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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Brushed By An Angel’s Wing & Bread

smokehouse cranberry cheese bread

smokehouse cranberry cheese bread

This week I believe I was brushed by an angel’s wing; one belonging to my dear, sweet mother in law, Renetta. Monday was her birthday and on that day the finalists in the 2015 National Festival of Breads was announced. And, yes, yours truly is among them. It’s an honor. What touches my heart about this whole thing is not so much that I won, but that the recipe I created for this contest was actually inspired by Renetta and days spent visiting her in Vermont. Is it just coincidence or is it Renetta continuing to comfort me? Are there angels among us? What’s your story?

William & Grandma Keys

William & Grandma Keys

Renetta was a fabulous and very health conscious cook. She was the first to teach me the importance of buying local in support of the farming community. One of my favorite memories is taking a ride with her and the kids to the smokehouse and sugar shack. There we would sample and buy the farmer’s smoked cheeses (the kind dipped in red and white wax). The smoked cheddar and gouda were delicious whether she was slicing it up for a sandwich on her homemade bread or grating it into her mac n’cheese. smoked cheeseAnd what a treat for my kids to experience the collection and boiling down of sap into maple syrup at the sugar shack. We all looked forward to Grandma’s famous “Vermont Sundae”, vanilla ice cream with warm, just harvested, real maple syrup poured over the top. Drool worthy memories! I am grateful for them and for the inspiration they provide for my award winning recipes today. Can’t go wrong cooking from your heart. Renetta would be happy and proud and I am not surprised that she is still watching over me. Still miss her very much.

I cannot share my bread recipe with you just yet, but here is the official announcement from the National Festival of Breads including yummy photos of all the other winners.