The Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA) held another of its outstanding regional events this past weekend in San Antonio, Texas, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend it. The topic was “All About Ciabatta.” I already knew the instructor, Didier Rosada, for having taken a couple of memorable classes with him at the San Francisco Baking Institute, a few years back.
I had seen how simple mixtures of flour, salt, yeast and water morph under his care into voluptuously silky and bubbling organisms that almost seem to purr as they spring to life. I knew him for a natural born teacher whose knowledge of dough chemistry and physics and all things bread is encyclopedic. I fondly remembered his sunny Southwestern-France accent and his easy laughter, not to mention his gift for languages (Didier switches effortlessly from English to French to Spanish and back) and I knew the class was going to be a unique experience. I wasn’t disappointed.
We did indeed learn all about ciabatta and made several different ones, using various preferments and methods. My two favorites were probably the poolish-based one with double hydration (the first one I will try to make when I get back home) and the power ciabatta (loaded with “good for you” nutrients) which we loosely shaped and baked into twists. I am usually not a huge fan of commercial yeast: I like the taste of levain, especially when it is both mild and complex but the class convinced that with proper pre-fermentation one can indeed make wondrously tasty breads using instant yeast. The Man’s pick was the breakfast ciabatta, also poolish-based and studded with dark chocolate chunks and pieces of candied orange peel. The formula includes eggs and butter, everything he loves and is supposed to eat only exceptionally. Luckily his birthday is right around the corner…
We had arrived one day early to take in the sights, mostly the Alamo, the cathedral, the Mexican market and the River Walk. Coming from 58°F and overcast skies in Seattle however, the 97°F Texas weather was a bit of a shock. We baked in more way than one all weekend and didn’t get to see or do all we had planned but we still fell under the spell of the city, its winding river and its many bridges.
Although we took back with us the best ciabattas of our lives, I am under no illusion that I will be able to emulate Didier’s talent anytime soon, if ever. But I’ll certainly do my best to apply what he taught us and share it on this blog. I just need to find out first how much time and energy I will have for baking and blogging once my treatment for breast cancer starts in earnest (we are still waiting for some test results), and get organized.
Didier’s next BBGA event is scheduled for this fall at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas. It will be a lecture on Las Buenas Practicas de Panificación (The Best Practices of Bread Baking) and he will deliver it in Spanish, together with Juan Manuel Martinez, a talented and passionate artisan baker from Bogotá, Colombia, who taught a popular class at WheatStalk last year. Considering the growing number of Spanish-speakers employed in artisan bakeries across America, I suspect the event will be mobbed.
Didier and Juan Manuel have co-authored Pan, Sabor y Tradición, a bread book which will hopefully be soon translated into English and made available in this country, and together with Miguel Galdós, another master baker (or “bread boy” as they like to call themselves), he has founded El Club del Pan (The Bread Club). I especially like El Club del Pan’s videos. Such is the power of images that even non-Spanish speakers might find them instructive. Check them out and some of the magic may rub off onto your baking hands. I certainly hope it will onto mine!