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Class: Enriched Doughs at Culinary Communion



Saturday morning at 10:00 am found me on a quiet street in West Seattle heading toward a house I’d wanted to visit for quite some time.  Well, that’s a little bit untrue as this was not the original location for the cooking school known as Culinary Communion, but it’s close enough to the truth

I entered, was greeted by Chef Gabriel Claycamp, grabbed an apron and made my way upstairs to join a few other students who has arrived before me.  While waiting for the balance of the class to arrive we exchanged light conversation and got to know each other a bit.  I also took the opportunity to glance through the materials provided to each student:  a notebook with background information on the basic concepts for this class and a series of recipe cards that listed all recipes – both for the breads and the lunch items. 
Once everyone had arrived, Chef Gabe started out with background information.  This was actually the second in a series of classes.  I was not enrolled in the whole series but had taken advantage of an open spot in this class and jumped in.  So part of the pre-hands-on discussion contrasted what the students had done the prior week with the recipes we would be using this week. 
Chef covered the primary ingredients used to tenderize enriched doughs:  butter, oil, eggs, milk and cream.  We learned about the term "shortening" and that although we now think of a specific product called shortening, the actual term comes from the affect that fats have on the gluten threads – they shorten them and tenderize the resulting bread.  After a few more fun and interesting facts it was time for us to get our hands into it all! 
I liked the way this class was organized.  As you probably know, making yeast breads takes a certain amount of time as you need to allow the yeast to do its work.  To compact the time needed, a batch of the doughs we would be working with had already been made and were through their first rise.  We would shape them and then allow them to go through the second rising process.  During that time we’d actually go back to the beginning and create the dough from scratch so that we would get experience with all parts of the process just reversed a bit. 
Our first task of the day was to make Brioche à Tête.  Chef Gabe cut the dough into small pieces and then showed us how to roll it into a small ball and then create the distinctive little "head" that we’ve come to expect on our brioche.  We rolled and shaped our way through the batch of dough and then our little tins were set aside to let the dough do it’s final rise.  
Next, it was on to shaping Uncle Gerry’s Famous Butter Rolls, White Bread and Cinnamon Rolls (based on the Cinnabon recipe).  We divided up into several groups for these three breads, each requiring slightly different handling. 

Uncle Gerry’s rolls are extra-large sized dinner rolls.  Now, the dough has some butter in it but these rolls elevate the butter factor exponentially!  Once the rolls are shaped they are placed in a pan with filled with melted butter, rolled in the butter and then, when all rolls are in place in the pan, more melted butter is poured over the top!  So forget all the things you might be thinking at the moment and just focus on the fact that once these babies are out of the oven you don’t really need to do anything else to them.  Tender and buttery (obviously) they can be eaten just as they are, although a schmeer of fresh pear butter (that had been cooking down when we arrived) or a berry jam doesn’t hurt at all either. 
Another group worked on rolling out and shaping the cinnamon rolls.  In addition, the filling of cinnamon and brown sugar needed to be mixed. Here’s where I learned another lesson – something I’d sort of heard about somewhere in my past but it hadn’t really stuck in my mind.  There is cinnamon and there is cassia, which is a type of cinnamon but not true cinnamon.  Here in the US (and in many other places) both the sticks and ground spice that we buy as cinnamon are actually cassia.  Cassia is much stronger flavored than true cinnamon and therefor less of it is needed when cooking. 

Chef Gabe had a bunch of true cinnamon bark that we ground for the rolls.  It was much milder and even a little sweeter in taste than the cassia we all know.  According to some sources, cassia is better for savory dishes and true cinnamon better in sweets.  
We also had another little lesson about using dental floss for cutting the rolls.  I’ve seen this technique used in the past but it still makes me laugh just a little.  I don’t know why I find it amusing but I do.  For past projects I’ve used fishing line for cutting through things like cakes and this is the same concept.  The floss or line is very thin and since there is no pressure from a knife it makes a nice clean, uncompressed cut. 
Another group worked on rolling out and shaping the White Bread.  We had this bread with our lunch and it had some real substance to it.  I don’t mean it was heavy, it just had a presence yet was not as dense as say, an Italian country bread.  This was another bread that was beautiful on it’s own – no embellishment needed! 
Once all the various doughs had been shaped and set in the warming drawer to rise the groups then set about making each dough from the beginning.  This dough, which would be through its first rise by the end of class would be divided up and given to the students to finish at home.  (I ended up with two of the doughs and now have a gorgeous batch of Uncle Gerry’s rolls in my freezer and have already eaten all the cinnamon rolls!)
Once the breads were finished a few people worked on cleaning up some of the dishes (we’d actually been pretty good at doing that right along) and others helped Chef prepare lunch. 
Oops!  Before I get to that I should tell you that as the shaped rolls finished their second rise they were baked off and we sampled them throughout the class.  Along with a nice batch of Mimosas.  Now that would have made me happy if I hadn’t been already! 

I’ve neglected to mention Paulette who had been instrumental in having all the dough ready for us on arrival and during class was making a beautiful Gingered Squash Soup to start our lunch.  Chef did a quick citrus cure for some salmon which was then grilled.  A couple people assembled Salad with Pears, Hazelnuts and Bacon (oh yum!) and a couple of us picked fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden and assembled a simple platter topped with olive oil. 
Around 1:00 pm we sat down to this beautiful lunch accompanied with the fresh-from-the-oven White Bread.  Lunch was lively and animated with conversation flowing easily.  It was a very fun event. 
The folks at Culinary Communion offer all types of classes (single sessions as well as series) on nearly every topic imaginable.  And there is something going on nearly every day of the week.  All of the classes are hands-on and I believe the class limit is normally ten (I’m not 100% sure of that but there were just 9 in this class) so there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to get in and get real experience. 
For a full list of classes and to register check out their website
To see all of the photos from the class go here.   

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