Friday, October 20, 2006

Bye Bye Baguettes
Our final day of Classic European Breads is both tasty and whimsical. We mix a batch of Swedish Limpa bread, a sourdough rye with molasses, fennel, coriander and orange zest. The rye and citrus is intoxicating as it bakes, and the resulting rich brown loaf smells sweet and spicy.

On Thursday, we did the prep work for authentic German salt pretzels or “Laugenbrezel.” Chef K gives us a brief history of the knotted delicacy. The pretzel icon hangs from many bakeries in Germany and has religious connotations. The traditional three holes are said to represent the Holy Trinity, and some say the knot resembles a person praying. The pretzel was invented somewhere between the 5th and 7th century by monks, ever the ingenious clerics. Children in Germany will tie a pretzel around their neck on a string on New Years as wish for prosperity. Some pretzels are first boiled in lye before baking to establish a crisp brown crust, but we use boiling water and baking soda. The auburn crust is crisp and the inside moist and chewy and we even stuff some with a grating of gruyere cheese, which is downright yummy.

We concoct Ciabatta, a pale, Italian “wet dough” that is called the “Lady Slipper” because of the lacy design effect achieved by rolling the cut dough in flour and turning it flour-side-up in the oven.

For lunch, we make pizza dough and create individual pizzas with cracker crisp crusts, topped with homemade tomato sauce, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and cheese. We all agree it is the best lunch we’ve had in a month.

We conclude four weeks of intensive labor right where we started, shaping and loading the baguettes for the evening dinner service at L’Ecole. For a moment, I stare at the not-yet-baked baguette in my hands on the bench in front of me. It actually looks like it was shaped correctly by someone who knows what he’s doing.

Chef K presents our course completion certificates, we toast each other with champagne, and she gives us a lovely “go forth and bake bread” blessing. She mentions that we Three Bread Musketeers have done the work of twelve students during this class. Our aching muscles confirm that, but our bread baskets are indeed overflowing.

© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those pretzels look so good! I checked "The Baking Bible" by Rose Beranbaum and she has a recipe for making homemade pretzels. I think I need a heavy duty mixer though and unfortunately I have to do everything by hand at the moment!

Ari (Baking and Books)