Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Talk with Baking Instructor: Jessica Meyers

anadama bread
Photograph by: little blue hen

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Meyers, one of the King Arthur Flour baking instructors who will be presenting the free demos in the North Texas area at the end of the month.  Having never really "interviewed" anyone before, I lucked out that she was friendly and personable!  

What will the average home-baker get out of these demos?

Based on information King Arthur Flour has gathered through it's website and baking hotline, many people seem to have a lot of anxiety about two things in baking: Pie Crusts and Yeast.  The demos (one about pies and the other about sweet yeast breads) will walk home-bakers and pros alike through the keys to overcoming these anxieties. Even though your grandmother made a big deal out of making sure the fat was cut into the pie crust "just right" and even though yeast is a living organism and you could possibly "kill it," Jessica says we shouldn't worry about that!

Yeast has been around for millions of years and is not as fragile as you think, and like all things pie crusts and yeast doughs just take practice to master.  In the sweet yeast bread session, the instructors teach a basic versatile dough recipe that utilizes yogurt. The demos will give you a first person look at what your doughs and crusts are supposed to look like at various stages, and really... the most difficult part of baking is learning how to wait.

Also, all you average home-bakers have the chance to win some pretty fabulous door prizes too!

What recommendations do you have for someone new to baking?

Jessica recommends that you start with something basic like a soft white sandwich bread.  You should master that basic recipe and then go from there.  Once you master it, you can make rolls, hamburger buns, and savory or sweet breads.  She says to stay away from 100% whole wheat at first because it reacts differently than white flour.

What is your opinion about using instant versus regular active dry yeast?

Essentially instant and active dry yeast are the same organism.  The difference is in how they are processed.  Jessica regularly uses both instant and active dry and does not feel that any preferential treatment is really due to either.  (Though she did point out that active dry is great for keeping septic systems healthy!)  Active dry is processed with a heat treatment and requires warm water to activate it, while instant is processed with a cooling treatment and can be mixed directly with your dry ingredients. However, rapid rise yeast is different and is not preferred to the use of either instant or active dry.

What are the goals of the King Arthur Flour demos?

The main goals are both to get out information about the products and services offered by King Arthur Flour - especially their dedication to customer support and quality, and to encourage the revival of interest in baking.  King Arthur Flour has some of the best resources to help anyone interested in any type of baking.  Their Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont offers both beginning and professional level classes.  They have a baking hotline and online chat to instantaneously assist in any baking dilemma, and their website is packed with tutorials, recipes, and reviews from real home-bakers.  The traveling demos are a way to bring all of this out into the community and give everyone the opportunity to participate.

For more information about dates, times, and locations of the demos:
King Arthur Flour Traveling Baking Demos

Jessica Meyers has a background in culinary art and worked as both a chef and sous chef before accepting a position with King Arthur Flour. She now is a full time instructor at the Baking Education Center. 

You can find out more about Jessica Meyers on the King Arthur Flour Website.

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