A couple of weeks ago, I completed a boulangerie traditionnelle (traditional bread-baking) course at Le Cordon Bleu. After completing the macaron course back in January, I really wanted to do another, and the bread course was an easy pick for me! French breads are really something special… maybe one of the most amazing foods on earth. So this way, when we eventually go back to Canada, we can still enjoy French breads! The class included ten varieties of bread: baguette, tradition, pain de campagne (rustic country-style bread), pain au levain (like a sour dough), brioche, croissants, pain de mie aux épinards (spinach sandwich bread), pain complet (wholewheat bread), baguette viennoise, and fougasse provencale (an olive and dried tomato bread). Not only did we learn how to make these breads, but we learned techniques for making and kneading bread doughs, how to do it by hand versus with a mixer, and were given all of the recipes! It was a ton of fun, and I learned a lot. So I thought it would be fun to post some of my major take-aways from the course…
1. Since arriving in France, I’ve been trying to figure out the difference between baguette and tradition. They’re both baguettes of sorts, but tradition is WAY better (at least in my opinion). As it turns out, both contain the same four ingredients – flour, water, yeast, and salt. However, the proportions of the ingredients are different, and the flour used in tradition is a super pure (and organic) flour. The method of preparation also varies greatly; for example, the baguette dough rises at room temperature for only a few hours, whereas the tradition dough rises in the fridge for two days. There is is actually legislation surrounding french breads that regulates what types and quantities of ingredients can be used!
2. Salt plays an important role in regulating the rising of bread doughs. The later you add the salt to your dough, the more it will rise, but the less flavour it will have. The chef recommended trying to keep the salt and yeast from directly contacting one another. So, if you’re mixing by hand, you should only add the salt part way through the mixing, after the yeast has been fully incorporated. If you’re using a mixer, you can add the salt and yeast at the same time, but in separate piles on opposite sides of the bowl.
3. We learned an interesting method for determining the temperature of the water that should be used for any given recipe. The equation is:
WaterTemp = BaseTemp – RoomTemp – FlourTemp
Where WaterTemp is the desired temperature of the water, the BaseTemp is a given piece of information in your recipe (and is determined based on the ideal temperature of the resulting dough), the RoomTemp is the temperature of the room in which you make the bread (which you can measure), and the FlourTemp is the temperature of the flour you’re using (which you can measure).
So for example, if I was making some bread… the recipe tells me that the BaseTemp for this particular bread is 70°C, and I take the temperature of my kitchen and flour, both of which turn out to be 20°C. Then, the required water temperature for use in the recipe is:
WaterTemp = 70°C – 20°C – 20°C = 30°C
I can’t wait to recreate these breads at home, and share the recipes and results with you guys. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the course.
| The chef demonstrating how to mix and knead ingredients by hand. |
| Showing us how to properly form a baguette. |
| My brioche. |
| The chef adding extra butter to the brioche (because you really can’t have too much) :) |
| The chef shaping croissants. |
| Spinach bread. So green! |
| The chef and his awesome team. |