a visit to King Arthur Flour, part one (bread basics)

I have so much to tell you after returning home from my three day baking extravaganza at King Arthur Flour.

20120603-20120603-_DSC3695.jpg

The schedule was packed with bread and pastry making, recipe writing and testing, flour sampling, and note taking. I saw little of Norwich, a quaint Vermont border town where King Arthur’s baking education center, store, test kitchen, and warehouse are all located.

20120603-20120603-_DSC3697.jpg

Aside from driving there and back, I managed to squeeze in writing time and made it over the bridge to the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire. I missed out on photographing life outside the baking kitchen, but I’ll save that for my next visit.

20120603-20120603-_DSC3699.jpg

Let’s begin here with bread basics. It’s day 2 at KAF and I’m in class with Irene (the instructor), Winnie (my baking partner and friend), and eleven other blog & bakers (check out their links below). Irene demonstrates how to measure flour by volume (level and scoop) and by weight (digital or manual scale).

20120604-20120604-_DSC3747.jpg

At home, I usually measure by volume instead of weight out of habit, even though I know the scale means less mess and greater accuracy. To level and scoop a cup of flour, use a spoon or scoop to place the flour in a one cup measuring cup then level off excess flour with the blunt edge of a knife, dough scraper, or other straight edge. The key is to resist the temptation to shake the cup to even the flour out. This fluffs the flour up and will give you an inaccurate measurement.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3737.jpg

If you must fluff (and sometimes I must), do so before you scoop. To weigh a cup of flour, place the bowl you plan to weigh the flour in on top of the scale. Zero out the scale then scoop the flour, when you reach 4.25 ounces, that’s it, no leveling.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3739.jpg

Then Irene asks us to measure one cup of all-purpose flour by volume. The standard measurement for one cup of King Arthur’s all-purpose flour is 4.25 ounces. However, with the exception of several groups, we all came up with different weights within half an ounce or so for one cup of flour, which might result in thick crusts, crumbly and dry loaves, or dense heavy breads. For weight measurements, this master weight chart is indispensable in the kitchen.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3757.jpg

We move on to basic yeast bread (while the recipe calls for all-purpose flour, you can replace up to half of it with white or regular whole wheat), depending on your preference). Irene shows us how to mix, knead, and shape the dough.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3761.jpg

5 tips for making basic yeast bread:

1. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl as if setting up a paint palette or mise en place so that you can see which ingredients you’ve already added and so you don’t forget to add the all important yeast.

2. Develop your own kneading rhythm. Kneading dough should be relaxing like sitting in a rocking chair and you shouldn’t have to beat it into submission. To knead dough, turn the dough out onto

3. Don’t over flour your work surface. The dough will go from sticky to tacky during the kneading stage and the more you make bread by hand, the sharper your instincts will be. Add a light sprinkling of flour if the dough sticks.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3766.jpg

4. After kneading the dough for about 8 to 10 minutes, use the soft cheek test to see if the dough has good gluten development and if it’s ready for the first rise. Shape the dough into a ball, lightly flour your fingers and gently press the dough. When ready, the dough will feel smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, like your cheek.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3770.jpg

5. Make a recipe the way it’s written the first time (I need to work on this). Tweak it to taste later.

20120604-20120604-_DSC3791.jpg

To see the basic bread making techniques in action, check out these videos with Robyn and Terri (who are both terrific, by the way) on getting started, on kneading techniques, and lastly on shaping and baking the loaf.

inside the oven (bread loaves and braids)

Stay tuned for the next post on making blitz puff pastry. Until then, you can find more stories and photos from the rest of the talented blog & bake crew.

Regan — The Professional Palate
Julie — Mommie Cooks
Megan — Stetted
Matt — Thyme In Our Kitchen
Carolyn — Whisk. Write. Repeat.
Carrie — Bakeaholic Mama
Lisa – Fork On The Road
Astrid – Lunches Fit For A Kid
Mark – The Manly Housekeeper
Rashmi – Primlani Kitchen
Tara – Smells Like Home
Winnie – Healthy Green Kitchen

Disclaimer: As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. King Arthur Flour provided me with classes, accommodations, and meals during my stay.

Share

Comments

  1. My dream is to visit the KAF headquarters and store!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. I love this Nikki- the photos look great and you’ve done a fantastic job distilling the info. I am just getting around to editing my photos and hope to post soon :)

  3. I have been looking forward to this post! Love that you are telling about it in black-and-white photos for this post and love hearing about the little tidbits you learned.

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Shanna, Thank you! There is so so much more to say. I remembered earlier while making bread that I forgot to mention to smell your flour to make sure it’s still fresh and not rancid (the smell gives it away). I also keep whole grain flours in the freezer as well. Off topic but important tidbits I wanted to add.

  4. Gorgeous photos, Nikki! It was so nice to meet you at KAF.

  5. I live by my scale! I try to convert all recipes to weight when possible. I trust it so much more. Love the post – I need tips on baking bread. Thanks!

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Thanks, Megan! You’re an inspiration. I want to convert my recipes as well and use the scale instead of cups. Baking habits are hard to break, but I’m trying. ;)

  6. It was indeed a pleasure to connect with you Nikki!! Thanks for stopping by at my blog too. Looking forward to more deliciousness from you!!

  7. I’ve always imagined their test kitchens to be like the very best bakery on steroids mixed with the gentleness of my grandmother’s kitchen. Now, that is something for a kitchen to live up to, isn’t it? It looks like it does!!!

  8. I was looking forward to this post. I was there when they were building the new test kitchen but haven’t seen it yet. I know you’d sent me the link before, but I didn’t recall that it was 4.25 ounces for a cup of flour–whenever I measure volume and weigh (sometimes I do this, yes) I get more like 4.6 ounces–even when I “fluff” the flour. Just goes to show that weight is more accurate. (Peter Reinhart has standardized for his books about 4.5 ounces for a cup. Who knows!) Love the pictures, enjoy your little observation on rule #5; yup!

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Thanks, Sara. Standardized flour weights do vary, King Arthur bases their measurement on their brand of flours, but I imagine it differs by brand (how fine the grain was milled and if other flours are blended in or if milled at home). Does P.R. suggest using specific flour brands? I wonder where he sources his flour from…I suppose we all to come up with some sort of standard.

      Yes, that #5 is a problem when baking. Still. It’s hard to resist!

  9. Great post Nikki! It was such a pleasure to meet you up in Vermont. I hope we cross paths at another blogging event soon!

Trackbacks

  1. […] you can catch on part one (bread basics) of my trip to King Arthur Flour here. I filmed this video of Susan’s short-cut pastry technique so you can see how the dough comes […]

  2. […] Art and Lemons The Professional Palate Mommie Cooks http://www.stetted.com/index.php/2012/06/10/silent-sunday-king-arthur-flour/”>Stetted Thyme In Our Kitchen Whisk. Write. Repeat. Bakeaholic Mama Lunches Fit For A Kid The Manly Housekeeper Smells Like Home Primlani Kitchen Fork On The Road […]

Let me know you stopped by

*