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Anyone know of any Artisan Bread making classes ?

Hi,
I am the best baker when it comes to cakes, cookies, muffins and pies, but have never tried bread making and I am anxious to learn. I would love to know if anyone would know of any bread making classes in the New England area, preferably north and west of Boston. I am currently reading the "Bread Bakers Apprentice" book....but would prefer to actually see the whole process in person from start to finish. The artisan breads out there are my favorite breads and works of art in my opinion.

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  1. Cambridge Culinary Academy does a bread class for home bakers..

    1. The actual name of that business is The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Steve L

        I took that class four years ago and unless something has changed I do not really recommend it. It was primarily just a class about how to shape dough -- we made baguettes, focaccia, and a couple of brioche rolls. But since it was a three or four hour class, it's not like we had time to mix and ferment the dough. That was all done for us.

        There was a very brief lecture on mixing and fermentation and a lot of it, I now feel, was either misleading or just plain wrong. (I've spent a huge amount of time since then reading up -- books like "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and sites like The Fresh Loaf.)

        That said, it was fun, and it did kick off my obsession with bread quite nicely. Which has been great, if you don't count my waistline.

        1. re: davis_sq_pro

          I do t recommend CSCA either, and I've taken the class twice. It's not about artisanal bread.

      2. Wow...thank you so much for your replies...I was just looking at the Cambridge adult ed courses. This is great, I will check out the Academy classes. :)

        1. A&J King Artisan Bakers of Salem holds classes on occasion; check the website for info.

          1. Boston Center for Adult Education has baking classes.

            http://www.bcae.org/index.cfm?method=...

            One scheduled for February is titled Artisan Bread.

            Penny
            http://www.bostonzest.com/

            1. it's very north of boston, in Vermont, but king arthur flour has lots of classes that could be combined with a trip. They also do traveling baking demos in various locations.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Madrid

                Specifically, in Norwich, a bit north of White River Junction. I've never taken a class there, but make an annual visit to the store as part of a weekend trip to the game supper in Bradford. The place is wonderful, and they just finished (another) renovation and expansion of their beautiful facility in 2012.

                Here's a link for more information about their Baking Education Center: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/visit/...

                1. re: Allstonian

                  I haven't been to the store for years, but it was fabulous the last time I did go before they expanded. It's dangerous for hounds who cook and bake to go there; you will find all kinds of things you "need" and it's great to stock up on gadgets, tools, and ingredients without having to pay for the shipping.

                  1. re: Madrid

                    I'd love to visit king arthur flour sometime in Vermont....sounds like an awesome experience......thanks for the information.

                  2. re: Allstonian

                    Thank you so much for the link and great information. Hope to make a visit up there this summer.

                    1. re: Bakersbest

                      some of the classes sell out very quickly. Friends and I have scheduled a private class (need minimum of 8 people) in June. In the meantime, I hope you experiment. I liked making rolls. Made King Arthur's recipe for European-style crusty rolls. Thought they were heavy which led me to read comments and then figure out I was measuring flour completely wrong (dragging measuring cup thru flour and packing it flat against sides of bin). Made the recipe a second time with the way they recommend (fluff flour, scoop into measuring cup then level with a knife/spatula). Second batch is much lighter. This recipe used a "starter" made the day before. I think it will be fun to try a recipe using a starter that takes a week to make. Yes, I'll buy some starter when I'm there in July. My family very much enjoys homemade rolls. Bread will be my next step.

                2. That is a great book to learn about bread baking. The author is a bit idiosyncratic, so I also recommend taking a look at some others for perspective. I took my first serious steps in learning traditional bread baking techniques by reading Dan Leader's Bread Alone.

                  When you choose a class, take a careful look at the length/schedule of the class. Many recipes for artisan bread involve multiple stages, some of which are lengthy. You get the bread going (on a small scale) the night before, build upon that start the next morning, go through multiple stages of rising and shaping, then finally bake. A class that tries to compress all of that into a few hours on one day won't help you get the feel for the process. The instructor may show you what the dough is like when it is ready, but it is just as important to be able to know when it is not time yet. :)

                  If you agree with that thinking, the four-day class at King Arthur up in Vermont looks like it might be exactly what you want. It is called Bread: Principles & Practice. What a nice mini-vacation that might be!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                    I agree. the techniques developed in those earlier, awesome books have now become much more widespread, and the no knead, rise slowly, pre ferment/poolish, put in the fridge overnight methods are much more mainstream now. But it takes a lot longer to produce the edible bread.

