I just returned from one of the most amazing workshops I've ever attended. "Blog and Bake" was hosted by King Arthur Flour at their headquarters in Norwich, VT. I was fortunate enough to be invited as a result of my working relationship with Cabot Creamery. Vermont is ripe with amazing food companies, and these are two of the best!
I hope to share lots of what I learned in future posts. For now, I think this sums it up in many ways
...or more specifically, the brand and type of flour matters. We attended an eye-opening workshop that dealt with the differences in protein content, look, smell, feel and functionality of various flours. I honestly couldn't believe that side by side, all purpose flour could be so different. Not to mention the absolute quality of what I baked while there was shocking. I consider myself a decent baker, but I left VT a much better baker than when I arrived... and I credit much of that to the fact that I was using exclusively KAF products.
More pics from the event:
Everyone says how Southerners are known for their friendliness... well hats off to our neighbors to the North because I couldn't have felt any more welcome. If you're planning a trip to New England any time soon, try to snag a spot in one of King Arthur's classes at their Baking Education Center. You'll be welcomed equally as warmly!
In case you've ever wondered if bloggers actually work at these events... don't they look so intense?
You know you're in for some good stuff when you see big bins of rolling pins greeting you.
This picture does not even begin to do their on-site store justice. I was overwhelmed at the variety of baking tools & products. If you're not able to make it for a visit any time soon, worry not. King Arthur has a robust online shopping section. Click around til your little baker's heart is content.
A gnocchi board. Maybe you've used one before? Not me. Or at least not until I got to tape a cooking segment with Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia fame (shown below.) Yes. That's right. I said tape a segment. I wouldn't say it was a starring role, but I got a "yes" and "thank you" or two in there! I'll keep you posted on when it should air.
Too bad I couldn't just pick up one of these from the on-site store and stick it in my suitcase :)
Key learning here: bloggers take LOTS of pictures. Even of other bloggers.
This is shaggy mass, not to be confused with a shaggy mess (which is what my hair looked like in the rainy VT weather, if I'm being honest). Shaggy mass is the loosely formed bread dough before kneading. I had been missing this stage completely with my home baking, putting in way too much water.
Another big eye opener. You know that "smell" that whole wheat flour has. Well, it shouldn't. If it does, it's no good. I thought I knew rancid, but I see now it comes a lot quicker with whole wheat than I realized. Word to the whole grain baking fans out there... much more to come on this later, but let's just say the best place to start is by checking your flour. If it's bad, toss it out. Get some fresh and store it in your freezer ASAP.
Do your bread braids come out uneven? You're probably not starting from the center, are you? Consider yourself informed.
And this one's just to show that you don't have to be a nerdy RD like me to enjoy charts and graphs!
I wish I had time to debrief on everything I learned. But I promise to weave in tips for the future.
[Disclosure: I attended this event free of charge courtsey of King Arthur Flour and Cabot Creamery Cooperative. I was not compensated to write this blog post. Opinions expressed are my own.]