If you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, you might have noticed the overdose of photos of pizza, bread doughs, and Vermont love. Well, this year I was invited to be a part of King Arthur Flour’s annual Blog & Bake™ that takes place in their headquarters in Norwich, Vermont. Three days packed to the brim with hands-on baking classes, chef demonstrations, farm tours, and food blogger bonding, I ended up really wanting to just move our lives to Vermont, more precisely to King Arthur Flour!
Pizza Perfected & Pizza Dinner
What better way to start than by perfecting our pizza-making ways? Beginning by making a poolish, which is a preferment. Huh, preferment? It’s actually just a small mixture of flour, a pinch of yeast, and water that’s left to ferment overnight before making the final dough. Preferments not only give the dough extra flavor, but help in the hydration of the flour. And with a variety of local toppings like lamb sausage from Hogwash Farm, ramps sautéed in bacon, fresh eggs from one of our instructors backyards, and local Vermont cheese, we all went wild and created some amazing pizzas! Finishing off in King Arthur Flour’s wood-fired oven, it was not only an instructive demo, but a delicious one! Here’s King Arthur Flour’s basic Pizza Crust recipe to get you started. Oh and if you’re new to pizza making, I totally recommend you getting a pizza stone and a baker’s peel, the two most important tools in making amazing pizza crusts!
Reception & Demo with Cabot Creamery Cooperative at King Arthur Flour Cafe
When I walked into King Arthur Flour, I immediately wanted to move in and become a resident baker. But after the Cabot Creamery Cooperative Cheese Tasting, I’m torn. I also want to be a dairy farmer. Wait, maybe I want to be a cheese grader? Either way, we had an exceptional time getting to know the variety of cheddars that Cabot creates. Starting with a Cabot Extra Sharp and tasting through eight other cheddars, ending with their Cabot Alpine Blend, I can honestly state that I’ve never had better cheddar. Heck, who knew I’d love cheddar so much!? Also, a huge thanks to Harpoon Brewery for keeping our glasses filled with their great beer and cider!
Did you know that…
- Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, Vermont is a farmstay where you can vacation and relax, all while helping Bob & Beth Kennett milk their excellent cows? Stay in a farmhouse that was constructed in 1825 and enjoy homemade, family style dinner cooked by Beth herself. Rumor has it she’s an amazing cook!
- Cabot Creamery makes a ridiculously delicious Greek-Style Lowfat Vanilla Bean Yogurt?! I just discovered it and seriously could bathe in it, it’s that good! Plus, the fact that it’s a great source of protein and Vitamin D, makes me love it even more!
- Both King Arthur Flour and Cabot Creamery are employee owned (KAF) and farmer owned (CC); what this means is that decisions to make the best flours and cheeses is all up to the people that work with the products directly on a day to day basis, not random stock holders that never step foot in the farms or bakeries!
Got Flour? Choosing the Right One
As bakers, we have more choices that ever today on what flour to use in our baked goods. All purpose, whole wheat, bread flour, cake flour, gluten free? The choices are endless and ultimately depend on your what recipe you’re making. We had a chance to chat with Susan Reid, who joined King Arthur Flour in 2001 as a recipe tester for their second cookbook and is now the Editor of the award winning, bi-monthly baking newsletter, The Baking Sheet. Susan led us through a demo with raw dough, where we tried to get a “window” and see how the gluten stretched depending on the flour. FYI: the bleached, generic store-bought flour performed poorly, of course.
Below you can see a variety of eight different flours used in the same muffin recipe. Amazing the different flavors and textures each flour achieved! So be sure to read your recipe and focus on what results you want to get? Tender, fine crumb – go for the unbleached cake flour! Course crumb with a heftier texture – try using the bread flour!
The Basics of Bread Baking
Nothing makes me happier than getting my hands in dough and we had a chance to make a basic yeast bread, a sandwich loaf and while it baked, we learned how to make the perfect scones. We had a plethora of add-inns and I choose to make white whole wheat scones with dried tart cherries and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Need a scone recipe? Head on over to King Arthur Flour and try their Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones, Classic Scones, Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones, and even some Triple Chocolate Scones!
Hasty Pastry: Blitz Puff
Ask any pastry chef or professional baker if the words “blitz” and “puff pastry” go together and they will laugh out loud in your face! We’re taught to make puff pastry with the utmost patience, with hours in between each fold, with extreme care of the thousand layers we want to create. Never would I have thought I could make something similar to puff pastry in a 1/4 of the time! Disclaimer: It’s not exactly like the classic puff pastry, but you’ll get flaky, tender results that are great for impromptu dinner parties and can be made into sweet or savory items. Here’s a step by step blog post on the King Arthur Flour website on how to make blitz puff pastry!
Chopped Session: Pie, Oh My!
During this session, each team was given a bowl with the same ingredients and were instructed to make a pie, any kind of pie. The ingredients: ricotta cheese, maple sugar candy, local caramels, and maple walnut peanut butter! Making our pies took an hour and we had to also write out the recipe for the next team to recreate our recipe. This session tested our recipe writing skills and our creativity with the mystery ingredients. Oh yeah, and we also had a chance to learn how to make the perfect pie crust, which you can find a recipe for on the KAF website under “Our Favorite Pie Crust“.
Below are some of the pie makers in the class, from left to right: Tara of Ladies Home Journal, Rebecca of Foodie with Family, Audra of The Baker Chick, and me! Be sure to stop by their websites, as well as the other attendees: Brandy – Nutmeg Nanny, Carole – Heirloom Meals, David – Spiced, Erika – In Erika’s Kitchen, Jennifer – Bake or Break, Eva – Adventures in Cooking, Jen – Tiny Urban Kitchen, Kate – Food Babbles, and Katie – Healthy Seasonal Recipes.
Guest Chef Demonstration with Chef Jerod Rockwell and Dinner at Simon Pearce Restaurant
One of my favorite sessions, due to the fact that it brought a more culinary/savory component to the card and sweet loaded days! Chef Rockwell taught us some great basics like breaking down a chicken, making potato gnocchi, poppyseed spatzele, sweet and sour cabbage, and tomato chutney. As the general manager and chef of the Simon Pearce Restaurant in Quechee, Vermont, Chef Rockwell is a force to be reckoned with.
For over 40 years, Simon Pearce has designed and constructed handmade glass and pottery that is not only gorgeous, but functional. Nothing has ever blown my mind more (pardon the pun) then watching glass being blown and shaped into wine glasses, bowls, and other objects. You too can visit the Quechee facility, since it hosts over 300,000 visitors a year.
Be social! Connect with these amazing companies and put together your very own baking in Vermont weekend!
Disclosure: I was chosen by King Arthur Flour to participate in Blog & Bake™ 2013 and was provided with this trip free of charge (except travel expenses, which I covered). All opinions, as well as my passion for baking, are my own.