Last day of bread class: Italian
My final bread class was slightly less strenuous than the first four, but my legs are still sore nonetheless. Yesterday was our big day of Italian bread. We made pizza, ciabatta, focaccia, and in our spare time we made a sweet pretzel dough flavored with lemon.
Ciabatta (Italian for slipper) is one of my favorite breads. Mom got me into it in college, when she would buy it for making fancy sandwiches for her and Poppy. I love that it’s crusty but not painful to eat, the way some French breads can be, and I love the irregular, shiny crumb:
Making ciabatta is cool because you don’t have to shape it at all. Once the dough has fermented a bit, you just put flour everywhere (it’s a very wet dough) and cut off hunks. The only guideline is that they should be rectangular, although you see a triangle occasionally. I prefer them on the bigger side, since they are less likely to dry out as much in the oven, and they’re better for sandwiches that way.
I was happy to have a few culinary students in the group to help us get set up for making pizza and focaccia:
There were tomatoes and garlic to roast, onions to caramelize, mozzarella and goat cheese to slice and shred, mushrooms to sauté, sauce to make, bacon to fry, and herbs to chop. The kitchen smelled divine. When we were finally ready and our dough had fermented, we formed our circles and topped them however we wanted. I did three pizzas and two focaccias, and everything that came out of the oven was excellent. We baked them at 625ºF for less than ten minutes (she says the hotter the better, but we can’t go any hotter without setting off an alarm somewhere), and they came out crispy and dark.
That’s a pizza with onion and bacon, which I ate for lunch. My favorite focaccia, which was devoured at a potluck picnic before I could photograph it, was dressed with apples, gorgonzola, and walnuts.
Finally, we worked on our sweet pretzel dough, and she showed us how to make a shape that gave me quite a fright:
Making and then eating these mice (which came out soft, sweet, and slightly lemony) may have allayed my fear of the rodents somewhat, although I must admit that the picture does put me on edge. I insisted that they looked more like rats.
When it was all done, I got my certificate for having completed thirty hours of intensive artisanal baking. The teacher’s parting advice? Use it or lose it.