Day one of Wheatstalk 2012 was a hot one, with temperatures reaching triple digits in Chicago and not much cooler in the Kendall kitchens. But that didn't stop attendees from deep frying donuts and crullers or cranking the ovens for puff pastry, sunflower and walnut rye breads as well as wood-fired filled flatbreads and pizzas.
Many of the instructors emphasized natural, organic and local ingredients as well as a return to traditional practices, like braiding rye breads and laminating dough by hand.
Volker Baumann demonstrated four simple braids to students in his easy rye bread lab--the simplest, two spirals that form an S--was easy enough that his five-year-old grandson had mastered it with silly putty, he said.
Craig Ponsford demonstrated laminated dough with hard red winter wheat and local butter, dismissing concerns about butter temperature, crocodiling (when the butter shatters inside the dough), and small cracks in the dough given its stiffness. "I am more relaxed when I'm laminating whole grain doughs because it doesn't function like white flour," he said. "I get really good results without total accuracy."
Harry Peemoeler, fresh off a second place victory at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, likes to add color to his showpieces using beet, raspberry and chili powders.
Pierre Zimmerman confessed to having an "allergy to food coloring," noting that in decorative breads he often relies on natural color enhancers, like saffron, cocoa powder, coffee extract and paprika.
"You want to keep the baker's spirit in bread showpieces," he said. "Everything is possible with spices or coffee or cocoa. We have to keep them authentic."