Monday, September 20, 2010

KAF Baking Education Center

Hi my name is Daisy, I am a food blogger who has never made pizza. Up until Saturday afternoon, that sentence rang true, and probably would still if I had not been presented with the opportunity to participate in classes at the The King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center. At KAF they welcome all bakers no matter what your level of expertise or interest. Some local Boston Bloggers and I were privileged to learn three different recipes: pizza dough, multi-seed cracker bread and whole wheat double fudge brownies. Throughout the afternoon we watched a series of demonstrations by our instructor Susan Miller who has been the director of the center since its opening in 2000. Susan would gather us around her station at the front of the classroom to demonstrate a few steps, show us proper techniques and offer helpful tips before sending us off to our stations to execute, stopping by to visit and help us out along the way. She must have felt like a celebrity - with ten members of the paparazzi snapping her photo at any given moment during the demonstration sessions. I realize it must have been somewhat daunting, but she continued flawlessly with the task at hand, teaching some invaluable lessons to her students eager to capture it all on camera. The pizza dough lesson was interwoven throughout the afternoons recipes, as even us non-bakers know, it takes time for dough to rise. For simplicities sake, I will flow through the pizza making in its entirety - beginning with the first steps of adding your dry ingredients to the very last step of the day which was baking them in the wood fired oven. The ingredients required for the dough are minimal, and creating it much simpler than I ever imagined.
-2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) olive oil
- About 1/2 - 3/4 cup (4-6 ounces) warm water.First we were taught the propor way to measure flour. Who knew there was a right way and a wrong way? A true cup of flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces and the trick to obtaining the propor measurement is to fluff the flour gently and sprinkle it into a single dry-cup measure (do not pack the flour) and scrape off the excess at the top with a straight edge. (The back of your hand is not a straight edge.) Second, we learned that when combining the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, pour them in separate piles so you can always remember where you left off should you be interrupted. (Or run off to snap pictures of other bloggers in action.)
Third, it is important to remember when stirring in the water, add the last few tablespoons slowly to determine if they are needed. The consistency of the dough can vary depending on preference. A wet dough is more challenging to work with, but can prove easier to stretch. Once the ingredients are mixed thoroughly, the shaggy mass of dough can be removed from the bowl and onto a lightly floured work surface for kneading. Flour should be incorporated sparingly, only when needed. Kneading dough is a gentle process involving three steps - fold towards you, push away from you, rotate 90 degrees and repeat until smooth and shiny. "Beating up" the dough is strongly discouraged and to many of our surprises, exerting force and pressure is not the proper technique. Then, we allowed the dough to rise in an oiled-covered bowl until doubled in bulk. At one point we took the dough out, folded it into quarters like a business letter, and placed it back in the bowl to rise some more. Once it rose completely it was time to shape the pizza! Achieving a round disk is easier said than done. Susan encouraged creativity in our dough shape stating if they didn't turn out round they would simply be dubbed "Artisan" Pizzas. We began by patting our dough into a thin disk, then picking it up and rotating at the edges, stretching them until thin and slowly moving the dough wider apart. Once the desired thickness was achieved we laid the the dough on a semolina covered board, shaping it a little more, before adding the toppings for Pizza Margherita.
Less is more when it comes to toppings. You don't want to overload the pizza with sauce or cheese which can cause the already thin dough to sag or even break. Then we baked the pizza in KAF's state of the art ($10,000!) outdoor woodfired oven. Outside inhaling the crisp Vermont air, the smells and sights of our pizzas rising in the oven and enjoying the surrounding company was a great way to end the afternoon. Check out my final product - sprinkled with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. In the beginning stages of that lovely artisan pizza, as my first batch of homemade dough was rising, we split off in pairs to create our multi-seed crackerbread and double fudge brownies. Equally as informative and worthwhile education sessions, feel free to to click on the links should you want the full recipes. Susan began by explaining that whole wheat flour goes rancid after 6 months - and passed around an example of flour gone bad (it smells) and clean flour (odorless for the most part.) This was an enjoyable exercise that had quite a few group members admitting they had probably been unknowingly using rancid flour. Epiphanies were exclaimed - "No wonder that loaf of bread I tried to bake failed miserably!" Susan also gave us a lesson on the anatomy of a wheat berry before she sent us back off to work. I teamed up with Meghan where we shared the measuring and mixing duties in between snapping pictures of each other in action. From one large ball of whole wheat dough, to smaller more manageable pieces,
to rolled out strips seasoned with elements such as fresh cut herbs from the KAF garden and sesame seeds. They were ready to be baked to a crisp....in this oven.
Check out the video. I know I've exposed you to a lot in this post, but if you're not seriously bored or I haven't already lost you - watch! It's pretty neat.

