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One Day in Johnson & Wales BPA1100


Chris Amirault
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I have the fortune of living in Providence RI, a wonderful city for food for a many reasons. I have the good fortune of knowing Mitch Stamm, aka boulak, an Associate Instructor in the International Baking and Pastry Institute at Johnson & Wales University.

Today, I had the terrific, happy fortune to spend a day in Chef Stamm's course, "Principles and Techniques of Bread Production," with a crack cohort of first-year students. What follows are captioned photographs of my experience there, with some additional information provided in a post-class discussion with four students. (Thanks to Mitch, of course, to all of the students, and to Julia Van Pelt, Cathleen Van Sicklin, Stephanie Barnard, and especially Sheri True, who organized that discussion.)

My contribution to the products depicted was minimal: a few rolls rolled, some garlic minced for focaccia, and the odd task here or there. Mainly, I tried to stay out of the way of the efficient, intelligent teams, throwing out a bit of garbage or chiming in about laminated dough thickness now and then. My lack of involvement helped to prevent any disastrous educational travesty, I'm glad to say.

It's my hope that this topic will encourage members to discuss not only the particulars of bread production but also the issues raised by the faculty and students of Johnson & Wales concerning culinary education and pedagogy. With that, let's begin.

Here's our room, on the Harborside campus of J&W -- which just so happens to be three blocks from my house.

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That Adamatic oven is a convection oven that fits those dozen-slot (?) baking racks that rotate within the oven. To the right are the three deck steam ovens. Yes, those are all Boos wood block tables:

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I got there around 6:15a, but by 6:45a, the joint was jumping:

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This was a first-year cohort taking their final course of the year. BPA1100 is a lab course, and twenty students rose early on a Monday for class. They immediately got to work, scaling their ingredients for later use and plotting their morning.

On today's agenda we had the following:

  • pan francese con biga
    whole wheat bread
    pretzels
    challah
    kaiser rolls
    brioche
    danish
    focaccia

The students work in teams of four -- unless someone's a no-show:

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As you can see from the photo, the students ideally interact as a team, figuring out the plan for the (busy) morning and executing the various tasks. Here's one group forming the brioche dough into drumstick form prior to the final shaping:

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Pretzels, baguettes, whole wheat loaves, and others all require slight deviations on final formation. With pretzels, students worked the dough into the familiar trifold shape:

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Julia gives her challah an egg wash:

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Later, Julia stretches and folds her baguette dough:

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Edward and Sheri discuss the last steps for the lye-dipped pretzels:

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Mitch and Edward discuss the lousy, finger-tip burning ramifications of failing to prep the parchment for sticky pretzel dough:

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Mitch seemed to be everywhere at once, an opinion shared by the students to whom I talked. Over the course of the morning, he gave useful, pointed assistance to every student at least a dozen times. As a college professor myself, I find his dedication and diligence admirable. Here he is in a demo forming baguettes:

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Later, Mitch helped students to fabricate brioche spheres:

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Much of the day was devoted to explaining the use of the dough lamination machine, which I coveted:

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Mitch explains that properly formed pretzels "pray for our soldiers":

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I learned more about baguettes today than I had in my previous 44 years. Here's Mitch scoring shaped baguettes:

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Mitch explains why a tightly rounded dough rises with greater happiness:

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The end of class was devoted to critique of the product.

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This was a wonderful moment, in which Mitch explained why imperfect razor angle and cut depth resulted in a subpar baguette:

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The entire day was an ennobling experience for me, thanks both to Mitch and his students. Chef himself is available for questions, and I'll do what I can not to botch the easy ones.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I guess I'll start off since I am completely coveting your opportunity Chris, and at the same time I'm attempting to find a way to integrate bread production into my hectic daily schedule. Specifically, I'm wanting to bake from my sourdough starter daily as a matter of discipline (and ultimately sales).

My question is: This past year seems to be (at least to my learning) the year that we decided to let our doughs sit in the fridge for longer periods of time to ferment and improve in taste. Does chef do this? How does this stack against tradition? And geez, my spouse is going to kill me if I take any more fridge space - tips!?

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This was a wonderful moment, in which Mitch explained why imperfect razor angle and cut depth resulted in a subpar baguette:

gallery_19804_437_71910.jpg

Thanks for documenting your day at J&W.

