My visit with master baker Jeffrey Hamelman

Shaping two boules at one time

Jeffrey Hamelman demonstrates his virtuosity shaping two boules at the same time.

Last month I journeyed to the bucolic village of Norwich, VT to attend a workshop at the King Arthur Flour Education Center. The town itself is worth a visit… a peaceful hamlet across the Connecticut River from the beehive of activity at Dartmouth College, with a centuries-old inn (that has a good microbrewery on the premises) and a general store with creaking floorboards once trod by Calvin Coolidge, who lived nearby after his presidency.

prepping wood fired oven

Prepping the wood fired oven we used throughout the class

But I was here for the bread. Specifically, a workshop taught by Jeffrey Hamelman (author of Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes
and one of my general heroes) on baking in a wood fired oven. Among the dozen students I was the only one with no serious plans to build or use a WFO, but no matter. There was plenty of general baking knowledge to be had.

All the students were either professional bakers or serious home bakers, and Hamelman and one of the students had scary looking burns on their arms to

Pizzas baked in the WFO

Pizzas baked in the Wood Fired Oven

prove it. As a result the class moved quickly. We baked a multi-grain sourdough, a flatbread turnover, a magnificent miche and an overnight-retarded pizza dough in the course of a day and a half and we ate as much as we wanted… our own creations as well as delicious pastries brought in from the store/bakery next door.

Slashing diagram for bread

There are many ways to slash a loaf before baking.

I got reinforced on some handling and shaping techniques, and learned some new ones: how to throw a pizza (it’s like tossing a Frisbee straight up in the air using both your hands, then catching it) and a better way of shaping my boules (keep rounding and tightening the ball of dough till bubbles from the fermentation appear on the surface, eager to burst through). I also learned that I am fortunate to have the northeastern supplier of King Arthur Flours in bulk (including some very esoteric varieties) right in my little town of Saratoga Springs, New York.

By bulk, I mean 50# bags. I can see lots of baking in my future, and will write about it here. Meanwhile, here’s the overnight pizza dough recipe.

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2 Responses to My visit with master baker Jeffrey Hamelman

  1. Hi. Great to see master Hamelman in action! I would love to have that chance. Was it difficult to get a seat in his class?

    best wishes,
    codruta

  2. Burnt My Fingers says:

    Hi Codutra, good to see you here!

    Yes, it’s difficult to get in the class… most are sold out far in advance. The secret is to keep checking the King Arthur Flour educational calendar at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/baking-education-center-calendar and when a new class is posted that you like…. grab it. I was specifically wanting a class with Jeffrey Hamelman and had to wait about a year to get it, but it was worth the wait.

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