                    Some of the Boston area classes might have real samples to show at each stage all in one class, but that is an important question to ask, especially if you really want to be able to see what that bread you started one day looks and feels like after a night in cool the next day, rather than seeing the dough the instructor started the day(s) before.

                    Has anyone taken any Boston area classes and do you know if and how they teach these methods? I sure wish Iggy's would offer a class, or at least a demo. The folks at King Arthur are lovely; I have called a few times to ask a question and got friendly, very helpful advice (do I really have to use shortening to make these awesome cheddar crackers? Yes.)

                    The sourdough/wild yeast methods take far, far longer, but once you have the basics of artisan bread understood, you can probably figure out how to go that way with good instructions on your own. Some of the books and websites have great instructions with pictures and videos. You will need a scale to weigh ingredients. There are great Boston sources for scales.

                    1. re: Madrid

                      Madrid, I am intrigued by your comment about scales in Boston. Could you please recommend a few sources? In the past I have gone the mail order route, but it is always nice to support a locally owned brick-and-mortar enterprise. I very much like the scale I am using for weighing flour, and the like, but have become intrigued by a recipe for molecular mac and cheese. Got the sodium citrate and carrageenan, but need a low-capacity scale that shows 100th's of grams with reasonable accuracy.

                      1. re: PinchOfSalt

                        I too have used only mail order in the recent past, but before that I got a reasonable scale at Crate and Barrel (not a locally owned option, of course) and in the past I have scales at Eastern Bakers Supply in the north end and KitchenArts on Newbury St, now called Blackstones. I believe Sur la table (of course not locally owned) also has them. There is also a new kitchenware store in Cambridge called Local Roots...I haven't been there yet. Two others you could call are the place next to the Cheese Shop in Concord and TAGS in Cambridge. Some of the North End hardware stores might also have them.

                        But...if you need a scale that shows 100th's of a gram, you will probably need to check out lab supply places. You might want to start a new thread on that and/or maybe ScienceChick will have some ideas. And post on the cookware board for local sources.

                        I just asked my SO, a lab scientist, and he said that he thinks commercial kitchen scales have gotten a lot better and some may be able to do 100th's. The "reasonable accuracy" part is still chancey unless it's scientific grade. But he thinks it's such a speciality item you may not be able to find one locally.

                        good luck! let us know what you find.

                        1. re: Madrid

                          Thanks for the pointers. And a big thank you for the news about Local Root. It's been too long since there was a kitchenware store on this side of the river. From the website they seem a bit aspirational in what they carry and they certainly have no bargains, but they do seem to have the good taste to carry the kitchen shears that ended my search for the perfect version of that tool:

                          http://localroot.com/Friedr-Dick-8-Ki...

                          Alas, they do not show a scale that meets my needs on their website.

                          FWIW, the recipes that I have seen are measuring things like 1.25 grams. So, the accuracy of the scale that I am looking for probably should be plus or mine a few hundredths. The little scale I use for weighing my morning coffee beans does tenths of a gram on its scale and is just fine for its purpose, but probably not for this one. It was not very expensive at all IIRC.

                        2. re: PinchOfSalt

                          I'm not sure who carriers this scale locally, but for precise (.01g) measurments, I've used this scale for a couple of years and been very satisfied, especially considering the price:

                          http://www.amazon.com/American-Weigh-...

                          I recommend a calibration weight to ensure accuracy.

                          1. re: Klunco

                            The link on Amazon says it weighs in 0.1g increments. :(

                            1. re: PinchOfSalt

                              Looks like I linked to the wrong one (they look identical), sorry about that. Here is the correct link:

                              http://www.amazon.com/American-Weigh-...

                      2. re: PinchOfSalt

                        I would add Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman to the library of must-knead (haha) bread books.

                      3. I'd also re-iterate the limitation of class length in regards to bread baking. Those King Arthur Courses are great if you don't mind investing the time (and money) for a multi-day course.

