Our Baking Education Center: big, bright – and brand new!

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Learn to bake.

Who knew those three short words could encompass such a huge world of possibility?

Take a virtual tour of our new Baking Education Center here in Norwich, Vermont. And join one of the first classes held there as we make the definition of comfort food –

Bread and soup.

First, a bit of visual background.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

Just 3 short months ago, our new education center was awaiting ovens and sinks, tables and chairs, overhead monitors and storage racks and counters and everything else necessary to turn a large, empty room into two state-of-the-art classrooms.

One of the first projects started (and last completed) was the huge stone wood-burning pizza and bread oven. Its chimney was finally installed just hours before the first class.

The new, computerized deck ovens took some getting used to.

“So, you have to push all those buttons to make it start, and it only takes one button to delete everything you just programmed in?”

Technology is our friend – most of the time. The ovens took some getting used to for our instructors, but they do bake beautifully.

OK, guys – 12 hours until the first class starts. Time to clear out the construction gear and get the motorcycle photos down off the overhead monitors!

Our very first class was held May 4, with Chef En-ming Hsu, former captain of the U.S. Pastry Team and noted chocolatier, leading a sold-out class on – of course – chocolate.

The class I attended, held a week later, is one of our long-time favorites: Bread and Soup Suppers.

Looks like everything’s ready. All we need are the students!

Here’s the first recipe.

And here they come –

A full complement of a dozen students gathered, settled in, introduced themselves, and immediately went to the head of the class for King Arthur instructor Jess Meyers’ introduction.

Large overhead monitors make it easy for everyone in the room to see what’s going on up front, but Jess still likes to get up close and personal with her students.

OK, let’s make yeast bread: the first loaf ever, for some of the students.

“Whoops – I thought that was a TEASPOON measure, not a tablespoon…”

Mix the dough in the bowl, then knead – using JUST enough flour – then shape into a ball, and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

Question: “Don’t you have to grease the top of the dough? I’d always heard that was important.”

Jess: “That’s a holdover from the days before plastic wrap, when loaves tended to dry out under their covering of a tea towel. No need to grease the dough these days.”

Break time – fresh bread from our bakery, Vermont butter, and lots of tea and coffee selections.

Fast forward: the dough has risen, and it’s time for shaping.

Instructor Karen Ogrinc favors the hands-on approach, showing Stephanie how to gently pull the sticky dough towards herself to shape a smooth ball.

Loaves shaped and rising, it’s time to move on to soup.

Luckily, this isn’t like home, where you have to clean up as you go. Our King Arthur staff takes care of the dishes. Bonus!

A lovely recipe for May.

Students also made Spring Pea Soup, a vibrant green salute to the season’s new crop of peas; and Chive Biscuits, the perfect accompaniment.

For the Zuppa, students collaborated on chopping vegetables, seasoning, stirring, tasting and, of course, enjoying the enticing aroma of bubbling soup.

The bread’s risen – time to get it into the oven.

But first, it needs to be slashed. Jess shows and explains technique; “Use the tip of the blade only; don’t let the end drag through the dough.”

Then each student slashes her own loaf.

Some with a bit of body language!

Karen quickly gets the loaves into the oven, and just about 30 minutes later, pulls out hot, fresh bread.

The class nearing its end, students tidy their work area in preparation for sitting down and enjoying the fruit (make that bread and soup) of their labors.

Jess readies the bowls and cuts into a loaf of warm bread.

Question: “I thought you weren’t supposed to cut bread while it’s hot.”

Jess: “You’re not. You don’t see me doing this.”

Ah, warm bread. Hot soup.

Smiles all around.

Come bake with us!

Check out the BEC’s calendar for information on upcoming classes.

And, for a chance to win a FREE class at the BEC – along with a passel of other fabulous prizes – enter our Vermont Dream Getaway Sweepstakes, now through June 30, 2012. Good luck!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Brenda

    In our family, one loaf is always cut while hot, thank you very much! All other loaves have to wait ’til cool. We are very good at cutting fresh from the oven bread with minimal damage, and of course watching the butter melt. Everything looks yummy, and some day my schedule and yours WILL work to take one of your classes!

    Reply
  2. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - SENAC RJ - BRAZIL

    Always a pleasure to hear about modern kitchens all over the world where students could be traineds to become master bakers!!
    This kitchen classroom, is a ´must `!!
    Here in Petrópolis,Brazil I´m proud to have such big equipped kitchen to teach artisan bread baking classes to my aficcionados of bread wildlife!!! Senac school makes great efforts to give students all the modern equipments and comfort!!
    I hope all of new bakers all over the world learn and apply how to bake breads the way our old familiars ever done!!!
    With no additions of chemical compounds and with sense of art the new breads deserves!!!
    God Bless all the works on that kitchens and bright the minds of teachers and students who will construct the breads of the future, healthy and DELICIOUS!!

    Reply
  3. milkwithknives

    Ah, that looks lovely! I love cooking/baking classes and will absolutely make it a point to attend one of yours if we ever make it to Vermont.

