Jeffrey Hamelman (second from right), head baker of King Arthur Flour, headed a panel discussion with Alison Pray of Standard Baking, in Portland, ME, Jim Amaral, of Borealis Breads, also in Portland, and Randy George, of Red Hen Baking, in Middlesex, VT, on the business of opening and runniung a bakery in the current economic climate.
Micro-Bakery Production Workshop
Richard Miscovich, baking instructor at Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI, gave a workshop on running a wood-fired micro-bakery. Unlike the panel discussion, his class focussed more on the mechanics of producing bread for sale using a modestly-sized wood-fired oven. This class was the opener for a Production Workshop, in which a small number of participants helped to run a "pop-up" bakery, making a wide variety of breads that were sold on the open-to-the-public Artisan Bread Fair, held the day after the conference itself.
Desserts from a Wood-Fired Oven
Dara Reimers, from the Bread Shack in Auburn, Maine (left), gave a demo on baking desserts in a wood-fired oven, which included a recipe for a whole-wheat dough based fruit pizza.
Dara Reimer's Wood-Fired Fruit Pizza
While I usually scoff at the idea of fruit or sweet toppings on pizza, I have to admit that these were actually really tasty, more like a fruit galette on a yeasted crust than a pizza.
University of Maine Starter Class
Dusty Dowse, Professor of Biology at the University of Maine, taught a class on starting, maintaining, and using a sourdough starter in baking.
Oven Building Class
Participants interested in learning how to build ovens could take part in hands-in-the-mud workshops on oven construction.
Brick Oven Workshop
Here Patrick Manley, of [Masons on a Mission](www.midcoast.com/masonsonamission) (pictured at right), led a group through the two-day process of building a brick oven.
Take Away Oven
One of the many ovens built during the conference that some lucky participant could purchase and (somehow)carry home after the conference ended. These ovens were actually used to bake pizza soon after they were completed.
Ciril Hitz, another baking instructor from Johnson & Wales, gave a workshop on baking Bavarian pretzels and brioche in a wood-fired oven. This was the class I was most looking forward to, since I've been wanting to get my pretzel chops down. (I think I got the basic twisting method down, though I still can't do it in the air the way the pros do.)
The Alkaline Bath Effect
Some of Ciril's pretzels. The pale ones in front were not treated in lye, to show how a brief dip in a caustic, alkaline bath enhances browning and gives the pretzels their distinctive aroma and flavor.
Pizza Dough Deconstructed
And then there's me, making a pie for my own class, entitled "Pizza Dough Deconstructed". It was the first time I taught the workshop and, despite some organizational deficiencies, I think it went pretty well, if the folks who approached me afterward were good judges. I spent the first part of the class discussing why I think cold fermentation (such as the 3-day process I used in my Cook's Illustrated New York-style dough) is a universal method for making better pizza doughs, no matter the style. I made a batch of NY-style dough, letting people see what the dough feels like right out of the food processor, and then passed around a ball of 3-day old dough, so they could get a hands-on feel for the transformation it undergoes.
NY-Style PIe Demo
Throughout the class, I baked off pies (with help from my trusty assistants, Melissa and Kevin) and let everyone taste them. Aside from the NY-style pie pictured above, I also provided recipes for and made Neapolitan and Sicilian-style pizzas, and discussed how to achieve different effects in various pizza doughs.
Pizza Class Attendees
The students had many questions. While many who attended the class were beginners to pizza-making, there were handful of professionals in the crowd, including bakers and at least one pizzaiolo.
Le Panyol Oven
This is the beautiful, copper-covered Le Panyol oven I got to cook in, one of the 7 wood-fired ovens that were in use during the conference, most of which were provided by [Maine Wood Heat](mainewoodheat.com/), one of the conference's original founders. After having had a chance to cook in this baby, I'm now totally spoiled: easily holding temperatures nearly 1000 degrees F, it churned out beautiful pies in less than two minutes.