This post could be titled "The benefits of being a blogger and why I'm glad I don't keep Passover rules."
Earlier this week I was one of the lucky bloggers to be invited to a baking class at the soon to be opened Paul bakery in Washington DC. In fact, the bakery will be open May 2nd, so get ready for amazing bread, desserts, soups, sandwiches and other delicious dishes. Thank you, Lisa Amore!
I love carbs. I love bread, especially when it's fresh and still warm from the oven. And I'm so glad I don't keep Passover rules because the baking class took place smack in the beginning of Passover.
Before I continue, here are a few facts about Paul:
We were greeted by Maxime Holder, President & CEO of Paul; David Dequeker, Chief Bakery & Pastry Chef, and Philippe Sanchez, President and CEO of Paul USA. And of course Lisa Amore was there to introduce everyone, get us excited about baking bread and make sure everyone had a wonderful time (which we all did!).· PAUL was founded in 1889 by the Holder family and has continued baking bread in the traditional manner for over 120 years· We are artisanal bakers, passionate about the craft of baking· PAUL is France’s leading bakery· PAUL is now present in over 22 countries· There are nearly 500 PAUL bakery-cafés worldwide.· The store on Pennsylvania Ave., is being considered PAUL’s US Flagship bakery-café· PAUL will open a location in Georgetown (at the intersection of Wisconsin and M St’s NW in August.
I was incredibly impressed by the cleanliness and the beauty of the kitchen. The tile was unbelievably white with gorgeous hand-painted motives. Paul uses German machinery, and it runs smooth like butter.
The photo on the left shows different types of flour used in bread. The photo on the right is of David showing us the giant mixer used in the bakery.
The photo on the left is a very clever machine that divides the dough into equally weighed pieces: that way, all the loaves are identical and bake at the same time. The photo on the right shows a machine used for resting the loaves of bread. To me it looked like mini hammocks in which the bread gets to hang out.
I did not take any photos of us mixing and shaping the dough because it was quite a messy and sticky process. But it was really fun, a good way to get out aggression and to learn how the bread is made the old way! The basic recipe has only four ingredients: flour, salt, fresh yeast and water!
Here are a few professional photos courtesy of Jason Colston for PAUL bakery http://www.jasoncolston.com/:
While the dough rested, we got to try some of the pastries: my favorite were the pistachio macarons!
And then it was time to get back to business.
Check out how the bread is transported from a rack into the oven:
The loaves then get slit with a really sharp razor. Why? So that the steam can escape. And of course it also makes the loaves pretty.
The bread in the middle was shaped by cutting the loaf with a pair of scissors: brilliant! That one was my favorite.
How beautiful does the bread look? And notice how much it has risen!
And then the room started smelling like fresh bread, and it was time to take it out of the oven. Here is my favorite loaf (I was lucky to take it home!).
A sign of well baked French bread is the amount of holes (reminds me of Swiss cheese).
And to check if the bread is baked properly, you tap on the bottom of the loaf: the sound should be very hollow. (I actually use the same technique for figuring out the ripeness of watermelons: it works!)
This was a fabulous event. I have a few loaves in my freezer as well as some fresh dough to make pizza.
I can't wait to check out the other food choices once Paul opens.