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Bread Baking Demystified

Learn to make artisanal loaf breads, focaccia, and whole wheat boule in your home kitchen

Updated

By  Nina Daza Puyat 

Meet my virtual friend, Bettie. To me and my classmates, she’s better known as Baker Bettie, our on-line baking teacher. I found her site BakerBettie.com randomly while surfing last March and there happened to be a promotion that day: 30 percent off the $59 fee for the bread baking course composed of 14 classes.

Mastering breads have always been on my to-do list and I’m one who can never resist a bargain, so what could be a more perfect package than that? Being a responsible adult, I did my due diligence, read reviews, and combed through the site. Everything looked amazing—almost too good to be true.

 This E-course is similar to most schools in the sense that students are first made to understand the basics before they transition to more difficult subjects. Enrollees start by watching a video called Fundamentals of Baking Course. This is where Baker Bettie talks about the function and types of flour, leavening, sugar, eggs, and fat. It was my kind of learning! I firmly believe that one should not just follow a recipe mindlessly but more purposefully and with a basic understanding of the process. It was this free introductory video that made me finally click the Pay Now button.

SHAPING DOUGH Follow Baker Bettie's recipe videos in the comfort of your own kitchen

SHAPING DOUGH Follow Baker Bettie’s recipe videos in the comfort of your own kitchen

 

HAPING DOUGH Follow Baker Bettie's recipe videos in the comfort of your own kitchen

SHAPING DOUGH Follow Baker Bettie’s recipe videos in the comfort of
your own kitchen

 

Three months later, I consider this as one of the most “bang-for-your-buck” purchases I’ve ever made. For around P 2,000, I learned how to bake breads that look and taste artisanal—like something you would purchase from a boulangerie in Paris. These are breads that my family could actually enjoy with pasta, make sandwiches with, or simply toast then eat with cheese or butter.

PROOFED: Perfectly proofed dough ready to bake in the oven

PROOFED Perfectly proofed dough ready to bake in the oven

Last night I made my first whole wheat boule. While it was not a perfectly balled shape (I didn’t quite get the rolling technique), it was nicely crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Baker Bettie shares how one can simulate a professional steam oven using a regular oven to achieve that elusive crispy crust.

Baker Bettie is a young woman named Kristin Hoffman who describes herself as a trained chef and Baking Science geek. Her recipe videos, which you can watch at your own time—whether you’re in your pajamas in bed or with your feet up in the living room—are very easy to follow. Kristin, who comes on camera in a chef’s jacket and bright red lipstick, and is somewhat formal in her manner and tone, but that’s because she’s teaching something technical.

The beauty of this class is that it is self-paced: you can watch the videos as often as you need to and go back to the lessons at your own time. You may bring your laptop or tablet with you in the kitchen and actually bake along with her. Some family members or friends might want to join in and you can have a group class together (although oven space might be a problem).

Of course, there will be time gaps when the dough is left to proof, and that’s another reason why this set-up is ideal. Just leave your dough and do something productive in the meantime: declutter your closet, answer emails, or watch Netflix (ok, that may not be necessarily productive).

The Yeast Bread Essentials class begins with a recipe for No Knead Hearth Bread. As the name implies, there is no kneading required – literally just four ingredients, your two hands, and one oven. Oh, and lots of patience. Admittedly, I was a skeptic at first, but when I saw how beautiful my first loaf turned out, I was raring to start the next lesson.

The No Knead Hearth Bread takes almost four hours to make but it's worth the wait

The No Knead Hearth Bread takes almost four hours to make but it’s worth the wait

 

This homemade loaf bread has a soft and even crumb, that's great for making sandwiches

This homemade loaf bread has a soft and even crumb, that’s great for making sandwiches

As an extra bonus, students get weekly e-mails with additional recipes. I have not tried any of the recipes yet because I’m focused on mastering my breads, but they are quite varied. Some examples of bonus recipes are Triple Berry Cobbler, Coconut Cream Pie, and Lemon Strawberry Cream Cake, to name a few.

Another freebie is enrollees get samples from Red Star Platinum yeast. They only mail to the US, so I gave my sister’s address in San Francisco and got my five sachets weeks later. For the first few lessons, I used instant yeast bought from the supermarket and it worked wonderfully.

What I like best about Kristin as a teacher is that she’s generous with recipes, tips, and techniques. Secret recipes are not in her DNA. There’s another essential of Yeast Breads E-course on offer until July 7 at BakerBettie.com and I recommend that you sign up. The price is now $59 or a little over P3,000. Considering what you’re going to learn over the next few weeks and months, this is a great deal. Just remember to thank me when you take that first bite of your homemade bread.

SIX REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS ON-LINE BAKING COURSE:

1. You can start the lesson at any time, at your own pace, and repeat the recipe videos as often as necessary.
2. You’re in the privacy of your own home and don’t need to travel to any school.
3. You can be in your most comfortable clothes.
4. You can do other things while waiting for the dough to rise.
5. If you have any questions, you may shoot an email or send a message on Facebook via an FB group.
6. You don’t have classmates to interact with so you can focus on the task at hand.
SIX IMPORTANT TIPS:
1. Use a digital kitchen scale to get the accurate weight, especially of the flour (although BakerBettie gives a range). There are several inexpensive ones available online.
2. Use a timer. It’s best to set an alarm to alert you when it’s time to check the dough.
3. Make sure you have a nice clean surface to work on, some baking sheets, and a good working oven.
4. Trim your fingernails and make sure your hands are always clean before kneading the dough. Kneading is actually quite therapeutic and a very good upper body workout.
5. Make sure all of your ingredients are on hand before you start. There’s nothing more frustrating than starting a recipe and finding out that you are missing one key ingredient.
6. Unfortunately, not all large supermarkets carry bread flour. Bread flour is very affordable at around P45 a kilo. I buy bread flour, fine whole wheat flour and yeast at Chocolate Lover. They have branches in QC, Makati, and Pampanga. For home delivery with no minimum purchase, email chocolateloverdelivery@gmail.com 

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