What exactly did Mitch have to say about imperfect razor angle and cut depth?

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Mitch can answer both questions far better than I, but here are a couple of responses for now:

My question is:  This past year seems to be (at least to my learning) the year that we decided to let our doughs sit in the fridge for longer periods of time to ferment and improve in taste.  Does chef do this?  How does this stack against tradition? 

I can't speak to tradition (though Mitch, just back from a week in Paris, surely can), but the structures of daily classes followed by three-day weekends require more time in the fridge for doughs. Mitch has been fiddling around with the effects of time out and in the fridge for all of the doughs, especially (I think) the baguettes.

And geez, my spouse is going to kill me if I take any more fridge space - tips!?

That walk-in seems to do the trick!

What exactly did Mitch have to say about imperfect razor angle and cut depth?

Basically, if the cut isn't sufficiently deep and angled, the pressure from the bread's expansion in the oven isn't released, resulting in tighter texture. Properly deep and angled cuts allow the gas to expand fully, for the diameter to be consistently large along the entire baguette, and thus for much better texture, feel, and thus taste.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Mitch explains why a tightly rounded dough rises with greater happiness...

Chris,

Can you expand a little on this comment, please. Thanks!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Mitch explains why a tightly rounded dough rises with greater happiness...

Chris,

Can you expand a little on this comment, please. Thanks!

while i'm a firm believer in surface tension giving structure to hand formed bread, how does this compare with 'no knead' recipes that don't require any shaping at all? i know they're baked in a vessel, but certainly not in a loaf pan. and even doughs like brioche that are baked in a loaf pan are shaped first (with proper tension and technique) before being placed in the pan to proof.

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My question is:  This past year seems to be (at least to my learning) the year that we decided to let our doughs sit in the fridge for longer periods of time to ferment and improve in taste.  Does chef do this?  How does this stack against tradition?  And geez, my spouse is going to kill me if I take any more fridge space - tips!?

No expert at all here . . . but I did see something on TV about this year's winner of the "best baguette" contest in France (winner supplies the French president with bread for the year in addition to receiving fame and accolades) and it was mentioned that the winner had departed from tradition by fermenting the dough for 30 hours as opposed to the traditional 3 hours. Here is info about the contest, but it's in French so I have no idea if what I just said is accurate! Grand Prix de la Meilleure Baguette de Paris 2008

Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can comment, confirm or deny!

All I can say to Chrisamirault is Lucky You! (need green emoticon here)

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...
What exactly did Mitch have to say about imperfect razor angle and cut depth?

Basically, if the cut isn't sufficiently deep and angled, the pressure from the bread's expansion in the oven isn't released, resulting in tighter texture. Properly deep and angled cuts allow the gas to expand fully, for the diameter to be consistently large along the entire baguette, and thus for much better texture, feel, and thus taste.

I'd love to know how to judge "sufficiently deep and angled" for slashing... ! :cool:

Regarding fridge space, I find that (cheap) rectangular tupperware-type lidded containers stow in the fridge much more conveniently (and space efficiently) than covered round mixing bowls... :smile:

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Mitch explains why a tightly rounded dough rises with greater happiness...

Chris,

Can you expand a little on this comment, please. Thanks!

I'll be interested to hear Chef's response as well. We were taught at the ICE breadbaking course that rounding does a couple of things. It makes the "skin" of the bread smooth, and increases surface tension for better expansion. Rounding also apparently ensures that the dough ferments and or proofs (if you are rounding for the second stage) evenly, ensuring an even rise to the dough.

I've been experimenting lately with rounding as it was not something I did before I took the course and the results are dramatically improved, in crust and crumb!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Rounding the dough for primary fermentation: Marlene is exactly right, this will enable an even, robust fermentation. An ancillary benefit is that when the dough is removed from the container for overnight refrigeration, it will be smooth and square. That will facilitate sheeting the following day. Rather than obtaining an oblong form, it is possible to maintain an even symmetrical shape. The comment in class concerned placing the dough into a container for primary fermentation, not the final shaping of the dough. For the final shaping we demonstrate symmetry, surface tension, and a tight seam.

Refrigerating and retarding dough: There are at least two schools of thought on this subject. Each of which is commonly driven by available equipment. One method we are working with involves a reduced percentage of commercial yeast and a short mix. The desired dough temperature is 78˚ F to 80˚ F. The dough is placed in a covered container and refrigerated for 15 to 20 hours. The following day it is divided, pre-shaped, allowed to relax (intermediate proof), and shaped. After a final proof it is baked.

