At Trigo’s Market Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls, head baker Randall Shipp can hardly keep his hands off the dough. He pats it ever so gently. “You just kind of start to feel it. It has a nice sort of sticky, but firm (feel). It’s soft but you can tell it has body to it, OK?”
Evident sensory pleasure
The way Shipp caresses the dough shows the joy he takes in the process.
“Oh yeah I love it. Just by feel you can tell where your dough is, how stiff it is. And the flour’s different each batch that we get. Some of it’s wetter, some of it’s drier. So feel is really the best way to tell where your dough is.”
He’ll share his expertise Wednesday night with the class at Countryside U.
“But bread also is a leap of faith,” he says. “I mean you just got to say, ‘I did it right’ and pray that fermentation does its magic.”
Flavor and texture from pre-fermentation
Shipp uses a pre-fermentation process brought over from Europe. “Bigas or a poolish; the biga being the Italian bakers, the poolish from the Polish bakers. Equal parts water and flour, mix it together, little tiny piece of yeast, and you let that sit for about 12 to 18 hours and that’s the start of the fermentation process.”
He says pre-fermentation is how artisan bread gets its flavor, as well as the right cell structure for the crust and the interior of the bread, what bakers refer to as crumb.
“It provides a natural preservative for it, helps create that nice thin crust that still has that density to it and that still shatters when you eat it like you want with that French bread.”
Start simply and improvise
Shipp's Breadmaking 101 students will make a rustic French loaf because he says it’s a good place to start.
“You learn how to make the French bread, then you can start making the olive oil bread. Then you start to like take out the artisan white flour, put in, start mixing in rye flours, coarse grain, whole wheat, buckwheat, all the different
kind of flours that are available to you. You can just start to experiment. That’s what great about the home baker. It’s trial and error and that’s how a lot of good bread is discovered.” He won’t be sharing any secret recipes at Wednesday night’s class in the bakery’s kitchen. “Because really it’s flour, salt, water and yeast. We don’t put anything else into it. So it’s just the process.”
How warm for how long?
He says it’s all about controlling time and temperature.
"You want your dough to come off the dough hook at about 72 to74 degrees. Then you know that if it says for four hours it’s going to ferment properly. If your room’s too hot it’s going to go a little fast, lower it’s going to go a little bit slower. You’re going to have to watch it. And doing it over and over and over you start to get a feel for when it’s ready.
"Your first loaf and your hundredth loaf, they’re going to look different, right? So you’re going to have a better feel for it.”
The dough for the baguettes he’s making today is bulging out of the bowl where its pre-fermenting, almost like a living thing. “And now you can start to see it’s starting to rise up, starting to get some buoyancy to it. You press your finger into it; it’s still coming back out. And this has got about another 30 minutes.”
Then comes the shaping. He slices the mound of dough into thick lengths to roll under his thumbs. “So you put it out into a rectangle, back and forth, right?”
Now he brings out the scale. Weights have to be precise. “Fourteen ounces for a typical baguette. Probably up to 22 ounces for a French loaf.”
Then he lets the dough rest again on a cloth-covered board. “We use something that’s called a couche here, a linen cloth that you’ll lay out. And the final rest here is also an opportunity to let the bread continue to ferment, to let it continue to gain flavor and to do its magic for your end product.”
After the last rest period the dough is ready to be baked. "And it’ll go into the oven for another 25 to 30 minutes, and then you’ll have your French baguette.”
A home baker’s artisan alternative
That’s just one of the breads Michele Malakovsky is here at Trigo’s to buy.
“I found this bakery at the Hudson Farmers’ Market, and the things that they had out there were just beautiful. So I wanted to check out the store and find out what else they had to offer.” She also bakes bread at home but not often enough. “For those times where I don’t have the time or I don’t feel like baking bread this is a great alternative.”
While his brother Bradley, Trigo’s managing partner, serves customers, Randall takes an olive oil bread out of the oven. “We see we have a nice crust on the outside. It’s nice and thin, but it’s still substantial. Actually it’s still nice and warm. The aroma of fresh bread is really why I always wanted to become a baker. I can remember the first time I pulled rye bread out of the oven. I was thinking, ‘That’s it for me. I want to become a baker.’ Rye bread is heavenly.”
Countryside Conservancy’s Education and Marketing Manager Heather Roszczyk hopes Shipp’s passion for his craft might prove inspirational, but she’s not expecting miracles.
“When someone takes ‘Bread making 101’ for example, are they going to bake bread every single week? We would love that, but probably not. It’s probably not realistic for most people. But they will come down to Countryside farmers’ markets, or they’ll come and visit Trigo’s at the bakery here, and support that local business.”
All kinds of artisan bread, along with vegetables, cheese, fruit, meats, eggs, and more will be available tomorrow at Old Trail School in Bath when Countryside opens its winter market.