Brasserie Bread – Poolish & Soakers class
crunchytiger attended this class as a guest of Brasserie Bread
Can you believe… I’ve been baking sourdough for almost a year now, ever since I attended my first Brasserie Bread Art of Sourdough class. There’s something addictive about baking it… the strange alchemy that turns flour, water & salt into something crackly, crunchy, fluffy and oh so delicious. I love not knowing how a loaf will exactly turn out until it’s baked. There’s always a new technique to be learnt, a better way of scoring the dough, a different hydration, or changing up the resting times to get those lovely airy holes. It’s really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of bread forums (Reddit’s BreadIt subreddit is currently my new favourite)
But as lovely as sourdough is, it does take a lot of time. Lately I’ve been branching out into other bread recipes that use yeast to speed up the process. Some recipes can even be mixed, baked and eaten within a couple of hours! (And after baking sourdough which typically needs to be rested for 12-14 hours… anything that can be eaten on the same day it’s started seems crazy fast to me!)
So when Sarah from Brasserie Bread asked if I’d be interested in attending the special Poolish and Soakers class they were running for the Crave festival last year, I jumped at the chance! (yep… this is a super suuuuuper late post!)
The class was run by the head of training at Brasserie Bread, Matt. As I’d already done a Brasserie Bread course before, a lot of the introduction was familiar to me, but it’s always nice having a reminder of good dough mixing technique!
The first dough we made was a Multigrain Struan bread recipe. So many ingredients compared to my humble sourdough loaves!
This bread recipe uses two different techniques – a biga and a soaker.
The soaker is a mixture of flour, grains and milk which has been rested for 12 hours. This serves two purposes, firstly to hydrate the grains so they’re not too hard & tough in the final loaf, and secondly to develop flavour.
The biga is a type of pre-ferment. In this case it’s a dough mixture that’s been made the day before (or in a bakery it might be leftover dough from yesterday’s breadmaking!) which you add to today’s dough to give it a more developed flavour.
The Brasserie Bread Struan loaf includes a mixture of: sunflower seeds, linseeds, barley, oats, millet, cracked wheat and polenta. So delicious! I’ve never mixed dough with so many different ingredients, and it was quite hilarious seeing the little seeds ricochet around the room as we threw our dough onto the mixing table.
While we waited for our dough to rest, Matt demonstrated making Ciabatta. I love ciabatta with its airy crumb structure and pure tastiness.
Ciabatta uses another pre-ferment method called a poolish. Like the biga from the struan loaf, a poolish is another way of adding flavour to your bread. The poolish Matt shows us is much runnier than the doughy biga. In fact, the bubbly shiny surface and slightly acidic smell reminds me a lot of Mr Stay Puft, my sourdough starter!
The ciabatta dough is extremely wet, and is easier to mix using an electric mixer with a dough hook, rather than being mixed by hand.
The ciabatta dough gets folded a few times to develop the gluten structure and incorporate the olive oil.
After resting, it’s tipped out onto a big floured board.
And cut into pieces
Lifting the extremely soft dough takes a bit of practiced hand. The ciabatta doesn’t need to be shaped as aggressively as a baguette. The idea is to lift and stretch the dough before placing it onto the baking tray.
Matt makes it look a lot easier than it is!
One by one we all get to try the lift & stretch!
Last but not least, Matt goes through some basic dough shaping techniques. He brings out a giant tub of preprepared and rested Pain Blanc dough for us to practice shaping with.
Matt shows us how to shape baguettes, dinner rolls and plaited bread
While we waited for our shaped dough to rest & rise, we were treated to a tour behind the scenes at Brasserie Bread – a similar tour to the one I did during my Sourdough class. But it’s always fun to have a peep behind the curtain because I’m nosy like that!
After our tour of the bakery, our breads were ready to be baked!
After our breads are in the oven, it’s time for everyone’s favourite part… BREADUCATION!
So delicious. This is definitely the best kind of learning.
As always, this Brasserie Bread class was a complete pleasure to attend. I really enjoyed learning some more advanced techniques, and really hope they offer more classes like it in future. Matt mentioned that he’d love to run the class again (It was created especially for the Crave Sydney festival), but would probably like to give it a slightly more accessible name than Poolish & Soakers hehe.
(And guess what! After I finally finished eating all the bread I baked in the class… I had a go at baking ciabatta at home. It’s the one in the photo all the way at the top of this post! Not quite as pretty as the ones we made in class, but definitely happy for my first attempt! My poor little breville mixer definitely had a good workout.)