September 9 1998
On the second day of Christmas...
Fifty Pounds of SoftRolls(tm)

The task of the day:

Basic Breads

We mixed what are called "rich doughs" today, which are the breads that are used to make softer breads. Today we made Challah and Soft Rolls. Our group also made lean dough for baguettes and foccacia.

The soft rolls were out of control. Each group made 11 pounds of dough, which is a total of 55 pounds. This filled up about 20 full sheet pans with soft rolls. Each one had to be formed by hand, and there are 35 rolls per sheet pan. That's at least 700 rolls out of our class today. The person who takes the rolls to the homeless shelter was very happy.

Challah (a very eggy braided bread) turned out good, but very funny. We over proofed the dough after we formed it, because we were waiting for the ovens which were full of (guess what?) soft rolls. As a result, when the challah came out of the oven it looked like "huge groundhogs" as our chef said. Each loaf only weighs 12 ounces. But they are about 18 inches long, and six inches high. I pointed out that if someone handed me a loaf like that in a store, I'd punch them for selling me nothing but air.

The class also made bagels today. They need to sit in the fridge overnight, and we'll boil and bake them tomorrow. Maybe I'll get some decent bagels now!

Today's baguettes came out better than yesterdays, because we used a portion of the flour and yeast in a pre-ferment. This lets you add more flavor to the dough, while controlling the yeast growth to avoid over-fermentation of the entire batch. Over fermentation can cause the dough to become "slack" as the gluten begins to break down due to enzymes in the yeast. Pre-ferments let you juggle a long ferment against this breakdown. As a result, we got some very nice flavor and crust on our baguettes.

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There were a few minor frustrations today. I went to lunch for the first time this week, because they were doing a cajun style ribeye. Looked great. Our group was one of the first seated, and got the order in on time (if you are late, popular items often run out). Tons of other tables got served, and then we were told they 86ed the ribeyes (ie, they ran out). Somebody else was eating my ribeye. So, I bailed and went to help run the ovens for the rest of lunch.

Fell asleep again this afternoon. But I'm getting better at keeping these naps into the one hour range rather than all afternoon and evening. The weather in turning cool here, and it feels like San Francisco. Marla and Shawn think it's cold already. The leaves near the river are starting to feel the effect and turn colors.

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Tomorrow we do sourdough breads. Should be fun. I'm hoping our group gets assigned the chocolate cherry sourdough, which is awesome. Shawn brought some home during his breads class and we ate it all that day.

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Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy