We dine well here in Camelot We eat ham and jam and spam a lot.May 27, 2013
Oh, hello there! Remember me? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, I know it’s been a while. For those of you still checking in periodically, thank you. And please accept my apologies for slacking off so much. I haven’t stopped baking, far from it. I’ll make something fantastic, be very excited about blogging it, and then…distraction happens (surprise!). Before I start writing, I should probably update my iOS, or research new cameras, or make a facebook page, or think about twitter, or contemplate a new theme, or ponder taking loveysoven in a slightly different direction, or…. crap, suddenly it’s been months. Oops.
Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot of good-natured razzing from friends and family lately on the state of my ‘invisible’ blog. The ribbing, combined with a most excellent weekend adventure, has inspired me to put intentions into action and dust off the cobwebs!
As many of you know, I’m a big fan of King Arthur Flour. Their products are top-notch and their recipes rarely disappoint. I’ve even been known to refer to their store in Vermont as ‘The Mothership.’ Needless to say, I was pleased as punch to discover that my birthday gift from mrslovey this year was a weekend getaway – a night at an historic inn, followed by a class at KAF. Yeah, she’s good.
We drove up to Vermont on Saturday, and checked into the most perfect room at the most perfect Inn. After dinner and some exploring, we capped off the evening at the Inn’s alehouse, where mrslovey sampled several of their creations and deemed them delicious. Sunday morning was an I-could-get-used-to-this-life-of-leisure breakfast, and then it was time for class!
King Arthur has spent the last several years doing a complete overhaul of their Norwich, VT campus – expanding the retail store, the bakery/café, adding some walking trails (where mrslovey spent some time exploring while I was learning), and totally revamping the Baking Education Center, which is where I was headed. I was a bit nervous at first – I’m not the most social girl on the planet – but the smell of flour and the heat from the ovens soon made me feel right at home. It was a little disconcerting knowing that there were a few viewing windows for the general public to peek in, until I remembered that I had frequently been a peeker, and thought the windows were awesome from the other side.
The class I was enrolled in was titled Far-Flung Flatbreads, and was led by a pair of great instructors. Each with over a decade of experience at KAF, they were friendly and approachable, and were able to easily answer any question thrown at them. The classes have been fine-tuned to make the most of every minute, so you definitely get your money’s worth.
We began with something called nissa socca, which I must admit I had never heard of before that very moment. Apparently it’s a traditional snack among the market vendors in Nice, France. It’s made with chickpea flour instead of wheat flour, and the finished texture is more that of a firm polenta than bread. I tasted a sample of the instructor’s batch, and I could definitely taste the chickpea – it was like a hummus/polenta tart, which tastes much better than it probably sounds. Mrslovey got full ownership of my creation, as I opted for the traditional toppings of thinly sliced onions, olives, and a little roasted red pepper (none of which I’m very fond of). She very much approved, so it seems that chickpea flour is now on my shopping list. We students all baked ours in aluminum pie tins, for ease of transport, but the instructor used a screaming hot cast iron skillet, which I totally intend to try at home.
Next up was an Afghani naan, which has gorgeous-feeling dough. With ghee, yogurt, milk and egg included, the naan caramelized beautifully, and had a slightly rich taste without being overwhelming. We had the option to top them with sesame seeds, melted ghee, or nigella seeds. Luckily I tasted the nigellas before committing, as I found I did not like them AT ALL. Seems they are a love/hate item, with no middle ground. Half the class was smacking their lips, while the other half was spitting tiny black seeds into the trashcan. I decided to bypass the nigella and top my naan with sesame seeds and melted ghee. The naan cooked quickly, and had a nice even texture throughout, punctuated by an occasional air bubble. This is definitely a recipe I’ll be making again! (in the picture below, the four on the left are mine, the ones on the right belong to my tablemate)
After a quick break (where hall-peekers quizzed me on what we were making, and commented on the amazing smells we were generating), it was time for our last recipe – a spelt flour pita. The instructors had begun the dough prior to class, as the first step needed a multi-hour rise, which we didn’t have time for. After watching her demonstration, and learning how to knead a very wet dough, we each got to roll out a pita to get a feel for the technique. Then they went into the oven, and fifteen eager faces were pressed up against the door waiting for the internal steam to make the pitas ‘pop’, which is what creates the pockets. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the finished pita. They were so delicious that mrslovey and I ate it warm in the hallway as soon as I got out of class.
After class we did some shopping in the King Arthur store, and then had an uneventful trip home. Uneventful except for the part involving a lost phone, a high speed 40-mile backtrack, a dead battery so the lost phone won’t ring when you try to call it in the darkness of a desolate parking area, a path through the woods leading to a oddly-scented tree, and a very good flashlight app. Anyway. We’ll be nibbling on the remaining naan and nissa socca for the next few days, as we plot our next adventure. I’m scouring the course descriptions, trying to stack rank classes, because I want to take them ALL. I’m thinking I might even be able to get mrslovey to participate with me, if she can conquer her fear of yeast baking.
Wow, I thought this would be a quick little post, to make sure I remembered how. Turns out I’ve passed one thousand words, just like that. Maybe it’s a sign that I still have something to say, after all.