Another method we are working with involves an even lower level of yeast and higher hydration. After a short mix, the dough ferments for one hour at room temperature. It is then divided, pre- shaped, relaxed, and shaped. It is retarded overnight at 50˚ F.

Both of these methods produce loaves with many of the desirable characteristics of artisanal bread.

When we produce naturally leavened bread, we go through a normal primary fermentation which includes a stretch and fold. After dividing, relaxing, and shaping, the dough is placed in proofing baskets or couche. We allow 40 minutes for the final proof and then place the covered loaves in the refrigerator overnight. OR, we skip the 40 minutes of ambient final proofing and place the loaves directly in the retarder.

Advantages: Timing, lifestyle, and a flavor preferred by some. Rob’s comment about improved taste is one that I have heard debated ad infinitum. It’s definitely a distinctive taste and one that many people enjoy. “Improved” is a subjective term in this case. Excellent scoring (scarification).

Disadvantages: A flavor not as desirable to some. Refrigeration space

Thirty hour fermentation: I have not experimented with this yet. It would be impractical in our labs. I would like to study it at some point. We are working with 20 hours. French flour, French equipment, French bakers; they have their ways and we have ours.

Razor angle and cut depth: Practice, practice, practice,………… I will express it the way I express it to students who have never seen a lame. This is not they way every baker does it, but it is a way to learn. If one end of the baguette is 12 o’clock and the opposite end is 6 o’clock, approach the baguette at 9 o’clock facing 3 o’clock. Rotate your hips to 1:30 (ish). Hold the lame in your dominate hand as if you were holding a key to a door. Turn the key/door knob slightly until the lame is approximately 45 degrees to the loaf. Place your other hand at the 12 o’clock end of the baguette to align your body. With angled lame in hand, and your arm parallel to the loaf, make the desired number of cuts with the appropriate overlapping. This information is better received with a visual demonstration. The depth of the cut is very slight. You are trying to create more of a flap than an incision. To develop good technique, it is helpful to understand the purpose: other than appearance, it is a predictable place for the steam to escape and it enables full and specific expansion, which in turn creates a more open crumb, has a clean chew, which releases flavor, which………..you get the idea. This has been explained my better bakers in much greater detail in many places. For example: Jeffrey Hamelman’s book is invaluable for methodology, science, and philosophy. The Advanced Bread and Pastry Book by Michel Suas is encyclopedic as well.

I tried to answer the questions here as I would in the classroom. There are many accomplished bakers who contribute to egullet and do things slightly or radically differently and achieve excellent results. I let the students know that it is not who is right or who is wrong that matters, but rather it is what works that is most important. That is the wonder and excitement of baking. “Remember, the master archer seeks not the target, but to be the bow.”

The students really enjoyed Chris’ presence in the lab. I was amazed at his quick and accurate insights into the students’ personalities. Thank you all for your interest.

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That you for that very concise description of how to score a baquette. It helped immensely, although I um, use an exacto knife to score. :blush:

I have a question. In BBA, Peter talks about the fact that almost every bread is shaped from a boule form. Does that make sense when you're making a baguette? Would it be better and easier to form a batard first and let it rest before shaping the baguette? I've always had problems with the way Peter says to shape a boule, and I find rounding works better. When I stretch the dough over and under, there is a seam, that is hard to get rid of when then next forming the baguette.

Thank you so much for you time, Chef!

Edited by Marlene (log)

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I am so jealous! :) I look forward to reading your thread. I love Mitch's articles in Pastry's Best and have had great success with his recipes. Thanks for taking the time to report.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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. . .

I tried to answer the questions here as I would in the classroom.  There are many accomplished bakers who contribute to egullet and do things slightly or radically differently and achieve excellent results.  I let the students know that it is not who is right or who is wrong that matters, but rather it is what works that is most important.  That is the wonder and excitement of baking.  “Remember, the master archer seeks not the target, but to be the bow.”

. . .

Thank you so much for such informative answers and for recognizing that there are many paths to the same destination :smile:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Peter Reinhart’s baguette shaping: Peter is a great baker, a great author, and all around great guy. His writing has inspired a generation of bakers. He and many others find it logical and practical to shape baguettes from a rounded pre-shape. I have seen beautiful baguettes made using this method.

