Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Parisian Breads Class

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I signed up for the Parisian Breads Class at French Culinary Institute. I envisioned a classroom environment somewhere in between Julia Child's Les Trois Gourmandes and a Hells Kitchen situation with Gordon Ramsay. Either way, I was pretty darn intimidated to say the least.

Day One: Baguettes, Bordelais, Le Pain de Mie

Not knowing whether the chef would resemble the likes of Child or Ramsay, I aired on the side of caution and decided against bringing my cell phone into the classroom. For that reason I don't have photos from day one except for those I took after class. Such a good little pupil! Of course one of the first announcements they made was that we were more than welcome to take pictures, but by that time I was already elbow deep in pain bordelais dough.

One of the best parts of the class was the massive quantity of bread we got to take home. Each day I would fill a gigantic flour sack with whatever we baked off and lug it back to the office, leaving an intoxicating trail of fresh bread smell through the streets of Soho.

It was a week dedicated entirely to bread. Our dinners revolved around whichever bread I was bringing home. On Monday night Steve and I made this delicious Sabih recipe with one of the 12 baguettes I baked.
Pain bordelais is a large country bread found throughout Bordeaux. It was a beautiful sourdough with 90% AP, 2% whole wheat, and 8% course rye flour.


Pain de mie is your basic white sandwich bread. To be honest I didn't sample it, although I do still have a couple loaves in my freezer... I'm not a huge fan of enriched breads and there was so much else to try!


Day Two: Le Pain Viennois, Fougasse Aux Olives, Croissants

I was feeling pretty confident by day two. I was so eager to get back into the classroom that I skipped my morning coffee! Kids, don't try this at home...

Le Pain Viennois is a small snack bread. After mixing all of the ingredients in one of FCI's giant mixers and letting it bulk ferment for about 30 minutes, I divided the dough into 150 gram pieces and shaped into mini baguettes. Score and egg washed immediately after shaping, then let final rise for 2 hours.

Egg washed again before baking at 425° for 35-40 minutes.

On to the crowning glory... It was so much fun baking croissants in an industrial kitchen! The unlimited countertop space and oversized rolling pins allowed me to really pay attention to what the dough was doing which helped improve my technique.

Croissants are made with a yeast risen laminated dough, which means unsalted butter is layered in between a sweetened white flour dough giving the final product a light flaky texture. The croissant dough I made on Tuesday had 25 layers.

This next picture is the book fold and at that point in the laminating process we were 9 layers in. We then let the dough relax in the fridge for about 30 minutes before rolling it back out to 32" x 8" and folding in thirds: 9 x 3 = 27 - the 2 spots where dough was touching dough = 25 layers!

Cut into 4" base isosceles triangles.

I loved this little Eiffel Tower trick! You elongate the triangle and widen the base so that it rolls up nicely.

And of course chocolate croissants...

I also learned how to make fougasse, a traditional Provencal bread that is cut to resemble a leaf or ladder. It's great for crust-lovers because the cuts maximize surface area making for an especially crusty bread. We did a classic variation with marinated olives and thyme but you could easily substitute with any filling.

We did the final shaping and made cuts directly on the oven loader so that we could throw them right in.


Day Three: Brioche, Pain Au Levain Raisins Et Noix

I had made brioche and sourdough with raisins and walnuts before, but making them in mass quantities was completely different. It was great shaping practice by doing boule after boule.

This class really made me want to pick up a few more bread supplies, one being a banneton proofing basket. They leave such a pretty decorative mark on the loaves.

I didn't get any pictures of the brioche loaf in tact but here's a picture of the french toast we made for brunch. You can only store so much bread so it's also key to know how to use your day old bread.

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