Crust never sleeps

Cooking covers so many topics it’s a challenge to master one of them given the time and expense. Often it seems easier to keep making the same things over and over again so I don’t have to search online or haul out a cookbook. Lazy! I decided to attempt what I understood to be a particularly mysterious topic of food prep: baking bread. Last fall I discovered NSCC had an Introduction to Bread Baking running for four Monday evenings.

My first class was a revelation. The smell of yeast was overwhelming. After only a few minutes I was dusty with flour and the heat in the kitchen was high. I wanted to see and touch everything. It felt like every piece of equipment there was going to help me be a better home cook.

And it only got better. I can easily say our instructor, Chef Larry Bergeron, is the most inspiring teacher I’ve ever had. This man is up every day at 5 a.m., heads to NSCC to warm the ovens then teaches a full-time day class starting at 7 a.m. During the day he also oversees the on-campus bakery and on Mondays he sticks around for the night class, which wraps around 9 p.m. He inspired us all.

A typical class would start off with the background on the kind of breads we would bake. We would then fumble through and try to keep up. Often the ingredients were pre-measured. Chef always had everything organized so we were always busy observing and learning.

He started us off with simple white, brown and multigrain breads. Our questions were always well received. Once someone asked about bread with herbs. He answered “Let’s find out!” and then added it to the dough.

Now if you’re wondering what we’re doing during all those long risings, it’s pretty simple. We ate! Every class we’d arrive to a beautifully set table. The menu varied but included samples of (surprise) bread, cheese, oils, garlic, smoked salmon, fruits, olives and capers. I stopped eating dinner on class nights. After the feasts we’d be shown how to roll our dough into loaves or place it in a banneton.

By the end of class, perfectly timed, the loaves came hot out of the ovens and were displayed before the salivating crowd. The sight was amazing and the smell incredible. I still remember the heat coming off all those breads. It was too bad they were too hot to eat immediately. One night we brought home seven loaves each!

By the end of the first night I wanted to quit my job. I signed up for the level 2 course and Chef Larry referred me to some excellent books. Now I daydream of the full-time course.

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