Bread Baking 101

A Taste Tripping Class taught be moi!

As this was bread making 101, my main goal was to teach the gals how to work the dough and gain confidence in their ability to make their own homemade bread. We used the same recipe over and over to make different breads and then made an olive oil bread, too.

My basic bread recipe is always the same. It is a wet dough that is from Richard Bertinet’s class that I took in Bath, and from his book Dough. Once all ingredients are mixed together, it is placed on the counter and worked in a very specific manner, using a small hand spatula, until the dough is as soft and supple as a newborn baby’s bottom. At this stage, no one believes that will ever happen, even though I showed them only moments before. However, once coached through the process, the smiles start beaming and the confidence starts growing. Gotta love it. I do!

The beauty and the magic, to me, of working the dough the French way is that it is this sticky. As you pull it back, rocking on your feet to keep the motion flowing, stretching it and then folding it back over onto itself to incorporate air into it, it eventually picks up all of the sticky bits on the counter, on your hand, and becomes a beautiful soft, mellow ball of love. This was the practice round using only 500g of flour. Next, each gal did 1k of flour. Richard had us do 3k. We went back and did 500g after working with the 1k, and the gals all thought the 1k was the perfect workable amount.

There was no doubt about it. Each gal definitely knew how to work the dough when the day was done. Am I right gals? Please chime in! I know some have e-mailed me and made bread since, but I would love them to once again let us know here. However, did I ever mismanage this day. Whoo-hoo! Thirty years of teaching, and I should definitely know how to plan and time a lesson. Well, I do know how. But, I made a grave error. When I calculated baking time, I calculated the time as if only one loaf or batch of bread was in the oven. Of course, baking time increases when the ovens are both full, and even with two ovens we were way over our head on this one. OK. I was. I added on two items because of this miscalculation. The class was to end at 1 and the last batch was out of the oven at 4:30. Or was it 5? Let’s just say, that this was one heck of a group of gals and they were so much fun that I was truly blessed in the midst of this “mistake”.

Each gal made a batch of fogasse (first pic at the top under the gals working the dough), a batch of chewy delicious sundried tomato and kalamata olive breadsticks with Sylvan Star Grizzly cheese, a batch of gooey caramelized buttery cinnamon buns, an epi, and an olive oil flat bread. Maybe a boule, too. I think so. Did you?

All but Su, that is. I have got to know my Star Student better through the three classes of mine she has attended. She is not only the best cheerleader one could ever dream of, she brings all of her lovely friends to my classes (such a gift) and then cleans up, too! I have to “shoo” her out of my kitchen. On this day, somehow, she “snuck” out of baking her dough. She saw the “oven situation” and quietly wrapped her little prizes up and tucked them away for her freezer. She is too selfless.

Now, as if the dough you see here wasn’t overwhelming enough, the entire dining room table was bubbling over with it, too.

And, guess what happened after the cinnamon buns were baked, and while they baked? Think about it for a minute. You got it!

Yup. The house is hazy with smoke. The smoke detectors were beeping their brains out and I completely lost mine. The gals grabbed books, and bread paddles, and cookie sheets and fanned the air madly. I just stood there. Cathy asked, “Do you have a fan downstairs or somewhere?” I just looked at her blankly. Everyone started laughing and I looked for a chair to collapse in. Where did these people come from? How can they be so incredibly wonderful? Well, they were starving.

It dawned on me after they left that though I served breakfast, I held them hostage the remainder of the day with little else to eat. No wonder they tore their flatbread like primordial cave women and devoured it with relish!

I had promised Cathy that I would make a red fife bread for the class. I used the same recipe the gals used for their basic white bread with the 100% red fife flour purchased from The Italian Centre and I was thinking “this must be really good bread” as the gals kept coming back for slices with the Sylvan Star cultured butter and some homemade jams. But later, though it was good bread, I realized it was mainly because they were starving!

Nice crumb, eh?

Once everything was baked and packed to take home, for some reason, there was no further lingering (hahaha) and I neglected, completely, to take a group photo.

This is a group of gals I will never forget. I owe a lot to them, and they taught me something I thought I already knew… “double check everything when preparing for a class!” and  how to have a ball in the midst of a long afternoon in a smoky kitchen.

