Sunday, May 19, 2013


Hey Knuckleheads,

The following post is a Blog written from my good friend, I hope you follow her.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saint Paul Bread Club Bake Off!

Over the last few years I've really started to enjoy baking breads.  It all started with Jennifer Reese's book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter I read several years ago.  In this book, Jennifer describes how she came to make each recipe, how hard it was, how much it cost and finally a suggestion as to whether you should make it or buy it.  Bread was definitely a make it choice!

Every Day Bread: 
Make it or Buy It?  Make it.
Hassle:  Can you stir?  You can make this bread.
Cost Comparison:  Homemade:  Less than one dollar a loaf, including fuel to heat the oven.  A 1-pound loaf of levain bread made by Acme, a local artisanal bakery costs $5.50.  A loaf of Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat:  $4.39.

So I made the everyday bread.  We haven't purchased a loaf of sandwich bread since!

I'd been making artisanal breads on and off thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  I have their pizza and flat bread book too and love them both.  It is rare that their pizza dough isn't in our refrigerator!  I've made Italian bread and even baguettes from time to time as well.

With my "everyday bread" discovery, I started making all of our breads at home.  Why buy them when it's so easy to make them?  Then one day I looked in the refrigerator and there were the English Muffins, the hamburger buns and hot dog buns.  I started with the hamburger and hot dog buns.  I love my recipe, though I didn't place yesterday with this recipe, it makes a good hearty bun that can stand up to a really juicy burger or brat!  You can read about those with the link below if you like.

Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns

Now I had sandwich bread, dinner bread and buns.  But there were still store-purchased English Muffins in my frig.  One day at work (I used to work for a major food manufacturer) I was mentioning that I wanted to make English muffins.  I mentioned the brand I had been buying and a person "in the know" told me that particular brand sprays antibiotics on the muffins after they are baked to preserve them!  Really?  I do not need any unnecessary antibiotics!  I learned to make English Muffins!

English Muffins Attempt #1
English Muffins The Winner

Since then I've tackled sourdough and rye, I love my caraway rye!

A few weeks ago, a friend on Facebook posted a link to information about the Saint Paul Baking Club Bake Off at Saint Agnes Baking.  I commented that I loved to make bread but that it probably wasn't good enough to swim with the big fish.  With a little prodding from this friend and Danny Klecko, the CEO of Saint Agnes Baking, I decided I'd enter.  At first I was just going to enter my "buns" but when the categories came out I decided to make my braided Italian loaf for the Italian category and why not throw some English muffins in the "Other" category?

I made the buns a day in advance but I got up early yesterday morning and made the English muffins and braided bread.  It wasn't my most beautiful braid but it sure smelled good!  About a second after it came out of the oven (I should have gotten up earlier) we got in the car on a very rainy Saturday morning and headed for the bakery.

This was my first time so I wasn't sure what to expect.  There were a lot of seasoned bakers there.  There were some amazing looking breads on the tables too!  Oh well, I'd know what to expect for next year, right?

Our MC for the day, Danny Klecko was HILARIOUS!  He's so down to earth and so much fun!  Did I mention he used to have a blog?  He's recently given it up but I loved reading "The Last American Baker."  I didn't even connect that Klecko was the Last American Baker until the Facebook post about this event. 

After meeting the judges, they change every year, and hearing the rules about judging we turned our chairs around (so the judges could judge in peace).  Danny Klecko was the opening act to a baking demo.  He was again hilarious and told us a great story after which we knew what Cher's favorite beverage was on tour!

Next Kim Ode from the Star & Tribune did a scone demo for us.  She made Rhubarb and Mango scones.  They were pretty good!

Then came the results!  With all the seasoned bakers in the room I really didn't think I had a shot at anything.  But that was ok, I was already thinking about what I'd do differently next year!  Some of the bakers had gotten up at 3AM to bake their breads, others pulled them out of the freezer.  Three or four people picked up most of the ribbons.  But there were two people brand new to the competition that received ribbons and I was one of them!

My buns were far inferior to others on the table.  My braided Italian was good (well I thought so), but with two French (yes, they were from France!) and baguettes on the table, well, mine didn't make the cut in the "French/Italian" category.  Then came the results of the "Other" category.  This was a hard one to judge.  The judges said how do you compare "an apple to a fig.".   There were lots of entries from apricot glazed bread, to sweet breads, to biscuits and yes, my English Muffins.

Guess what?  My English Muffins took third place!  When the judge said "The third place winner goes to something for which it's very hard to get a perfect crumb and also hard to get a nice round shape" I knew it was my muffins!  Yes, I'm very proud of that white ribbon!  I was up against people who do this all the time.  I was up against people who bake for a living and being judged by people who really know bread and my muffins made the cut!

I had a lot of fun and I'll try it again next year.  I probably won't enter the rye competition, the same person has won that for the last 7 or 8 years!  But I may try different buns or some more "Other" entries.

A while back I purchased Danny Klecko's "K-9 Nation Biscuit Book - Baking for your Best Friend" to give to the daughter of a good friend of mine.  She loves to make biscuits for her dog.  I had Danny sign it for her, well, now for me.  As we were waiting for all of the entrants to get registered I started reading it. I think maybe our "kids" might like some of these.  No worries AG, I'll buy you another copy!

I bought two other books at the event.  One was "Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club."  Those of you who know me know that I rarely buy a new cookbook then just let it sit on the shelf.  I had to make bread!  I had fed my sourdough starter that morning so it was ready to go.  I found a recipe in the book that called for regular starter (not a dry starter), and I had all of the other ingredients in the house so I decided I would make, Ristorante Luci's Italian Herb Bread.  Dave and I have never been to Ristorante Luci, but we do have a gift card for there and we will definitely be going soon!

I whipped up the bread yesterday after getting up and making bread, going to the competition, making 2 dozen cupcakes for a baby shower and making a first birthday cake.  Yes, I'm insane.  

The bread calls for the sourdough starter, milk, flour, sugar, salt, minced garlic, minced onion, Italian herbs and olive oil.  I used the Tuscan Herb olive oil from The Olive Grove.  I thought it might intensify the flavor just a bit.  This bread dough smelled amazing!

After the initial rise it is portioned into three loaves, three BIG loaves!  I couldn't fit them all on one sheet pan.

After the second rise into the oven they go.  The house was smelling very good at this point!  Made me want pasta!  Out came these three beautiful loaves of bread.  And yes, this bread is delicious!  It's soft with just enough seasoning that it's really good, not overpowering.  I love it and so does Dave.  We're thinking some of that gnocchi I made last weekend will be dinner tonight with this yummy bread.  

Does it have perfect crumb?  I don't know!  Will it give one of the judges goose bumps?  Probably not.  But we really like it and you can too!  See this made three HUGE loaves of bread.  Dave and I don't need three HUGE loaves of bread.  So if you hung in there with me and read this entire blog and would like one of the two loaves left, here's what you need to do.  The next two people who donate at least $10 to my Breast Cancer 3-Day fund will get one of the extra loaves.  You can donate online with this link:  DONATE HERE

I'll figure out how to get the loaf to you, even if it has to go in the mail!

So all in all we had a great Saturday.  Maybe I'll make some dog biscuits this afternoon!

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