                        A lot of the technique for what people call "artisan" breadmaking (which for now let's define as basically naturally leavened bread in traditional European shapes/combinations) comes down to the baker's ability to adjust to changing conditions. The humidity in the air, the temperature of the air, and the lifecycle of your starter all affect the final product. What this means is the best way to learn to make great bread is to dive right in and get a feel for how dough responds to changing conditions, and how you need to adjust your technique to compensate and produce a relatively uniform product. The challenge of classes, is while they can be great for giving you an opportunity to learn something like baguette shaping (something that benefits from repetition), because of the length of time to make naturally leavened bread, you won't necessarily get a lot in terms of dough feel.

                        When people ask me to teach them how to make bread the first recipe I recommend is Jim Lahey's famous no-knead bread. It's relatively simple, very forgiving, and produces a very impressive product. Most importantly it's an easy way to gain experience with dough/baking and adapts well to variations. As long as you have a dutch oven, you don't need any special equipment (lamé, baking stone, steam) and you can make great bread. The only thing I discourage is throwing the bread in the pot (gentle!). http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din...

                        Once you're ready to move on, you must buy a scale. Most bread recipes measure everything in grams and especially in the beginning stages it will be very helpful for consistency. It will also elimate the issue of how you are packing flour in measuring cups (which can be very inaccurate). At this point, I tell people to go to http://www.breadtopia.com/ which is a great site that has lots of info/videos on keeping a starter (so you no longer have to use commercial yeast), and variations of the no-knead bread. A starter only needs to be fed once a week if you keep it in the fridge. At that point you can pick up baking stones, a lamé, bannetons/brotforms, a spray bottle, and a linen couche if baguettes interest you.

                        Another great reference site is www.thefreshloaf.com

                        Enjoy!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Klunco

                          Very good advise Klunco.....I think baking in itself is mostly trial and error as I have experienced through the years when baking cookie and cake recipes...perfection takes time. I think a small class where I can ask questions would be a good start for me as I will also be gathering information from books as well ..... but questions to ask in a class such as water temperature in making sourdough starter for instance would be one for me or do you use warm, cold, luke warm water for this process? How about types of flour, bleached, unbleached, organic (my preference) or bread flour, regular? I love "Iggys" breads and the malt barley flour they use in their product. Where could one find malt barley flour? I will check out your websites you posted and appreciate sharing your experience.

                          1. re: Bakersbest

                            Be VERY careful with malted barley flour! If you get a diastatic one (with active enzymes) and add just a bit too much, your bread will wind up as nothing more than a nasty puddle of goop. Learned this one the hard way.

                            Info on water temperature*, flour types**, etc, is in my experience much better to glean via online sources, because you can compare and contrast different points of view and opinions. And with something like bread baking, it's all a matter of opinion.

                            A class, I think, is ideal for learning specific hands-on techniques such as kneading, shaping, and so on, which may not be as easy to pick up from reading some text.

                            While we're here, my opinions:

                            * Water temperature in sourdough? It doesn't matter much, as long as it's not too hot. I use lukewarm tap water. A common myth is that tap water will kill sourdough starters. Not true, or mine wouldn't be alive three years in.

                            ** Flour type? Never anything bleached, for high quality bread. I've played with bread flour and found they didn't make much of a difference for what I like to bake (ciabatta, focaccia, boules, and pizza, primarily). King Arthur AP works great and has plenty of protein.

                            1. re: Bakersbest

                              The most important thing about temperature to understand is that it affects fermentation speed. The slower the fermentation, the longer it will take your bread to rise BUT BUT BUT the more flavor and complexity your bread will develop. Anything from ice water to about 110 degree water is fine (above 110 and you could kill the yeast). For most doughs something around room temperature is fine understanding that the dough is going to acclimate to room temperature anyway within an hour. If you're keeping your starter in the fridge between bakes you can feed it once a week because the temperature is cold. If you keep it on the counter, a starter should be fed every 12 hours (this is directly correlated to temperature and speed of fermentation).

                              Sourdough starters work much slower than commercial yeast which became prevalent around WW1 in Europe. Using instant yeast was faster (a necessity during wartime) although flavor is reduced. This is when the baguette became the bread of France replacing the traditional country miche. Commercial yeast also causes the bread to stale faster than wild yeast.

                              Bread flour has a higher protein content than AP flour which has a higher protein content than pastry flour. Higher protein means more dough strength and more gluten (more chew if you will) whereas lower protein is what you want for tender pastries (why you fold muffin batter rather than whisk it; you don't want to create gluten/chewy muffins).

