Do you need any bread? Please come over. I went to a breadmaking class yesterday and came home with a bushel of bread.
During one of my walks around the Viaduct in Auckland a couple of weeks ago, I passed by the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. Curiosity lead me to the school’s website; lack of full-time job and lack of Netflix shows to binge on led me to registering for a class.
I’m a fairly good cook, in that I can put food and spices together, slather food in olive oil, and put enough heat on foods so that they taste good and do not provide gastrointestinal distress.
I’m awful at baking. I have no patience for exact measurements. Or waiting. Which is why I signed up for the Artisan Breads course, a 5.5 hour course in which you make five different kinds of bread: basic bread, ciabatta, challah, farmer’s bread, and sourdough.
Starting from Scratch
In my class, there were only six of us (even gender split), and the instructor — a Swiss chef who previously owned, then sold, a cafe in the Auckland suburb of Herne Bay. The instructor would show us how to “cream” yeast, or make dry or fresh yeast grow, then how to add it to the flour mixture and knead into a dough. He’d do his batch, then us students would work on our own batches.
Once our basic dough was ready for the first rise, we’d move onto learning a new type of bread. The recipes provided were tweaks on a basic yeast, flour, and liquid mix. Ciabatta dough is runny and gets a slathering in olive oil, making it very pliable. Challah is a bit denser due to the addition of eggs.
During a midday break, we got to try the tutor’s rolls with some smoked fish, olives and cheese. After the break, we learned how to make some farmer’s bread, comprised of a mix of baker’s and whole wheat flour, milk and yeast.
Finally, we made some sourdough, which is a very time-intensive process. You have to make the starter of equal parts flour and water, and feed it every day like a little pet or Tamagotchi. According to our tutor, it sounds like a sourdough starter is very temperamental — it can easily grow mold, or easily not grow, or go off for whatever reason and you’d have to start again.
Luckily, we had a large bowl of starter to work from and students could take home some starter if they wanted. I chose not to, because knowing my luck, I’d probably drop it on the bus and spill along the floor as the bus travelled down Dominion Road.
Bringing Home the Yield
At the end of the session, I came home with an armful of bread: a loaf each of ciabatta, challah and farmer’s bread; six rolls; and sourdough dough that I need to make today. It was a little difficult to maneuver myself and many many breads through a Trans-Pacific Partnership protest along Queen Street, but I managed. We ended up nomming on breads while gorging on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and reluctantly making our way through House of Cards.
I enjoyed my experience at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine; I’d be eager to take on one of their wine courses or longer cooking courses.