Recap of the December 2011 "Taste-and-Tell" (Photos)

Since July I've been rather remiss about posting recaps of Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers events. In meantime, our membership has grown, and our bakers have grown in skill.

Our focus topic for the December 4th "Taste-and-Tell" was "A Bread You've Never Baked Before" -- a topic suggested by one of our bakers. Eleven bakers attended, and all of them took up the challenge.

I'm trying to go heavy on the photos this time, a departure from my typically verbose recaps. Despite the poor quality of the below photos (taken with husband's phone), the "breads never baked before" were impressive. There were first attempts at . . .

. . . Peter Reinhart's Tuscan Bread, unusual in that it's made without salt. Into the dough goes a paste of boiled wheat flour and water, which lends the crumb a subtle sweetness. Both loaves, above, are Tuscan Bread, while the loaf on the right has been painted before baking with Peter Reinhart's Dutch Crunch topping. These loaves were made by baker M.K. Beautiful scoring!

In another example of beautiful scoring, baker M.P. creatively combined two bread formulas to create "multi-grain transitional hearth bread" (2 photos, above). Everyone remarked about the crust, in particular, which was full of flavor.

Our household ventured into breads from warmer climes. Husband took a stab at pita, which--to our great delight--puffed up beautifully in the oven. 

I experimented with injera, an Ethiopian crepe-like bread made with teff flour and wild yeast. Injera is traditionally cooked on a clay plate known as a mittad, which is heated over a fire until it is very hot. Not having such equipment, I tried various pots and pans over a gas burner, until I had good results with a non-stick omelette pan.

A number of bakers worked with enriched breads (3 photos, above). At top, G.D.'s large brioche made with 50% butter. In the middle, N.D.'s individual-portion brioches made with 88% butter (or, rather, the remains of what we delightfully devoured before remembering to take a photo). At bottom, R.M.'s Greek celebration bread, a triumph of shaping, with a crumb delicately rich, sweet, and spicy.

And a number of bakers worked with savory breads (3 photos, above): At top, T.M.'s lemon-thyme dinner rolls; in the middle, M.S.'s first attempt at working with sourdough; and, at bottom, K.M.'s free-standing focaccia.

At the end of the meeting, we handed out freshly spent brewer's grains, donated to us by a local microbrewery, for our bakers to bake into bread. "Spent" is a bit of a misnomer, as these grains are full of natural sweetness, beneficial enzymes, fiber, and texture. They can taste wonderfully nutty when baked into bread. The grains do not contain alcohol. This particular batch of grains contained 3 different types of barley: "Pale Ale malt," Aromatic Malt," and "Caramel Malt."

Our next "Taste-and-Tell" is on Sunday, January 15, at 5:30 pm. Our focus topic will be "Soakers for Multi-grain Bread." Join us!

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