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Monday, May 29, 2017

Free bread making class - French and Italian Artisan Breads at Sydney TAFE

Bread making class at Sydney TAFE

So you think croissants are from France? Think again. It's one of the first misconceptions our teacher, Laurie Donnelly, clears up at the start of our bread making class. Croissants originated in Austria, not France. And French fries? They're from Belgium. And another surprise? Sydney TAFE holds fee-free government-subsidised classes. Today's Artisan bread making class is one of them.

Laurie Donnelly with dough at the Italian and French Artisan Bread Making Class at Sydney TAFE
Our teacher for the day, Laurie Donnelly portioning dough

There are twelve of us today, assembled on a Saturday morning at the Ultimo campus. Laurie talks us though the meaning of artisan bread, a skill of making bread by hand. "In the old days," he says in a thick English accent, "all bread was artisan. We didn't have machines making them."

Making bread dough in the commercial mixer
Making bread dough in the commercial mixer

Today's class, focussing on Italian and French artisan breads, condenses a typical six week course into just under six hours. That means we don't have time to make individual doughs, instead using two that have already been pre-proofed and making one as a group in class.

One of the biggest bread making tips from Laurie is the importance of water temperature. Too cold and it will impede or kill the yeast. The optimal water temperature is 13C. He also says the best bread flour comes from Canada, prized because of its high protein (about 12-14%).

Laurie demonstrating how to knock down the dough
Laurie demonstrating how to knock down the dough 

Over the course of the day we will proof and shape seven different breads before baking them in commercial ovens.

Knocking down the dough during the Italian and French Artisan Bread Making Class at Sydney TAFE
Knocking down dough

It's a hands-on class with students working in pairs at stainless steel workbenches.

Scoring bread dough into pagnotta
Scoring the dough for pagnotta, an Italian village loaf

As we progress through the breads, Laurie demonstrates how we need to knock down, fold, shape and score each bread.

Tabatiere bread ready for baking
Tabatiere bread ready for the oven

The breads are transferred into the ovens using a pizza oven peel. The ferocity of the ovens, including the steam function and steam release valves, create major envy.

Laurie has another tip for home bakers: when your oven meets the require baking temperature, it should sit there for at least 30 minutes undisturbed to stabilise the temperature. That means when you open the oven to add your items for baking, the temperature is less likely to drop significantly, ensuring your bread will rise spectacularly.

Making cuts into dough to make artisan bread
Making cuts into dough to make a zigzag loaf

We gently stretch dough into ciabatta, the Italian word for slipper that makes so much more sense when you're faced with the elongated dough shape. We use a commercial bread shaper that magically spits out rolled baguettes.

Pagnotta dough ready to bake
Pagnotta dough ready for the oven

Scoring the dough is more stressful than it looks, requiring surgical precision and emergency room speed, trying to make cuts that are clean, even and at exactly the right angle to allow puff without it collapsing.

Golden baked pagnotta bread
Golden baked pagnotta bread

But it works! Our breads emerge from the oven looking lofty, tanned and smelling incredible.

Baked tabatiere French artisan bread
Baked tabatiere

Bread dough rolled out into pizza bases
Pizza dough rolled out

Some of our dough is rolled out into pizzas for lunch.

Assembling our pizzas
Assembling our pizzas with salami, mushroom, cheese and mozzarella

Pizzas ready for lunch during our bread making class
Pizzas ready for lunch

Freshly baked pizzas are just what we need after a long day of baking.

Aeration inside the ciabatta
Fluffy holes inside the ciabatta

The biggest hit of the day is the ciabatta. The most important thing about ciabatta is the air bubbles inside, creating a light and airy fluffiness. Eating this fresh from the oven, with its soft interior and slightly crusty edges, is pure bliss.

By the end of the day, each student could take home up to 12 loaves of baked bread. Anything unwanted is donated to charity.

I attended this course after noticing a Facebook share from a friend and I'm so glad I did. It definitely gives you a greater appreciation for bread and the work involved every loaf. I also ate several slices of bread while writing this post. I had to.

Baked Italian and French artisan breads

Fully subsidised classes at Sydney TAFE are available for Australian citizens and residents. You can view a list of free courses online as well as follow the Sydney TAFE Hospitality Facebook page for notices on upcoming courses.

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/29/2017 02:01:00 am


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