Feb 10 2011

Not-So-Unusual Breads

Published by at 6:11 pm under Cooking Classes

Our schedule for last week mentioned a work shop in “Unusual Breads,” which naturally set my mind reeling. No-knead bread? Rice flour? Croissants?

In the end, the breads we made were not so unusual at all, and in fact, the process was very eye-opening. I’ve personally found bread-making very intimidating in the past, and I was even hesitant when we started at school. Something about yeast with all its quirks and activity, the many rises, the exact temperatures — it honestly just sounds like a huge hassle.

That is, until you do it yourself. These days I’d never dream of NOT making my own pizza dough, and baguettes are pretty much a standard. Yes, you have to work with yeast, but it’s just another ingredient. Yes, you have to let the dough rise — but I’m happy to plan ahead when it comes to good food (in fact, I kind of can’t help it).

Our “unusual” breads were a step away from the regular French and sourdough bread we make at school, so it was a treat to try some ethnic favorites. Like lavosh:

And Whole Wheat Pita:

… and those New York-style bagels at the beginning of this post. Dense on the outside but soft on the inside, they were a huge hit. Did you know bagels are actually boiled before they were baked? Clearly, I didn’t.

Speaking of breakfast: These homemade English muffins were just OK. As the owner of my school pointed out, they only taste really good with a healthy dollop of butter and jam.

I contributed the Parker House Rolls, which I think are a Chicago tradition? Perfect rolls to serve with dinner, and you get to make fun shapes out of them.

And lastly, we prepared a selection of crackers.

These were the Gluten-Free Crackers, which had a good consistency (it’s hard without using wheat!) but came out way too spicy.

The only cracker I’d consider making at home are these Parmesan Crackers, because they were cheesy-delicious and very adaptable. For a more rustic look, you can even roll them through a pasta machine into thin sheets and break them apart by hand — definitely the way I’d go about it.

The problem with making crackers at home is that because they’re made with normal, non-industrial ingredients, they don’t keep for very long, and they don’t hold up quite as well as the store-bought varieties. It’s hard to imagine going through the trouble of rolling out the dough thin, cutting out perfect rounds, and baking a whole batch of them when you probably won’t be able to finish them all.

That is, unless they were REALLY heavy on the Parmesan and included a little rosemary and sea salt. Mmm.

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