Others, including myself, prefer to pre-shape baguettes in the form of a cylinder. Think of a smooth, 6” to 8” cylinder with closed/rounded ends. You’re right; it resembles a blunt (not tapered) batard. To be honest, I have seen more bakers do it this way. That does not make one method correct or the other method incorrect; again, it’s a matter of preference.

Most bakers do shape boules and batards from the rounded shape. It is baguettes that are open to the option. Perhaps that’s why some bakers prefer the rounded shape for everything – to keep things simple.

As mentioned in my earlier posting, it’s critical to examine the intent of each step and the influence it exerts over the next step and ultimately the final product. I hope that this answers your question, as evasive as it might seem.

If you begin the baguette shaping with the seam side up (from the pre-shaping), you will be able to work the seam to the interior of the loaf. I'm not sure if that addresses the issue you raised.

Bluechefk: Did you notice the deck oven? The good news is that in September 2009, we will be moving into a new, state of the art building being erected behind the Harborside Academic Center.

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Seam side up. Of course! That makes perfect sense! And I agree, Peter's writings have inspired many to begin baking bread including me. Thanks again!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Did he talk at all about handling high hydration doughs? I love the flavor and crumb of breads made with Reinhart's (or Gosselin's) pain a l'ancienne method, but the 80% hydration doughs are tough to handle.

Lately I've been stretching the dough in the conventional manner to make baguettes. I can't tell if the extra handling is doing more harm than good. I think Reinhart demonstrates just stretching this dough into strips, rather than forming baguettes in the usual way.

Also, scoring the dough is difficult. I've started using scissors, since razor blades just stick. The results are only o.k.

As far as very long fermentations, I've played with this a bit. I've retarded some dough for 36 and even 48 hours. My results couldn't be less scientific ... there was no control sample, and my technique is pretty inconsistent all around. But subjectively I couldn't taste any improvement, and if anything the 48 hour dough might have been LESS flavorful than the regular 24 hour dough. I don't know why this would be. I was actually afraid of off flavors developing, but this didn't seem to happen.

Notes from the underbelly

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Bluechefk:  Did you notice the deck oven?  The good news is that in September 2009, we will be moving into a new, state of the art building being erected behind the Harborside Academic Center.

i DID notice the deck oven - very nice!! funny how after such a long time, i can still conjure up the sounds and smells of being in that room - can also remember the feeling of standing in the ice-cold darkness of a providence winter morning, waiting for the bus that would take me from thayer street out to the campus for A.M. labs... :laugh:

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Did he talk at all about handling high hydration doughs? I love the flavor and crumb of breads made with Reinhart's (or Gosselin's) pain a l'ancienne method, but the 80% hydration doughs are tough to handle.

Lately I've been stretching the dough in the conventional manner to make baguettes. I can't tell if the extra handling is doing more harm than good. I think Reinhart demonstrates just stretching this dough into strips, rather than forming baguettes in the usual way.

Also, scoring the dough is difficult. I've started using scissors, since razor blades just stick. The results are only o.k.

As far as very long fermentations, I've played with this a bit. I've retarded some dough for 36 and even 48 hours. My results couldn't be less scientific ... there was no control sample, and my technique is pretty inconsistent all around. But subjectively I couldn't taste any improvement, and if anything the 48 hour dough might have been LESS flavorful than the regular 24 hour dough. I don't know why this would be. I was actually afraid of off flavors developing, but this didn't seem to happen.

We address high hydration in the curriculum by making ciabatta, pain rustique, and a high hydration (78%) baguette based on Jeffrey Hamelman’s article in Modern Baking a little over a year ago. The baguette has a primary fermentation of three hours with three stretch and folds in the first hour to build strength.

Stretched loaves (baguettes) can be very good, however; I prefer baguettes that are shaped and can reveal proper scoring technique. That is what I demonstrate in class.

Make sure that the blade on your lame is sharp. Some bakers wet the blade when scoring loaves made from wetter dough. A quick, decisive scoring motion will be more effective than a hesitant one, and shallow cuts are advised.

Extended fermentation times lead to excessive acidity and the aroma can be quite alcoholic. The leavening would be diminished as well.

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