Finished crackers!
Then it was time for brownies, made using ingredients such as whole wheat flour, espresso powder and bittersweet chocolate chips.
I thought the baking brownies from scratch could be effectively summed up in pictures! We were asked to write our names on our trays. Someone cracked me up by writing this instead:
What a day my friends, what.a.day.The culture embodied at King Arthur Flour is one of respect and integrity, from the products they sell to the atmosphere they create. Susan and Allison's honest enthusiasm, kindness and generosity fostered a meaningful and rewarding experience and I can't thank them all enough. It took a special commitment and dedicated efforts to host us, allowing the opportunity to learn about the company and participate in Baking Education.

Now all I need is a free weekend or even weeknight to allow myself some time in the kitchen with the generously provided flour products, mixes and new cookbook!

23 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, that's so awesome - I'd heard of the baking classes at KAF but have never gone...It's so fun to see another blogger doing it!! I don't think it's all too far away from me :)
    I love all of the photos and information. And am sorry to say I'm a little worried I've used rancid flour! I think it may have been kicking around for more than 6 months, back when I wasn't baking as often as I now do!! whoops!

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  2. Oh my goodness, this looks super-duper fun!!! And delicious..

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  3. Look at you making some homemade pizza!!! As someone who has spun her fair share of pizzas, I'm very proud! and kinda jealous that you got to eat it all after haha :D

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  4. What an awesome experience and so much fun making pizza, it looks super delicious!

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  5. I always use KAF - it is the best. I am in love with that awesome pizza oven! How cool would it be to cook everything in there?

    I just need a much larger house??

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  6. I love that you have a video of Susan putting the crackers in the oven... that was so cool!

    You and Meghan are making me seriously jealous with your picture collages. I need to figure out how to do that.

    Loved reading your recap of our fabulous day of baking!

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  7. What a great event. Making pizza at home is such a rewarding endeavor. Awesome job with yours.

    Peace!

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  8. Can I get that oven in my backyard? Seriously! That thing is awesome.

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  9. I am seriously so excited for the weekend to come so I can crack open my new KAF cookbook and start baking!

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  10. That's one good looking pizza, Daisy! I just made pizza 10 minutes ago and I keep seeing pizza all over blogworld :D

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  11. what a fun class and the pizza looks amazing

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  12. oooo la la! look at you go! i'm so proud! :) everything looks amazing! thank you so much for sharing all the tips and guiding us through those delicious recipes

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  13. Those brownies DO look like the best brownies ever!! Too bad they'd probably add 10 lbs to my butt! So let me ask you, when you talked about measuring flour, don't they really sift flour anymore??

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  14. Yummy and bravo!! I would totally eff up the yeast thing and the bread/dough wouldn't rise lol

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  15. Wow, so much fun...and everything looks so yummie! What a great time you must have had :-)

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  16. Thank you for the sweet comment today! And you know what? I think I might have an idea for ANOTHER blog... can't wait to share it with you!

    xo

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  17. What a fun time! Looks like you learned a lot and had a delicious time doing it! =)

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  18. Great post! I love seeing everyone's recap of this! Everything looks amazing and I love all the photos of everyone with their cameras! :)

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  19. come visit me and now and show me your pizza skills. That outdoor woodfired oven looked AMAZING!! I wanna cook together :)

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  20. your day looks AMAZING! and the food you made looks SO delicious! really makes me want to take some cooking classes

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  21. What fun learning how to make pizza at KAF especially in a brick oven...outside no less! You don't remember this but, when you were 3 yrs. old you were sitting on the counter covered in flour helping me make a pizza! Love, Mom

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  22. SO glad to hear you had a good time. The weather was just beautiful for your visit, and it looks like the pizzas were beautiful too!
    ~MaryJane @ KAF

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