This past Saturday, I hosted a group of five women from the church book club at my house and taught them my tricks and techniques for making bread. I call it Bread Camp.
These are my notes after the first round of Bread Camp… this time the handout was 5 pages long!
It was really fun. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen says in the intro to her book that until she started a blog, she had no idea how differently other people cook. I think the same goes for my Bread Camp. It’s a whole different animal trying to teach something to people for the first time, particularly something that has taken on an aspect of “muscle memory” for me.
The motions of shaping and kneading the dough are so familiar that it requires really focusing on what your hands are doing to be able to teach someone else. I remember at one point I was demonstrating how, after a short 10-minute rest, the dough was much smoother and easier to handle. I looked up from my perfectly-shaped dough, expecting to see nodding heads. Instead, everyone was looking at me like I was crazy as they struggled with a dough that was still sticky. I looked back at my smooth dough. How *HAD* I done that? I didn’t know. It took me a while to figure out just what I had done. Part of teaching is learning to teach, and this was a great “learning to teach” moment for me.
The Bread Camp I teach lasts two hours, during which I walk participants through the ingredients and supplies I use, some basic bread science, and techniques I’ve found helpful. I also do the second proof and bake a loaf of bread I prepare the night before, so they can see the whole process from start to finish. Also, this time we had some down time so everyone had a snack of bread and jam. It seemed appropriate.
Our class went really well. One of the things I love about teaching is being asked tons of questions. The questions were different this time around, and I think they give me a sense of where everyone is and what they hope to get out of the class. The participants in the class I taught last time were all twenty-something women with no kids. This time, I had a mix of ages and several were parents or grandparents. The questions I got were about nutrition, and about scheduling the bread for convenience. I loved it, because I could tweak the class and include those topics. I finished up the camp on a cloud of happiness.
As soon as everyone left with their dough, however, I started to get nervous. I was convinced I had left out some crucial tip that would lead them to fail. I was nervous that maybe I had made it seem too easy, or had overwhelmed them with too much information. I was nervous because I told them they could bake their bread in a stainless steel pot, a trick I’d read about online but had never personally tried. I was nervous because I told them they needed parchment paper but forgot to send them home with any. I wanted so much for their first bread baking experience to be good, to foster a love of baking we could share.
Why was I so nervous? During our class, I had repeatedly told them that baking bread is about being brave. After all, it’s just bread. It’s cheap as far as baked goods go, so if you make a hockey puck, it’s no huge loss to toss it and make another. Goodness knows I’d made my share of baking mistakes over the years (I still make them). What was I so worried about? I had given them the tools for good bread, so now I just had to be brave and trust that everything would be ok.
The next day, three of my friends sent me pictures of their finished loaves, and I was ecstatic. They turned out perfectly! With that, I was back on my cloud.
Here is one picture I received with some impressive oven spring and scoring action:
I love this one because my friend couldn’t get a picture before her family was clamoring to taste it 🙂 She said her son told her “Mmmm… I could eat this all day!”
The caramel color on this one is lovely, and look at the crackly crust!
At church yesterday, one of my friends gave a shout-out to my Bread Camp, and I’ve had a few offers to teach it again. I hope to do so soon, before Bread Baby #2 arrives!
Sorry this post was so word-heavy and picture-light. Don’t worry, I have several recipes I’ve been trying out lately that I can’t wait to share.