Two weekends ago I trekked over to Stone Turtle in Lyman Maine to learn how to prepare French-style Hearth Breads. Michael Jubinsky, voted one of the Top Ten Bakers in the US by Dessert Professionals last November, taught the class and was ably assisted my his equally talented wife Sandy. Together they provided a spirited, informal setting very conducive to the adult learner. The students ranged in experience from very little to more than casual. Limited attendance means everyone gets all the attention they need as they work through the process.
The classroom design accommodates working with flour. Plenty of room for each participant, assistants to handle the various clean-up tasks, three residential grade Wolf Convection Ovens on one side and a large wood fired hearth oven on the other side. For lunch, Michael brings out individual balls of pizza dough for everyone and we get to shape the dough into a pie, top it with all sorts of local fresh fixins and then slide them into the wood fired hearth. As they say back home, it don’t suck. Unfortunately, being in Puritan New England and in a commercial establishment, they are not allowed to serve local beer or wine with our pizza.
I had forgotten how irritating people like Michael are. He lays out a loose mass of sticky, gooey dough and proceeds to demonstrate how to knead/fold the dough using only the finger tips. He deftly picks up the mass, folds it and turns then repeats the process. Soon you start to see a sheen on the dough as the dough ball really starts to take shape. He is neat, clean and has no perspiration on this brow. How simply can this be? Not even a few seconds in and I have dough stuck to my elbows, it is an impossible mass of mess. Michael smiles and says, oh let me show you again and gently picks up my crap folds it and turns then repeats the process until it is actually taking shape. Michael needed to resurrect my dough ball two or three times more before it was ready to rest and be shaped. When Puritan New England was in full swing, people like Michael would be dunked in the local lake.
The class was educational and enjoyable. I will take more. Actually, I am hoping the fall sessions will include one on pasta. One thing that did catch me off guard however was the dough. I was expecting to get an upper body workout kneading and slapping dough silly but this dough is almost as loose as Jim Lahey’s No-Knead dough recipe. This dough was soft, pliable and folded like you would puff pastry instead of being classically kneaded. However, it did taste classically good.