I had the sincere pleasure of attending Blog & Bake at the King Arthur Flour headquarters in Norwich VT earlier this week. And when I say it was a pleasure, I really, truly mean that. You all know how I love to bake. Being invited to spend two days learning tips from the pros was an unbelievable opportunity. Some people may wonder why I would take basic baking classes when I just wrote a book with a whole baking chapter in it, but that is one of the best parts about cooking. It is impossible to know how to do everything perfectly. There is always more to learn about the craft, more techniques to know. The teachers at King Arthur were, in my opinion, unparalleled. Our two days of classes covered the basics: white bread, pizza dough, pate brisee (butter crusts), pate sucree (sweet butter crusts), and flour. Even though I’ve made all of these many times I learned all sorts of useful tips from the best way to make a make a flakey pie crust, to how to knead pizza dough so that is produces a perfectly crispy crust every time. We even got to take home everything we baked, including our gorgeous tomato pies.
In addition to the baking classes I learned a lot more about King Arthur Flour as a company. I’ve always used their flour because it works so well and I strongly believe in using unbleached flours. (Bleaching is an unnecessary process which adds carcinogenic chemicals to flour.) Since my experience I have redoubled my affection for their products. King Arthur is committed to maintaining very strict criteria about the flour they sell. All of their wheat is purchased from farmers committed meeting their high standards, and they really make an effort to get to know their growers (just check out these cool videos!) They are also very particular about protein levels in their products. Protein levels in other commercial flours can vary greatly which means you can bake the same recipe with the same brand of flour, but from two different bags, and get completely different results. This won’t happen with King Arthur, their flours behave the same way every single time you bake with them. I thought it was neat that the company is 100% employee owned. Everyone I met had a smile on their face and demonstrated a tremendous amount of pride in their work.
It is impossible to cover all of the great tips in one post so I’m going to break out my experience into two parts. One this week, one next week. So, let’s get started.
Our classroom was so cool. There were long wooden tables set out with all the equipment we needed for each session. King Arthur Flour is in the process of renovating and will have a whole new classroom facility by next spring. I plan to go back for that. This first room was where we started on the first day:
We started with a class on basic white bread. No-Knead bread is frequent in our house and I was excited to brush up on my regular kneaded bread technique. During this class we were all introduced to the white bowl and dough scraper, a plastic tool that seems to have limitless uses in the kitchen. We were also introduced to the dough whisk, my new favorite stirring gadget. We were given one to take home and there is a very good chance it will replace my wooden spoons altogether. After a few helpful tips I got my kneading technique down and successfully tackled my first ever braided bread (!)
After lunch we learned about the differences between all of the King Arthur Flours. They mill so many kinds of flours it was fun to get a better understanding as to how each one performs. To demonstrate, the instructor baked the same muffin recipe with all of the different King Arthur Flours. They varied from chewy, soft or crumbly to rock hard and dense depending on which one she used.
Our first day was capped off with the amazing Sara Moulton. She came to town to chat with the folks about King Arthur about her upcoming show and to demonstrate a meal from her new book (which just won an IACP award!!) I’ve met a few TV Chefs before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but Sara was incredibly down to earth and even quite hip. I admired her cool purple converse and she told me that is all she cooks in. She owns 20 pairs. She smiled and chatted the whole time she cooked for us. It was easy to understand why she is so popular. I am setting my DVR to PBS for her new show debuting in October.
The menu she demonstrated showcased local Vermont ingredients.
That evening we returned to The Norwich Inn where the Chef prepared Sara’s recipes for a large group of us, including Sara. Here is the menu:
First Course: Goat Cheese Souffles with Arugula, Spicy Pecan Praline and Dried Cherries
Main Course: Spinach Stuffed Misty Knoll Farm Chicken Breasts with Wild Mushroom Sauce, Herbed Spaetzle, Spiced Peas & Onions
Dessert: Buttermilk Ginger Donuts with Brandied Hot Chocolate Sauce
After dinner, and several glasses of wine, we retired to our gorgeous rooms for the night. Exhausted, I put my feet up and fell asleep with the TV on. Thank goodness I’d already set my alarm for 6:45am the next day. (Stay tuned for Day #2 next week!)
Summer Tomato Pie
adapted from King Arthur Flour
For the Crust:
|¾||cups white whole wheat flour|
|1 ½||sticks unsalted butter, chilled|
|4 to 6||tablespoons ice water|
For the Filling:
|1/3||cup Dijon mustard|
|1||pound fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced|
|2 to 4||medium tomatoes, thinly sliced|
|1||tablespoons chopped garlic|
|1||teaspoon dried oregano|
|1||pinch sea salt|
|2||tablespoons extra virgin olive oil|
1. To Make the Crust: Combine the flours and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until it is in pea sized pieces. Add the ice water bit by bit until the dough comes together. Shape the pastry into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
2. To Make the Pie: Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Roll out the crust and drape it into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the overhang as needed. Spread the mustard evenly over the base of the interior. Layer the mustard with the mozzarella, followed by the tomato slices, overlapping as needed. Sprinkle the top with the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle the oil over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes.
Naptime Recipe Serving ideas
Any kind of mustard would be delicious in this tart. You could also add a layer of ham or use different cheeses to change the taste.
20 minutes prep time, 35 minutes baking time
Many thanks to King Arthur Flour for generously inviting me to this event and covered the cost of lodging, food and classes.