wrote—all the while showing her pearly whites? Ha! The only other task for the day was preparing our milk bread dough and leaving it in the fridge for overnight fermentation. I was running a bit behind, but Chef asked me whether I would calculate baker’s percentages (I’m not even going to try to explain what this is) for a recipe of pita bread we will be making on Monday. It’s actually a bit time consuming to do, but it makes it a lot easier to work with recipe formulation. Okay, I’ll explain. It’s basically finding out the percentages of ingredients based on the heaviest weighted ingredient. The strange part is that our percentages exceed 100%. It makes the math easier. So, are you confused yet? Anyway, I appreciated the trust of Chef Lora and gladly worked out the math.
The latter part of class consisted of eating! Chef made several kinds of bread for us to taste. Sabastian brought some prosciutto which we sandwiched between 100% naturally leavened sour dough bread which contained fresh olives. Armine brought Armenian cheese, basil, tomatoes, cucumber (I stayed away), and a strawberry fruit spread (which she ended up giving to me at the end of the day—so kind!). I brought Dutch chocolate to garnish our fresh bread and balsamic vinegar to mix with the extra virgin olive oil already in Lab 2. I couldn’t stop eating! I have to make a conscious effort to stop before I made a fool of myself. Before the end of the day, we were asked to present our baguettes. Chef Lora grades differently, it seems. We looked at each other the student’s baguettes and talked about what went right and what when wrong. I liked this method because we were able to continue learning and it was nice to see exactly what the outcome is when something is done right and something is done wrong. When she reached mine she didn’t say much.
“Whose are these?”
“They’re mine Chef.”
“They look good, consistent in shape, great color, pretty good slashes. Yeah, I like them. Very good!”
It was relieving! I felt as though she would find something wrong with them. Even though there wasn’t much said, I can still see what I can do better next go around. I really think I may have lucked out, that’s all.
When I arrived home, I stayed in uniform so I could deliver the extra baguettes to neighbors before beginning on our Italian feast. I took pictures before delivering and probably wasted too much time trying to decide which pictures were the best. We had spaghetti since the kids only really like red sauces. I cut thin slices from the baguette and made bruschetta—thankfully Yolanda bough fresh basil at the store. FYI, fresh basil is my absolute favorite herb! Needless to say, it was a delicious meal. I spent the rest of the evening studying and catching up. It didn’t take too much longer for me to reach my limit and fall fast asleep!