Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Final Exam in Artisan Breads

Today was a pretty intense day. It was my last day of class for Artisan Breads, which is really sad on one level. I really love the Breads class and I enjoy learning new breads and working on my skills with the different doughs. Anyway, the final exam for this class had two parts. First, we had to submit a paper that answered two questions: what is artisan bread baking, and what does artisan bread baking mean to me? The second part of the final exam was our practical.

For the practical, we had to make four baguettes and then we could choose our best three to be graded. We also had to pull a mystery bread out of a list, and I pulled pretzels. Here's a picture of me with one of my baguettes:

So, I did an excellent job with my baguettes! Seriously, they were the best baguettes I ever made. They baked well, tasted great, had a properly porous interior, and I did a great job on my slashes - they opened up well and formed "ears" which is what I've been working hard to get to happen all semester. It was a pretty amazing feeling, especially because I was nervous they wouldn't turn out well. Chef was really happy with them, and he even gave me a high-five. It was pretty exciting, and, did I mention it was excellent?!?

My pretzels turned out OK. Not great, but OK. They were rolled a little too thin so they didn't bake with any real girth which is expected in an artisan baked pretzel. But they tasted great and I executed the formula and the procedure successfully so overall, it was an above average effort.

The day culminated in putting together a display of our baguettes, mystery dough item, and our dead dough project. I mentioned the dead dough project last week, so now you'll finally get to see it. Here's my presentation:

Yes, that's right, I made the Philly Phanatic out of dough! How freakin excellent is that?!? I wasn't sure it could be done, but Chef was a great motivator and provided me with really good guidance to pull it off. He also helped me with the assembly and the Phanatic does stand on his own. It's really fun, isn't it?

This was the inspiration for my design:

The project had to incorporate bread in some way, so the Phanatic is holding a bread plate with baguettes and pretzels. He's leaning on a bread peel which is a wooden paddle we use to move bread in and out of the oven. Here's another photo, you know, a close up:

Like I said, this was really so much fun and such an excellent way to bring the class to a close. I haven't yet figured out how to get the Phanatic home, but I will have it in my possession soon. I'm sure there will be some requests for me to make this for family and friends, and as much as I'd love to do that, it took me almost 14 hours to pull this one together. Seriously, it's an amazing amount of work. But I'm hoping to experiment with dead dough some more over the next few months and I should be able to come up with some things a little smaller that can be shared with friends and family. I hope you like it. Isn't it Phantastic!?!