In the end, with their cars laden with bread, they were incredible sports. “Viva la valiant women!” I look forward to more time with each of you, again!


  1. says

    omg Valerie, i’m sorry, but that was hilarious. i know i shouldn’t be laughing, but i could just imagine all the gals running around your house flapping books over their haeds frantically trying to rid of the smoke. no matter how the day went though, you accomplished what you set out to accomplish, and that was how to teach these gals how to bake beautiful delicious bread. i know without a doubt in my mind that each one of them went home with complete confidence in themselves to bake lovely loaves of bread on their own the way you taught them to because i’ve been there and done that. i don’t think your trouble or problem is miscalculation. i think your problem is that you have such a big heart that you want to teach everyone everything, but you forget that there are many of them and only one of you, my dear. you were born to teach and what a great teacher and mentor you are, but please don’t forget to breathe ;). glad to see you blogging again like the old Valerie i know. now if i could only do the same for myself. it’s always nice to stalk a dear friend. until next time sweetie. big hugs!!!

  2. says

    Val..I wish I could have attended your class! My mouth was watering looking at everything from the dough to the final products. I LOVE the breadsticks stuffed with subdried tomatoes and kalamtas, and I LOVE the fougasse, and I..OK, I LOVE them all, and you must have been such a fun, wonderful teacher! I would love to try that dough! I think I’ve said ‘love’ at least a dozen times, right?

    I haven’t baked bread in a while, and just when I was getting in the mode to, I reinjured my knee..ugh. I NEED to stand to KNEAD! Sitting just doesn’t get you the baby bottom dough. Oh, well..once again, you gave me (and many others not forutunate to live near you) the chance to live vicariously in your amazing world of food :)

  3. says

    This is exactly the kind of cooking classes I love to attend. No chef sitting up front demonstrating gourmet dishes but getting your hands right on there, eating dough (sorry but I do) and waving our hands in the air like chickens, and collapsing with laughter. New found friendshops can’t get any better!

  4. says

    What lovely cooking class, I loved it and I love baking!! Look nice, Iwas making teaching cook class 2 years ago and was nice!
    Lovely pictures! gloria

  5. Nadia says

    I was one of the lucky students that attended the basic bread 101 class. This was the best class I have ever attended, Valerie you are a wonderful teacher, your passion for teaching comes through so clearly that as a student I absorb the subject and passion. The technique that was taught to us is really amazing and works like a charm. Since taking the class I have taught Melissa and a friend the technique, I have made several batches of pain d’epi, fogase, cinnamon buns and even hosted a pizza party using the olive oil bread, Melissa has made her own batches of bread to take over to a dinner party that she attended. Everyone who has tasted the bread just loves it and there are only crumbs left at the end, I’m being asked when are you making bread again. Valerie you have shown me not to be afraid of trying bread making, I’m now ready to graduate to the next level of making different types of bread using different methods and flours, so any time you want to get back into making or teaching an advanced bread making class let me know as I would love to take your classes any time. :)

    • Valerie says

      Too much praise!
      Too all others:
      See what I mean? With students like this, I am the one who benefits the most from giving the classes!

  6. says

    It is awesome to see you preaching the Richard Burtinet gospel! Look at all those beautiful breads! Spectacular! This reminds me that i did write the post from when I went to the class, but never posted it because i wanted to make the fougasse to go with it, but never got around to it.
    *kisses* HH

    • Valerie says

      HH – well, do it now! You know how easy it is to do – and it makes the perfect hostess gift when going to a dinner party – with wine, of course! :)

  7. Anita says

    Hey Valerie,
    When is your next bread making class? Can we bake an ezekiel bread sometime?
    xoxo Anita

    • Valerie says

      HI, Anita!
      Great to hear from you! I have never made it, nor heard of it until now – but, you know me. I am always game to try anything! Sure, why not? Have you a good recipe for it that someone recommends?