                              Unbleached, organic flour from KA or whoever is fine if you want to use that. There won't be much of a difference with bleached or non-organic. Whole wheat or rye will change how the dough responds, they both absorb more water, rye has low gluten, WW's bran is heavier and "cuts" gluten so it won't rise as much, and both will change the composition of the bread. I would stick with AP or bread for now.

                              I wouldn't worry about malted barley flour as that is a miniscule percentage of the dough for Iggy's breads. It's being used as a dough conditioner but as a home baker skipping it will make little difference in your finished product. It's primarily used to increase shelf life and give slightly darker color (although it's important to note it's not a "preservative" per se.) It is not though like they are making a 100% barley flour loaf, that would be a brick. The bread is made of AP or bread flour with malted barley flour added as maybe 1% of the final dough. If you insist on it, Bob's red mill and King Arthur sell it. You can certainly add a tablespoon to your loaves: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/i...

                          2. Another option north of Boston is Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School in Lyman, Maine.

                            http://www.stoneturtlebaking.com/

                            Most of their classes are full day classes. I took the pizza making class last fall and thought it was great! I really learned a lot and plan to take some of their other bread making classes in the spring or fall.

                            1. I know the mods are going to move this to home cooking, but I hope they don't because this is a great discussion and many posts re Boston area specific....even the last one about the barley flour and Iggys and water temp.

                              I wonder if we could start a local artisan baking group to share ideas and techniques? And I mean Boston area, so we can specifically discuss local sources for ingredients and tools and maybe even visit together some of the excellent local artisans. So Boston area, not home cooking.

                              I have many of the bread books mentioned here and others as well. I haven't been able yet to delve into my newest acquisition, Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish. I have several generations of the bread books and they all build on one another, so I find the latest ones the most helpful. They integrate the knowledge of the earlier ones with the more recent developments of no-knead and making the long slow rise slower with refrigeration.

                              I also recommend the Anson Mills products and recipes. It's in SC so not local, but for those who appreciate heirloom grains and want to learn intricate techniques....it will either appeal to you or not.

                              Someday I'd love to write a synopsis of the artisan bread books over recent history and how they have evolved and developed. And how they differ. I first make bread in 1976 while in college in Cambridge. I moved to Calif. and of course got fascinated with sourdough.

                              Iggy's is so great. I want to make the francese at home, and also duplicate and better the bertucci's and Legal seafood rolls. Working on it! I hope the local benchmarks and ingredient availability will keep this thread on our Boston board.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Madrid

                                I agree Madrid (love Madrid by the way, can't wait to return to Spain, awesome tapas bars)...a discussion on Artisan breads / Boston area sounds like a winner. By the way since we are on the topic a Boston bakery called "Bricco Panetteria," in the North End of Boston sells Artisan Breads...I saw the review on TV over the weekend. If you visit the website, Bricco.com you will see the product. Their ingredients used are identical to "iggys" breads....interesting. I am a huge fan of Iggys francese bread...and want to make my own home version without the thiamine mononitrate and of course the cost will be a lot less....

                                Thank you for your book recommendations....will check them out. I also have questions about grains in general.....U.S. grown wheat today as opposed to the amber waves of grain of 50, 60 years ago minus the chemicals used...and the GMO's of today. Is Canadian and European wheat healthier? Has anyone heard of the book "Wheatbellys"? I have not read it but heard that it is antiwheat period. I prefer to stay positive.

                              2. Welcome to the world of great bread at home. I bake in our small Boston apartment and at our weekend home in Maine. Most of my baking is in Maine where I have wood fired ovens and a large kitchen. I have taken many classes, King Arthur, Stone Turtle, Cyril Hitz (Breadhitz.com). Best books are Bread, Bread Bakers Apprentice.
                                I would like to be part of a Boston group. My email is bsmith@bostonphoto.com

                                1. http://www.marygbread.com/?page=14
                                  This is the best you'll get. I attended Jim's workshop about 5 years ago and can't praise him and Wendy enough. If you go tell him "Jorsey Sal" recommended him and said hello. Good Luck Sal

                                  2 Replies
                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                      VERY convenient from Boston!

                                      But putting the snark aside, a class that uses a wood-fired oven doesn't really seem that useful unless you have one in your own back yard. Tricking a conventional oven into behaving like a bread oven is one of the techniques that one would want to learn during a class.