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Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips Logo2020-05-13 - Oops, What Do We Do With All That Bread, and Hopes for Classes!

Hello Bread Heads!

A former student had a team building exercise class with us some time ago. It must have gone well because she recently contacted me REALLY wanting to have another class. It turns out her staffers are spread all over the continent, so it wouldn't have been a in-house, in-person, hands-on class even without safe distancing measures in place. Could we, she asked, do a video class? About pizza?

We'd been wanting to try holding a video class, and we hadn't held our "Pizza Landslide" class in too long, so we thought over and said, "Oh YEAH! We could do that!" To get ready, we prepared a test "care package" by weighing ingredients, putting them in baggies, wrapping baking stones, and so on. We even put some sourdough starter in a cute little Bonne Mamon jelly jar. And found we could ship it anywhere in the USA for $15.05. I LOVE the flat rate shipping deal! It made the whole class workable!
Our care package, unpacked
Our unboxed care package, above.

That also meant I had to re-test our recipes. So, i pulled the spreadsheets out of their archives. At one point, I thought we'd make three pizzas, a dessert Stromboli and garlic knots. Everyone loves garlic knots! I'd set up the spreadsheet for enough dough to make 4 pies (a Stromboli uses the same amount of dough as a pie) and a dozen garlic knots. I'd also set it to use slightly too much yeast. And I used a high protein flour.

By the time it was time to push the risen dough into pizza shapes, I'd forgotten the garlic knots. As much as we love them, they are a bit of a bother and I thought it would tie up too much class time. Each garlic knot uses about an ounce of dough. So, when I just cut the dough into four chunks, each dough ball was about three ounces (or 90 grams) too heavy. The dough was also very, very elastic so I didn't get the level of stretch I wanted. I'd stretch it and it just snapped back! I tried the usual tricks and it wasn't having any of it. In the end, instead of 12" pizzas, they were around 10 inches, and should have been closer to 16. The dough rose beautifully, by which I mean the pies were over an inch thick. The edge of the pies were half again that. It was a lot of bread, even for this conformed bread lover. I adjusted the spreadsheet, switched to bread flour (usually high protein is better for pizza, but not this time it seems) and had another bake. The second bake was great!

Of course, now I had 6 pizzas and 2 Stromboli. We ate the dessert Stromboli, but the pizza... that was a lotta pizza! Beth, my resourceful and wonderful wife, came up with the answer.

Bread pudding! OK, pizza pudding! We used to make bread pudding a lot! It was one way we repurposed (OK, got rid of) left over bread when we were running our bakery. A lot of a bakeries success comes from how well they can turn left overs into a revenue stream. Bread pudding was one of our ways to do this. We had sweet and savory bread puddings. One of our favorite savory bread puddings remains Laurel Robertson's Cheesy Bread Pudding.

On a Mississippi riverboat cruise Beth was lucky enough to attend a bread pudding seminar given by Chef Joe Cahn, the commissioner of tailgating and chef, who taught the class. One of his golden rules was, "if you liked it as bread, you'll like it as bread pudding!" White bread? Sure! Whole wheat? Of course! Rye bread? Why not! Sourdough? Natch!

But... pizza? As a bread pudding? Well, if we don't like it, the dog can have it. And if the dog doesn't like it (VERY unlikely) it can continue on to the trash can. So, Beth cut up the pizza - toppings and all - into what was more or less 1/2" cubes. Beth had about 4 cups of pizza chunks. She just cut up the whole darned thing - crust and toppings! She put the pizza cubes into a small greased casserole. She tossed that with about half a cp of grated Swiss cheese.

Next, she mixed together 2 cups of milk, 4 eggs and some rosemary beating the mixture until it was smooth. She poured the liquids over the pizza cubes. After letting the mess sit for half an hour or so to give the pizza time to absorb the liquid, the bread, ahh... pizza, pudding went into a preheated 325F/165C oven for about an hour, until the liquid had set and the top was golden brown.

Well, how was it you ask? I'll just say neither the dog nor the trash can got any. Each bite was different - pepperoni here, shrimp there, some asparagus in another bite. Cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss cheeses in different bites. In one episode of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" the cook Guy was visiting went to great lengths to make sure every bite of the burger was just like every other bite of the burger. That has never been one of my fetishes. It's OK if one bite has onion and another has pickles, more mustard here, more catsup there. Yeah, the pizza pudding floated my riverboat - I think Chef Joe would have been proud of Beth - I know I am!

Bread pudding is a lot like a pizza, it's a blank canvas you can turn into whatever you want it to be. It's a great place to hide leftovers. Like pizza.

The pizza class is this Sunday, and depending on how it goes, we'll probably have more classes in the near future. Which is great for the many people (OK, two) who said they'd love to take our classes if only it weren't so far.

Until next time, may your dough always rise, but not so much that your pizza is all bread!

Upcoming Classes:

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, we can not offer live hands-on in-person classes. We hope we will be able to resume such classes in the future.

For now, we are working on how to hold on-line classes. Our (current) plan is to send a "care package" to students with the less perishable ingredients needed for a class, with instructions for any prep work needed, and then to segue into a Zoom conference call. Sadly, this means more planning will be required - it takes about a week to get the supplies together, print the textboks, package and ship it to people in the United States. We're still working on the details, please bear with uis.

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