The 5-Day Bread Diet (A Week-Long DCF Special): Days 1 & 2

Four days straight of short posts from the bread workshop I’m attending this week.

The 5-Day Bread Diet: Days 1 & 2
The 5-Day Bread Diet: Day 3
The 5-Day Bread Diet: Day 4
The 5-Day Bread Diet: Day 5

My bread love is well-documented on this blog – the number of recipes I’ve shared for bread alone is tremendous, and I’ve also talked about the kinds of bread I like. I taught myself to make bread when I was in culinary school and this is the first time I’ve ever taken a bread-making class. Now I get to see if what I taught myself and what I’ve been doing all these years is correct. Baking is important to me and this time, I want to know more about bread and baking it better.

Being at this intensive bread baking workshop (hands-on; 5 days straight, 9 hours per day) makes me feel like I’m back in culinary school: the classroom setup, the work stations, and the different kinds of personalities found there. But that’s another story. It almost feels like a strange homecoming of sorts for me, this baking lab; the cool, recycled air thick with the smells of baking bread (the most fragrant smell in the world, in my opinion – the bread, not the recycled air) and the frenetic activity coupled with aching feet and sore backs.

This week, my days start even earlier than they usually do – I’ve got to get my workout and breakfast in before I go dashing out the door at 7:45am. I don’t get home until after 6pm. After a full day of humoring yeast and kneading bread dough, I’m tired and smell like butter, but I feel extremely fulfilled. I’ve eaten nothing but bread the past two days and I’m starved for protein but there’s always next week.

I’ll only reveal on Friday where I’m taking this workshop and who my chef-instructor is. You may probably already guess from the photos but hey, I’m not wrecking the surprise.

Day 1: Art & Science of Bread Baking, Quick Breads vs Yeast Breads

Every workshop begins with the basics and bread is no different. After a lengthy lecture on the bread making process, the class is divided into groups, each one responsible for making various types of quick breads. These breads – muffins, scones, and the like, are called so because they’re chemically leavened (with baking powder/soda).

Making fruit scones.
The fruit scones, baked with burnished edges.
Various scones and biscuits.

Day 2: Yeast Breads: Straight vs Sponge Method, Lean Vs Rich Dough

A sponge is a mixture composed of water, flour, and yeast that’s allowed to sit (pre-ferment) for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours before it’s added to a yeast dough. It jumpstarts the fermentation process and improves the flavor of the bread. There’s the sponge (top row, middle) for the ensaymada that I’m making today.
This is my very first time to make ensaymada and I’m thrilled. But it’s a soft and sticky dough that resists being kneaded. I have to resist the temptation to add more flour. That blue plastic I’m holding is called a bench scraper or dough scraper. It’s a great help in lifting the dough from the work counter.
There’s my ensaymada proofing (final fermentation) on the bakers rack, coiled and sitting in its traditional molds. Below, some dinner rolls that another group made, golden in its egg yolk wash.
Today, I refined my technique for forming rolls. I’m baking them in a round pan so they’ll bake up in a circular shape, sort of like a flower. Next to it, my huge ensaymada done Malolos- style.
A group has baked panettone in cylindrical molds. This is a traditional festival Italian bread studded with dried fruits. It has a wonderful citrus note from orange zest.
Sprinkling powdered sugar on Stollen, a German bread made at Christmas. It’s loaded with dried fruits and nuts.

My Malolos-style ensaymada with “Dalmatian spots,” as my chef-instructor called it – I was so excited that I added the cheese too soon and so it burned. But I’m still so proud of what I did today, my ensaymada was soft and buttery – “… really Lori, what an ensaymada should taste like,” says one of my classmates. When I got home, I brushed the whole thing with more butter, added more sugar, topped it with queso de bola, and served it to my Bin and Boo. “5 out of 5, Mom,” Boo tells me.
”Beautifully formed, turned out really well,” my chef-instructor says of my dinner rolls. That compliment (and these rolls!) made my day.
A cross-section of my ensaymada. I want to perfect these in time for Christmas.
Just a little of the wealth of bread our class made today.

Tomorrow: Day 3 – Classic European Breads

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