King Arthur Flour Baking School

nissa scocca

nissa socca

If you love to bake as much as I do or are interested in learning how to bake a trip to the King Arthur Flour Baking School in Norwich, Vermont should be on your bucket list. Last week, my Caitlin and I spent a few days exploring the Green Mountain state and learning how to bake everything from flatbreads to European tarts and pastries compliments of the sponsors of the National Festival of Breads.

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The class schedule offers a great variety of hands-on baking experiences for the home baker as well as the professional chef. There are classes for everyone and they do fill up quickly. Some of the classes are taught by celebrity chefs like the famous Gale Gand. I did get a glimpse of her teaching a class on cinnamon rolls as the kitchens are easily observed through large glass windows. This state of the art facility also includes a large retail bakery, a café and a most beautiful store. The store is a baker’s paradise.

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and

the store has everything from appliances to extracts and all gadgets and ingredients in between

the store has everything from appliances to extracts and all gadgets and ingredients in between

and

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Flour Matters–use the best

Back to baking, I especially loved the class on flat breads because I learned a few new scientific things. First, I never baked with a mix of yeast and baking powder before. This extra leavening creates so much carbon dioxide that it actually causes the bread to deflate and bake to the perfect flatness. Brushed with egg white and sprinkled with a little nigella and sesame seed this bread is perfect for scooping up hummus.

northwest India naan

northwest India naan ready for the oven

In this class we also baked a spelt pita (check out goodgriefcook on Instagram to watch it puff) and a bread I had never heard of before, nissa socca. Nissa socca is a morning snack sold by vendors in the south of France. This recipe, made from gluten-free chickpea flour reminded me more of a polenta than a bread. Warm from the oven and cut into small squares or wedges it will make a terrific holiday party appetizer.

nissa socca hot from these amazing ovens

nissa socca hot from these amazing ovens

Vermont in October is lovely. The air is crisp and the leaves are just beginning to turn. Fresh apples are plentiful and make the perfect seasonal filling for a buttery rustic tart. In fact, most of our fresh baking ingredients like the apples, butter, cream and eggs are sourced from local farms. In addition, we are instructed to drop our egg shells and apple peels in a green compost bucket. The philosophy is clear: flour matters, the farmer matters and the environment matters. It all adds up to naturally delicious baked goods.

European tart class

European tart class

In between our classes we visit some of our old stomping grounds including the old Sugar Bush Farm which inspired my winning National Festival of Breads recipe. The old farm hasn’t changed a bit in 30 years and is still handing out samples of its delicious smoked cheeses and sweet maple syrup. Caitlin and I stocked up and I am thankful to have re-lived some old memories while creating some new ones with my daughter.

one of many old barns at Sugar Bush Farms

one of many old barns at Sugar Bush Farms

By the way, everything we baked we could take home. My innkeeper was very happy and especially loved the chocolate hazelnut ganache tart. A few of the other guests indulged in these from our Mille Feuille (homemade puff pastry) class.

Napoleons really do have 1000 layers of pastry

Napoleons really do have 1000 layers of pastry

The Pippin Inn

The Pippin Inn, Quechee, VT is where we stayed

One day I hope to return to the baking school for more classes. The perfect plan would be to grab a couple of girlfriends and make a long weekend of it. Put it on your Christmas list. If you can’t get there any time soon than shopping their on-line store is the next best thing. Here is a recipe from the far flung flatbread class. I hope it inspires you to enter the National Festival of Breads come 2017.

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Thank you Kansas Wheat and King Arthur Flour for a great weekend and making me feel like a queen.

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From Field to Fork Lessons in Gratitude

growing goodness

growing goodness

Today’s grief lessons are brought to you courtesy of a visit to Manhattan, KS (aka-Man-Happiness) and the 2015 National Festival of Breads sponsored by among others Kansas Wheat, King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast. It was a whirlwind of activity for us 8 bread baking finalists starting with an educational farm to flour tour of the area.

best stuff on earth

best stuff on earth

It was fascinating to spend the day in the life of the Kejr family. I have a whole new appreciation for how hard wheat farmers work and how dedicated they are to grow quality grain to not only feed people like you and me, but people all over the world. Did you know that 50% of the wheat we grow is exported? Wheat farmers feed the world and as well-educated scientists have invested in themselves to develop better crops with less impact on the environment.

what beautiful country

what beautiful country

From the farm we followed the wheat trail to a grain elevator operation where the wheat is stored and then on to the flour mill where 30-inch granite wheels grind the wheat and fill the bags that we so conveniently pluck off our grocery store shelves.

mill stone

mill stone

Did you know that King Arthur Flour bags are coded so that the flour can actually be traced back to the individual farm where the wheat was grown? Yeah-me neither, but we know now and isn’t that amazing? So much care and quality goes into each and every bag. Our final stop of the tour was the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center where we witnessed wheat science in action and the gorgeous kitchen (yes, I have kitchen envy) where our recipes were tested.

use quality ingredients to make tasty winning recipes

use quality ingredients to make tasty winning recipes

Competitors start your ovens. Every bake-off I learn something new and this one is no exception. I am so very grateful to have Ann Domsch as my hostess and baking assistant. Ann is “my rock” as a fumble through my first attempt at baking my bread. She supports me and encourages me on. With every visitor to my table (about 1000 people visited the event) I hear her say, “This is a great recipe. I have sampled it many times.” I realize this is no longer my recipe, but our recipe. We are a team. We are in it together and I am so very honored and humbled to be in her presence. Thank you co-champion!

co-champs

co-champs

If I have learned one thing from my son’s death it is to embrace gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for especially the fact that I can share my inspired and spirited recipes across this great nation. Celebrating William and my dear mother in law, Renetta Keys, through my Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread was an emotionally charged celebration of goodness. How lucky am I to have had such a loving woman in my life and to honor her as the 2015 National Festival of Breads Grand Champion? See the winning recipe: Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread

This loaf was auctioned off for $600.00.  Thank you Red Star Yeast

This loaf was auctioned off for $600.00. Thank you Red Star Yeast

To top it off my recipe is going in to mass production and going to be sold at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Man-Happiness. Folks out there will be breaking “my” bread over dinner and hopefully slicing it up for a killer post Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.