    Also, sometimes I pull out a bit of dough and make a few buns so we can rip into them nice and warm without wrecking the loaf of bread. There is just nothing like fresh bread straight from the oven. I may have to try this particular loaf tomorrow with some dates I’ve got stashed in the fridge. Congratulations on your new place!

    Reply
  4. MGW960W

    When will the complete schedule be out for September? I’m hoping to come and want to schedule early! Thanks.

    Check starting in early June – you should see more then. Hope you find a class you like – PJH

    Reply
  5. pooky1961

    I so want to take a class with you guys, what a beautiful place of learning you have built! I feel like I know everybody from your wonderful blog, pictures, and recipes – and the fact that every cabinet and shelf in my kitchen has King Arthur products. I got cookies baking and cinnamon rolls rising as I write. May there only ever be happiness at the Baking Center. Hope to see it for myself one day!

    We hope you see it for yourself someday too, Pooky. Thanks so much for baking with King Arthur Flour – all 297 of us employee-owners appreciate it! PJH

    Reply
  6. takefive34

    Oh, my………..the pics and PJ’s descriptions!!! Such a beautiful place – if only I lived closer, or there were classes that coincided with our annual summer visits (live in FL, spend 6 weeks with our daughters, our grandkids, and assorted family members and friends). I’ll certainly have to add that veggie zuppa to my repertoire. I often make the Creamy Tomato Soup and receive rave reviews for its superb flavor. Congrats to KAF and their employees for the continuing upgrades; in this instance, change IS good!!!

    Thanks – change is both good – and inevitable! It’s great when people can roll with it. We do hold classes year-round – maybe you can shoehorn one into your trip North sometime? We’d love to see you here- PJH

    Reply
  7. linguina

    The new site looks awesome! I’m signed up for the rye bread class in July — I can’t wait!

    You’ll totally enjoy that class – we look forward to seeing you here. PJH

    Reply
  8. Adele1791

    My friend and I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend classes at both the old and new education centers. The new one is so nice but I have to say it’s really the instructors that make King Arthur Flour’s education center great. We’ve taken 4 classes and we have no intention of stopping anytime soon!

    Great to hear, Adele – I’m passing your comments along to the crew. Thanks – PJH

    Reply
  9. Barbara

    We spent last weekend in Vermont and took a ride up to King Arthur – I loved the big windows where one can peek into the baking education center from the hallway and look forward to some day taking one of your classes! The new store looks great, too…such a big change from when we were there last year.

    Reply
  10. jenzings

    Ah, so excited to see the new space! After taking…5? 6? classes in the old space, I’m a tad wistful (still can’t believe that massive oven built by the French guy is gone!), but am very much looking forward to classes in the new rooms. Congratulations, I’ve enjoyed watching the progress both when visiting and through the blog.

    Adele is spot-on–the instructors make the classes.

    Reply
  11. waikikirie

    Best wishes on your new Baking Center. I hope one day to make the trip up there. My friend and I are in a lottery pool. We always say to one another that we hope we can win so that we can stay home and cook/bake and go up to King Aruther for their classes…..xoxoox….PS. I hope you guys have a contest that’s available to us technology challenge people who aren’t on face book. If I was, I wouldn’t just “like” KA, I’d love ya..teehee

    We hope you can visit someday, too – as for the sweepstakes – just call our customer service, 800-827-6836. they can enter your name – PJH

    Reply
  12. PamJWM

    Wow! I may just have to make a trip to Vermont some day! Everything looks so fantastic – I especially covet the stone oven!

    Reply
  13. wingboy

    It looks wonderful. I still think you need to open a west coast center, say, in Portland, Oregon.

    In the first picture I noticed exposed fire sprinkler pipe. Doesn’t it get down to minus really cold? Must be a dry pipe system? And is the rock-faced oven in the corner fired with wood or gas? Capacity? Just curious.

    Enjoy the new surroundings!

    OK, I’m researching the pipe for you with our facilities manager. Susan, our BEC director, says it’s a wood-fired oven, and I’ll try to find out capacity; and that its capacity is about 20 boules. News at 11… :) PJH

    The rest of the story, from our facilities director: “Yes, that part of the system is dry. Regs require any time there is more than a certain width of overhang that it have a sprinkler, hence why there is some going around the existing building where the deck is. That building used to have an entirely dry system, but now due to the larger building size, the system has to be ‘wet’ (water is already in the pipes).” – PJH

    Reply
  14. "Allison Angott"

    Wonder if you will have a ‘whole grain’ day of baking? For those of use who want to have our “bread” and eat it too…and live with issues like diabetes! Would love to see more whole grain, with its healthy fiber that digests more slowly, fills you up longer, lowers your sugar and cholesterol, adds less fat to your middle, and all while baking. Yummo!
    Please check out our course offerings on whole wheat breads and whole grain baking here. ~Amy

    Reply
  15. dwcarter

    This is dwcarter! I’m looking to when classes are.
    We have pretty far drive? Could you Pose the dates of the classes.
    Hello dwcarter. Please check our education page for a full list of classes. We hope to see you there! Elisabeth

    Reply

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