Friday, February 26, 2010

Peter Reinhart

Went to a really great presentation by Peter Reinhart this evening at the Westlake Cooking School.

Peter was really great; tooko a lot of time afterwards to sign books and answer many questions. Every bread that I ate that evening was unquestionably delicious, from beautifully caramelized sticky buns with nuts and creamy-textured, toasty flavored rustic loaves made with the 75% hydration "Lean Dough", to the wispy soft, almost cotton-candy, velvety texture of the challah!

A few key thoughts/things I learned!
  • His doughs are extremely soft & supple, softer than a baby's bottom, perhaps!
  • Oiling the kneading/forming surface to keep from sticking, and oiling wet doughs slightly for handling.
  • Using wet fingers to handle dough (he had a little bowl at the side, dipping in his fingers as necessary).
  • The "stretch and fold" technique: stretch towards you, fold in thirds, 90 degree turn, repeat, then rest! Repeat the whole process 4 times. It shapes shaggy soft dough into a tight manageable skin, and reduces stickiness.
  • Kneading: more stretch and fold than kneading, and the doughs came out supple!
  • Yeasty bread flavor: due to too much yeast OR over-fermentation (what you're actually tasting is the alcohol, not the yeast!); a problem (he notably mentioned) with the "Artisan 5 Min/Day" bread recipes, and I totally agree with him on that
  • Blisters on crust: form the loaves, really shape them, and let them cold ferment will get blisters! Great story about this question which he discussed with Raymond Calvel.
I got my "Artisan Breads Everyday" book signed (Beckey bought it for me as a present), and even bought his "Whole Grain Breads" book, with great info on soakers. I wasn't familiar with that technique, but it's exactly what my grandma used in her rye bread.

My first baking class, and absolutely worth every penny! If you can't make it to one of his workshops, the next best thing is to read this transcript of his Barnes & Noble interview.

Thanks Peter!

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