Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bread Baking at August First

This past summer Burlington welcomed August First, a new bakery/cafe to the area. There was plenty of buzz about it amongst my food geek friends and my family quickly became addicted to their cinnamon rolls. Recently Lewis and I went there without short people as chaperones and enjoyed coffee, pastries and sandwiches. While there Lewis asked about their upcoming bread baking class, which at first sounded like nothing I needed. This was not a sour dough bread class, but just yeast bread. I am not afraid of yeast, regularly making challah and cracked wheat bread and confidently creating yeast doughs from my many cookbooks. However Phil Merrick, the head baker and owner of August First, told me this was not my grandmother's yeast bread. The flavor was more like a European sour dough and the technique was very different.

This is the condensed version of how he convinced me to take the class. If he had told me that at the end I could make a flatbread pizza crust that rivals American Flatbread's it would have been an easy sell. Plus for me there was the added benefit of a day of baking and me time before February vacation with two energetic crazy boys and no snow. Can I just say there has been a lot of complaining in Burlington this winter over our lack of snow. Who knew that in Northern Vermont we would need to move South to have snow. As everyone is saying, "If it is going to be cold there should at least be snow"

Since the class I have baked flatbread for dinner once and I will experiment a little and then generously share with you. Although I suspect I will not make any major changes to the ratios I have developed. However we ate it too fast to take a photo. So for now let me show you photos from the class. Cross your fingers that I survive these last 2 days of vacation and that Burlington votes as it should on Tuesday. This is Lewis' first election since becoming a citizen, so if the results are not what I am hoping for he can finally be culpable. Sebastian and Julian have come with me to vote since they were babies so they are looking forward to showing their dad the correct procedure.

This is my dough rising bucket, doesn't look like much here but by the end of the day it will be 2 baguettes and one loaf.

Here is the classes dough slowly rising.

This is a large batch of dough that Phil made before we came so we could practice folding and shaping it. It reminds me of Jabba the Hut as it lays there on the table, just a formless mass. At this stage it is more batter then dough.

Phil Folding the entire large batch of bread, my guess is he won't need to lift weights at the gym later.

Here is the dough after folding a few times. I cannot explain the science but I love how it changes consistency just from folding

Now that the dough has more mass to it each person is given a lump to learn with. What better way to divide it up then tossing?

Dough resting after a preliminary shaping

More folding and shaping

My flatbread crust, we only made 6 flatbreads for lunch for 12 people, so you had to be fast if you wanted to shape one. I was second on line. No wonder I could never make a crust I loved before, this crust is completely different, slacker and wetter. It is also really fun to work with.

My flatbread with toppings

Shaping Pan d'Epi or wheat stalk shaped bread

Baguettes Loaded to go in the oven. This oven is the same size as my kitchen, but a girl can still dream.

The classes finished loaves. My baguettes are 3rd and 4th from the left on the middle shelf. I cannot remember which regular loaf is mine and by now we have eaten the evidence.


  1. Robin, lucky you. What a great way to spend the day.

    I love working with a "wet" dough. I think your two baguettes look the best.

  2. woohoo! finally i've found another Burlington-area food blogger! i love August First (got butternut squash soup from there for lunch today, actually), so it's really neat to see this post :)

    i'm sure i'll have fun looking over your older blog posts