Wednesday and Thursday we spent time with Jean Brooks, a professional baker from Lampasas, Texas. Jean runs Serious Sourdough Bakery and sells her bread to the Monument Cafe in Georgetown and also the Four Seasons in Austin. She is indeed VERY serious about her bread and very knowledgeable. We were very lucky to have her as a guest instructor.
Jean is a dynamic baker and her excitement about baking is really easy to see. It’s understandable why she has had so much success. Bread is her life’s work. She brought in some wheat that she grows on her property, which was a treat because I have never seen where wheat comes from. Have you?
Below: Some wheat (I believe red winter wheat) from Jean’s crop.
Below: A whole grain of wheat that I pulled from the wheat stalk.
Below: We baked this sourdough in class.
Jean had us mix dough using her six year old starter. A starter is a naturally fermented combination of wheat and water that is used to naturally help bread rise. Yeast is a common “artificial” rising tool that is added to bread to make it rise faster. Making a starter is a way to foster natural yeasts and bacteria that help bread rise. Jean has been feeding her starter and maintaining the active culture for six years. This is a living fluid. Sourdough is made using a fermented starter, which is where the sour flavor comes from. Jean says it takes her three days to bake her bread: one day to measure the ingredients for all of her breads, one day to mix and let the bread rise, and the last day to bake. The long process helps develop flavor and is a more traditional method of rising bread. We didn’t have that much time, so our bread was not as delicious as Jean’s bread.
Below: Our multi-grain bread, before mixing. You can see the distinct elements of the bread in the container. From top left: Powdered milk, multi-grain mixture, oats, yeast, millet.
Another cool thing about Jean – she grinds her own flours. Regular flour that you buy in the store is at least partially rancid. After a grain is ground the oils oxidize unless the flour is kept very cold. So, unless you buy flour out of a freezer case or your bread was made from flour stored in freezers, your bread is rancid. To get the freshest flavor, Jean grinds her own flours from grains using a massive grinder.
Below: Pulling dough from the mixer. It was very sticky. 🙂
Below: Our baking lab “kneading” dough. The dough is incredibly gluey because of the natural gluten in wheat, so you could really pound it. You have to work the dough until the gluten proteins bind adequately.
Below: Our mixed dough waiting to double in size.
Below: Jean showed us many types of grains and described their properties.
Below: Some of the bread we baked.