      • Anita says

        Ezekiel bread recipe is in the Bible. Seriously.This is the bread that Ezekiel lived off of while he was in the desert for two years. It is supposed to be nutritionally complete. Supposedly no Wheat flour. The recipe calls for grinding your own flour from a variety of grains and dried beans. At Planet Organic it cost about $$6-7. I will get all the ingredients, but would appreciate your expertise in the bread baking!

        • Valerie says

          Anita –
          Before you get all the ingredients, check with me. I may have most of them already. My pantry is FAR to well stocked. Let’s do this in July as my daughter is getting married July 2 and my life is a bit of a gong show until then. But, then – you are ON!

  8. says

    How fun!! sounds like a uscessful class, filled with caring, talented women!! so many great options form one dough, a perfect confident boost!!

  9. says

    Love to hear of your adventures. I must come up to Edt and take your bread class. My first class is this coming Tuesday “The Secrets to Adding Flavour to Your Food with Spices, Herbs and Other Ingredients”. It has been a ton of work to write and organize but I am happy with what I have. Hope it is as successful as yours.

  10. says

    Sounds like a great day, and I can totally relate to fanning the smoke detectors–mine is so sensitive that it goes off every time I drain pasta water or open the oven for too long!
    p.s. I was in Toronto for a month working on a teacher training course. Nothing too exotic, but it was nice to visit and eat out, a lot!

  11. supersu says


    lovely post! makes me laugh out loud all over again…that was a great great day!
    lookin’ forward to some more cooking adventures after your busy summer

    su 😉
    your #1 fan!

    • Valerie says

      Dear Supersu!
      Did you ever bake your remaining “dough balls”? Did you make them into anything? I cannot wait to have you and your “sissy” to dinner. :)
      Your #1 fan,

  12. says

    Valerie, you always have so much fun & enthusiasm with your classes. This looks like another one I’d have loved to go to as well. I laughed over the smoke detectors going off, too funny :)

  13. says

    How wonderful that you gave all of these women the confidence to make their own bread. Yeast breads can be so intimidating at the beginning, but once you work with them a few times, you really how easy and versatile they can be. Those breadsticks look particularly good.

    • Valerie says

      HI, Stacy!
      I didn’t know Sylvan Star did cultured butter until I visited their farm and they sold it in their farm store – so then, I have ordered it and they bring it up for me when they come. I keep it in the freezer. It drives me crazy that no one makes cultured butter – or any butter around here. It is so hard to find. I was devastated when I learned Wildflower Grill brought their Goat Milk butter in from Quebec. We have to do better than this! Kevin K discovered a gal that sells in at the Sherwood Park Farmer’s Market, I think it is and Patty Milligan (aka Lola Canola) also has a friend that makes and sells it. That’s all the information I have on locally made butter for sale – but great business opportunity for anyone with a small farm willing to make it. However, and as always with the Dept. of Ag. federally and provincially, one can only make so much. I am not clearly informed, but know it is a barrier.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      • says

        Hi Valerie!
        Kevin and I are referring to the same farm–Sharon and Brian Johnson from Bonnyville. They have a small dairy. They sell their products at couple of markets in the Edmonton area. Here’s their number 780-635-2460 in case any of your readers would like to connect with them.

        • Valerie says

          Brilliant. That is EXACTLY what I appreciate so much about local blogging. There you go! A gal nearby who makes beautiful butter – and as Patty is the Queen of Bee Keeping…we know where to get the honey for a yummy honey butter! Thank you, Patty!
          Big hug,

  14. says

    Hi Valerie,
    This looks like so much fun! I’ve been teaching myself bread-making for the past few years. Multigrain is a staple in our house, and I think I’ve got it down, but I’ve never made my idea of the “perfect” cinnamon buns (so I keep trying, not that my husband minds)
    I’d be interested in taking one of your classes, I’m sure I’d learn a lot, and it looks like a blast :) Your technique for kneading a wet dough particularly interests me.

  15. says

    Valerie, I would love to attend one of your classes if you are not so far away. People who live near you are so fortunate that they can learn from you. All the breads look awesome. Obviously all the ladies enjoyed themselves and they are very happy and proud of the breads they made. If I am there, I will be too. If I ever have a chance to visit LeQuan, I will definitely plan in such a way that I can attend one of your bread making classes.

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