We arrived at the King Arthur Baking Education center to a big, sun-filled room. There was a large table at the front, and three benches with stools in a row. The setup reminded me of being back in science class in high school.
We each took a stool. On our benches in front of us were aprons, measuring utensils, a bowl, and a folder containing all of our recipes for the day.
We were introduced to Susan Miller - who would be our chef-instructor for the day. She was a good sport letting us take a million pictures of her. We are the food paparazzi.
We started with pizza dough. Susan instructed us to come up to the front of the room to watch her prepare the dough. She measured the flour, salt, oil and yeast in the big metal bowl.
Susan gave us a great tip to use when baking....measuring ingredients and placing them in different spots in the bowl helps you to keep track of your place in a recipe. That way if you get distracted you can very easily visually determine what ingredient you left off on.
She instructed us to get in the habit of adding water slowly, because depending on the day, the flour, and the humidity in the air, the dough may need a little more or a little less water.
The water was mixed in slowly. Once the dough just came together, Susan had us feel it. It was very soft and shaggy.
One of the great things that Susan taught us was not just to follow a recipe for a yeast dough, but understand how it should look and feel at every step of the process to create a great result.
This definitely helped me a lot. I've tried making yeast doughs in the past, and they just come out as big old bricks. More like giant croutons than loaves of bread.
All this time, I realize that I just needed a little more water, and a LOT less bench flour.
One of the biggest mistakes home bakers make is using too much bench flour to prevent the dough from sticking while kneading. Adding too much flour will result in a tough dough, so it is important to use as little as possible. Very poetically, Susan instructed us to use a whisper of flour...
I love that.
I always though kneading had to be an aggressive process. But Susan instructed us to be gentle. We all touched the dough after the kneading. It was incredibly soft and smooth.
We went back to our benches and repeated the steps shown to us by Susan. Once she had inspected our product to confirm that we were done kneading, we were instructed to add our dough back to our bowl with a little oil, cover it with plastic, and leave it alone to rest and rise.
After the dough had doubled in size, we slid it out of the bowl and back onto our bench. We then folded it like a letter, with 3 folds. Next, we turned the dough 1/4 of a turn and folded it again....
Then put it back in the bowl for a second rise.
After the second rise/rest we slid the dough back out from the bowl, and again applied a whisper of flour to our hands. (I love saying that).
It was time to shape the dough.
First, we shaped the dough against our bench to create a small disk. This would help the dough to remain round as we stretched it. However, since this was the first time many of us shaped a pizza, Susan playfully informed us that if we couldn't get it round and it was more oblong or square it was fine. She suggested that we merely call it artisan pizza.
Using the fingers of one hand, we stretched the dough over the thumb of the opposite hand, working in a circular motion along the edge of the dough. When stretching the dough, you really only need to concentrate on the edges. Gravity will do the work on the middle for you.
Once she was done, Susan placed the dough on a wooden board coated with semolina. This prevents the pizza from sticking while it cooks. Look how round her pie is!
Mine was round in some places, but definitely artisan.
We topped our pie lightly with sauce and cheese. Susan reminded us that when doing this at home - less is more when it comes to toppings. Too many, and the pizza will be soggy and the crust won't be good.
(Rafe will now chide me for the time I added mushrooms to our pizza and got a soggy pie from our favorite pizza joint. I'll admit it - I was wrong. You win this one)
(photos above courtesy of Kristen)
Our pizzas were baked outside in the bakery's wood fired grill.
I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of getting one of these into my apartment....I would have to get rid of my bed, and sleep on my couch....and somehow finance purchasing this expensive oven from France...but I assure you, the final product will be worth all this work.
After leaving VT I knew I would be traveling directly to Vegas, so I put all of my KAF items in the freezer. I didn't want to miss out on eating my delicious creations.
I'm enjoying my leftover pizza for dinner tonight. YUM.