Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I love... Baking with Zoe!

Last night my Mom and I got to bake with Zoe. Zoe Francois from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or in this case, Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day. We took the class at Cooks of Crocus Hill, a fabulous cooking-supply store in St. Paul and location extraordinaire for cooking classes with notable local and national chefs.
If you've ever spent any time on my blog you'll know that I've been happily baking my way through Zoe and Jeff Hertzberg's books, loving every tasty morsel that has emerged from my corn meal dusted oven. When the opportunity came up to actually take a class with them, I leapt at the chance. What a thrill the evening was! (the Master recipe, baked in a dutch oven (L) and on a pizza stone (R)

Zoe dove right in with some of the basics of their method, very helpful for the uninitiated in the class and fun for those of us who have read their words in the book and now had a chance to hear her voice saying the same words. She discussed the popularity of the 1st book (over 250,000 copies printed!) and how there was such a demand on their website for more recipes using whole grains, that they embarked almost immediately on their 2nd book. I learned later in the evening that they are in the testing mode for book number three, a flat breads and pizza book. She mixed up a batch of the Master Recipe from the Whole Grain book and allowed the participants to see how it is done, to compare the dough before and after the two hour counter rise and then also the difference between loaves just formed and post-rise.
For me the biggest thrill was to see her hands in action. As a trained pastry chef (and mother of two boys), Zoe obviously can work with her hands. Long, thin fingers, nimble and able, quickly whisked the dough out of the bucket and into a puff of flour, emerging only seconds later as a round ball, ready to become a beautiful loaf of whole wheat deliciousness. I tried to imagine just how many loaves she must have formed throughout the years, with this method and also during her days as a working pastry chef. I have seen the transformation in my own hands; from the first awkward and sticky batch to my recent adventures where I run in the house, open the fridge door, and with a swift pull, the bucket is in my hands, onto the counter and a loaf of bread is soon rising. It is just that fast. Really. If you haven't tried it, get moving. It really will change your dining repertoire.
Zoe baked up a storm along with the help of four trusty Cooks of Crocus Hill assistants, plus a dishwasher. At any given time she was working on three or four loaves, plus talking about another and answering a question about a different topic. I lost track of all the treats she created, but you'll see highlights in the photos that follow. Zoe's teaching style was entertaining and fun. She was supportive of our new baking endeavors, encouraging us to post on their website when we have questions or come up with new bread ideas. When one attendee was referring to one of the evening's creations and said, "Oooh, I can do that..." Zoe replied with a grin, "Yeah, you can!"
Pain d'epi- shaped like wheat stalks Killer pizza from the whole wheat master recipe. Msemmen (Algerian Flatbread) with an amazing combination of aromatic spices. A baguette studded with whole, raw garlic cloves. Betsy's seed bread Naan (L) and Pita bread (R)

Pear Tarte Tatin, the grande finale that came out of the oven at 9:25, though the class was scheduled from 6-9 p.m. As Zoe promised, it was worth the wait and would wow any dinner guest you'd serve it to. Mmmm.... goodness! Who wants to come over to my house to try it?
Another highlight for me and my mom was the group of attendees. Everyone seemed thrilled to be there, hovering over bowls of yeasty dough, sharing tips from their own experiences, telling tales of their own blogs and photo endeavors. The talent in the room was quite evident.
As for me? I've got a few blog-mamas coming over on Friday morning for another play date and I am trying to decide which one of these yummy breads I'll be serving with our lunch. My kitchen counter looks like a cooking show at the moment, ingredients everywhere, waiting for me to get mixing.
Zoe shared with us that she usually has 5-7 buckets going at any given time in her fridge. What kind do you have in yours?


Kerry said...

I have about half of a batch of the master recipe from Book 1 in there now.
OOOOOOOOH! I am so excited. First of all, Jenn, thank you! I almost feel like I was there with you... your words and pictures are amazing.
Second of all, I am very, very happy that I am one of those mamas that gets to try one of your creations on Friday morning. Can't wait!

Sarah Jane said...

I second what Kerry said! I felt like I was there. How awesome!
And I'm excited to hear about what you've learned. I've all but given up on the Healthy Bread.
Hasta manana!

Sarah Jane said...

P.S. I love your necklace!

Zoë François said...

Hi Jenn,

What a pleasure to have you and your mom in class. That was a terrific evening! Your pictures are great and I will come back to see all the bread YOU are baking!

Thanks and hope to see you in class again soon! Zoë

Tiff said...

Yay! What fun! Enjoying the bread here too.

Let's get together soon...miss you!

Tricia said...

I'm coming to try that yummy dessert! How much fun to see Zoe in action! I just finished my pail of whole wheat sandwich bread and always have the Boule in the fridge. I think we best go with pizza tonight!

Charmed Life said...

Made homemade pizza tonight but it wasnt nearly as good as whats goin on in these pics!! Yum!!! What fun that class must have been!!


David said...


You have done a wonderful job of capturing the evening. I wish that I could have stuck around to taste the Pear Tarte Tatin. Great photos!


Vicki said...

I think there is nothing quite like cooking WITH...the chef. Such fun. Such an spirit and joy. I wish I could be in this place!

Annie said...

Hi Jenn
it was a joy to meet you
your pics are beautiful
I wish I would have brought my camera
funny...right now my hubby is searching online for farm properties south of the cities...maybe my dream will come true
good luck to you with your farm

Once Upon A Parent said...

Oh this makes me want to bake bread tonight. I'd better get started so we can bake it tomorrow.Thank goodness it is so easy.

Jennifer Mosher said...

I read your blog. I drooled. Off to eat bread.

6512 and growing said...

I just made my first loaf of bread in many years. Spelt flour; no knead. It was a bit small and hockey-puckish, but devoured by my family in one night, nevertheless.

Your baking is inspiring; I'll be sure to come on back here again.


Mrs. D. said...

Thank you again for introducing me to the bread miracle! I just made the 100% Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread - with brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top. YUM!!!