During the Honey Summit, hosted by the National Honey Board, a small group of bakers gathered to learn about honey. They also were given formulas to bake, which proves that the same formula given to two bakers will produce two different products.
Last week, I spent the whole day in the company of bakers at the Honey Summit at Kendall College, which was sponsored by the National Honey Board. It is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. The group was kept intentionally small, about 10 or so bakers from all aspects of the market–small retail bakeries, larger wholesale bakeries, very large wholesale bakeries and foodservice. We all learned a lot about honey, obviously, with the biggest take away being “Honey is honey.” Or rather, honey is an all natural ingredient with little to no processing required to use it in its natural form. The morning was spent in interactive seminars, but my favorite part of the day was the afternoon we spent in the kitchen of Kendall College.
After a delicious lunch, that incorporated honey (of course) into every offering, the group was broken out into teams for an afternoon of baking using formulas that incorporated honey. I felt a bit sorry for my team since they were stuck with me, a non-baker, but soon Catherine Reinhart of Sweet Life Patisserie, Eugene, Ore., was ordering me around like I was one of her bakers (although I’m sure she was quite glad that I don’t really work for her.) I rolled dough and cut dough; and even had a mini breakdown when I was given the responsibility of spraying the pan (what if I messed up and our product stuck, ruining it–it would be all my fault). While I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours of being a baker, which really only proved that I’m best suited to sitting at a desk, what I took away was proof of something I’ve said and believed for a long time–you can give the same formula to two bakers and get two completely different products.
Another team had the same formulas as mine, and the other teams really didn’t even realize they were made from the same formula. We made morning buns and honey carrot muffins. My team chose to cut the rectangular morning bun dough in half before rolling it. We rolled one half of the dough along the long side and the other half of the dough along the short side. The short-side dough we cut into regularly shaped, but small, rolls and placed in the (very well) greased muffin tin. The dough we rolled long-side, we cut into even smaller rolls and placed three rolls into each cup of the muffin tin to create a petal-like bun. The other team chose to roll and cut the dough in the traditional size bun. Once out of the oven, their buns were big and fluffy and delicious. Our buns were smaller but equally delicious. Our petal-shaped buns baked much crispier than the others, which gave them a mouthfeel that was completely different than the other versions, although it was the exact same dough.
For the honey carrot muffins, after topping with icing we were to garnish them with diced coconut. My team chose to roast the coconut before using it to garnish. And, not to be biased, but that was a good call. The roasted coconut gave the muffin a nice autumn appearance that was perfect for this time of year. That’s not to say that the other team’s white, unroasted coconut was horrible looking because it wasn’t. The appearance of the two versions was completely different; each had their own appeal and would be good in different seasons.
But this little honey experiment just proved that no two bakers are alike.