Monday, June 1, 2009

Just to let you know

At Bennison's we are not infallible. I entered the bakery today, and there is a full double rack of croissants that are unsellable. I think the sugar was left out of the dough. As American bakers we call it croissant dough. Well that's really incorrect. The dough, before it's laminated with the butter, is called "detrempe". Once the butter has been put into it, it's called "pate de croissant", or croissant dough. So the sugar was left out of the detrempe. So we have a lot of product that is lost. My dad told me, a long time ago, that Herb Doerner from Heinemann's Bakeries in Chicago told him that "the secret to running a successful, quality minded retail bakery is a dependable scavenger service and a free flowing sewer". Case in point. Doesn't happen often, but it happens.

I attended that Artisan I class, back in October of 2000. I drove up to Minneapolis, and roomed with Greg Vetter from Tag's Bakery, here in Evanston. Nice people, nice bakery. If you don't buy it here, at least buy it there. They're maikn' it real, as well. We drove up together and I knew I would rent a car and return to Chicago by myself. Greg had a chance to stay and visit some college friends in Minnesota. The first day of class was alot of discussion, and limited demo. Didier talked about the baking process and in the afternoon, he made some pre-ferments. We made poolish, sponge, biga and pre-fermented dough. All to be ready to bake Tuesday morning. We arrived Tuesday morning, started mixing and on Tuesday afternoon we started tasting an array of baguettes. It was also explained that we weren't focusing on baguettes because he was French, he used baguettes because there is nothing more easy to judge and to learn the idiosyncrasies of the different flours and different processes. There isn't anywhere for things to hide. Nothing to mask a baker's shortcomings. Simple, remember, flour, water, salt and yeast.

It was the second time I was that close to bread baked in a real hearth oven. It was the first time I tasted bread made with the proper flour, properly fermented and properly baked. My first trip to the NBC, I was there to compete, I didn't get to taste anything we baked. As soon as we were finished baking, we had to leave so the judging could take place. So there we were, Didier, twelve students and hundreds of baguettes. We tasted the bread, variety by variety. Easily distinguishing the difference that the different process created. They were all good, better than any bread I'd ever eaten. But the one made using a poolish was incredible. Slightly acidic, with heavy nutty tones from the unbleached flour. The winter wheat creates an almost sweetness to the crumb. The crust was crunchy yet yielding when bitten, the hole structure was open and palatable, because of the lower protein flour. That was it. I never looked back. I had to get this bread to Evanston, on a daily basis.

Didier spent the rest of the week explaining why we should do what we should do. He explained why we/me get the results we do back at Bennison's. Trying to define the impact that week had on me is difficult. I will tell you that class ended on Friday at 4:30. I got on the road around 7pm. I drove in a car, by myself, in the dark for three hours, without the radio on.


Blogger Laminatrix said...

I'm really enjoying this story, even though I already know parts of it . . .

June 1, 2009 at 8:36 AM  

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