A Bread Baking Adventure

By Sydney Manning

Like Oprah, I love bread. I would eat it all day, every day if the end result wouldn’t be me documented on an episode of My 600-lb Life. Bread and I have a somewhat complicated relationship. As much as I love it, I have never been able to bake it without a hitch. Sometimes it’s over-proofed. Sometimes it’s under-proofed. And sometimes it’s shoved into a screaming-hot oven at 3:00 a.m. because I’ve had enough, and also can’t believe that I’ve been bested once again by a giant blob of dough that I’ve tried (and failed) to style into an intricate design. But I always keep trying. For New Year’s this year, I stayed in, struggling through a chocolate challah recipe that I got out of an old issue of Bon Appetit. Since I was totally snowed in this weekend, I decided to make not one, not two, but three loaves of bread because I like to push myself, and (apparently) I like getting no sleep.

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Have you heard about Uri Scheft’s cookbook, Breaking Breads? It came out in October and I absolutely love it. It’s incredibly detailed, beautifully photographed, and packed with tons of recipes for breads and for dishes like Algerian salad and Babaghanouj. I decided to try Uri’s version of challah to see how it would compare to other challah loaves I’ve made in the past. I started out by whisking two packets of active dry yeast into 1 2/3 cups of cool, room-temperature water in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Next, I added seven cups of unbleached all-purpose flour, a tablespoon of fine salt, and five tablespoons of canola oil. I set the mixer to medium speed for one minute, scraping down the sides or pushing the dough down when it occasionally climbed up the hook. After about three minutes, I turned the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pushed and tore it, folding it onto itself, then giving it a quick quarter turn before repeating the motion. I did this for two minutes, then rolled the dough around and around until it had become a smooth ball that was easily the size of a human head. I put the dough ball into a large, floured bowl, covered it in cling film, and set it aside in a warm place to rise for what I prayed would be 40 minutes, but knew in my heart of hearts would be longer.

Sure enough, nearly two hours (and two episodes of Chopped) later, I came into the kitchen to find that my dough had risen so much that it was very close to spilling out of the top. Had I left it to proof for too long? Probably, but there was no turning back. Carefully, I peeled it out of the bowl, making sure not to release any of the vital gasses that I had spent two hours of my life waiting to puff up the dough. I flattened the ball into a rectangle using my palms, then using a sharp bench knife, cut the dough into three pieces. I cut those three pieces into three more pieces each, totaling nine equal-ish sized pieces (perhaps it would’ve been wise to use my ruler, but who had time to find one?). I took a piece, flattened it into a rectangle, then folded the top towards me, and flattened it again. I did this three more times until I ended up with a cylinder. I repeated the process with the remaining eight pieces. Once I had nine cylinders, I rolled each into 14-inch (give or take) ropes, pinched at the ends. My ropes may have been all different lengths, but they were ropes nonetheless and I was soldiering on; the time had come for me to start braiding. I braided the first two loaves in the traditional way and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets.  As I got to the third, I decided to mix things up a bit. Once I had braided the third loaf and pinched the ends, as I had done with the first two, I curved the top end of the loaf around to meet the bottom, creating a beautiful braided circle. In the

Once I had nine cylinders, I rolled each into 14-inch (give or take) ropes, pinched at the ends. My ropes may have been all different lengths, but they were ropes nonetheless and I was soldiering on; the time had come for me to start braiding. I braided the first two loaves in the traditional way and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets.  As I got to the third, I decided to mix things up a bit. Once I had braided the third loaf and pinched the ends, as I had done with the first two, I curved the top end of the loaf around to meet the bottom, creating a beautiful braided circle. In the middle I placed an oval ramekin so that the loaf would maintain its shape while baking. The ramekin would also make a great holder for the dipping honey later on. Next I put one large egg, a tablespoon of water, and a pinch of fine salt into a bowl and began whisking. This was my egg wash. Very lightly, I painted the wash onto the loaf, making sure that every inch had a sheen. On one half of the loaf I sprinkled a generous amount of poppy seeds, spreading them out with my finger when I noticed clumps. On the other half, I sprinkled white sesame seeds. I placed clean kitchen towels over the two traditional loaves, then left all three to rise for 60 minutes.

When my loaves had sufficiently risen (or I just grew impatient, I can’t be sure), I placed racks on the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheated it to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. I brushed the remaining loaves with the egg wash, and baked each loaf for 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the 15-minute mark. Finally, nearly seven long hours later, I had three unevenly-sized but no less beautiful (to me) loaves of challah cooling on the counter. As warm and wonderful-smelling as each loaf was, I have a very strict “no eating after midnight” policy, and it was well past that cut-off. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that I was finally able to taste the breads. The loaves sat uncovered overnight, so the first order of business was to wrap my two traditional loaves in two layers of cling film, then a layer of aluminum foil for good measure. They were on their way to the freezer for safe-keeping. It was the circle loaf that I was after.

Bread is best eaten slightly warm, so I placed the circle loaf in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, just to give it a little jolt of life. Once it was out, I placed the whole thing, sheet pan and all, on the table and grabbed the honey (I’d made a point to get the “good” honey at the market.) I cut off a generous piece for myself, really sunk it into the honey (I had to get my money’s worth), and took a bite. Good, I thought, but not great. Perhaps I would try again, but this time without the honey. Again, good, but not great. There was something different about this challah. For starters, it wasn’t as sweet as challahs that I had made in the past. And it lacked that signature pillowy-ness. Where had I gone wrong? Should I have left the dough to rise for a shorter amount of time? Maybe I should’ve left the ropes a little looser when I braided them. The bread just seemed a little…dull. But, all was not lost. I still had two other loaves in the freezer just begging to become french toast one day. The cure for dull bread is frying it in butter and drenching it in Vermont maple syrup.

Thinking back, would I make Uri’s version of challah again? Yes. Next time, I’ll shorten the proofing time. I’ll add a little bit more sugar. Perhaps I will even give it a filling like Nutella, or cinnamon and brown sugar. No matter what happens, bread never disappoints when there’s filling in the middle.

Alumni Spotlight: Chris Maggiolo

Alcohol is an ancient food. It is a social lubricant. It is a component of ritual, of art, of dream-making. It is powerfully charged and, yet, so completely misunderstood in American culture.

chrisI moved from Virginia to Boston in September 2011 with these words in mind – words jotted down while taking notes during my freshman seminar in alcohol and culture. I was keen on studying the anthropology of alcohol and the Gastronomy program, I felt, was the perfect tool by which to do so. A few years honing my studies and then I’d apply to a PhD program. Well, the best laid plans…

To say I concentrated in alcohol studies would be putting it lightly. It was everything I did. I worked full time managing the Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge, leveraging contacts and a vast network of brewers to find interview participants and volunteer opportunities. I took a second job in the summer managing relationships between wholesalers and retailers. I conducted every project and wrote every paper (save for one, I think) on the subject of craft brewing and alcohol culture. And when I wasn’t working or hunkered down over a book for school, I volunteered with breweries and, later, distilleries. I believed in the holistic approach fostered by liberal arts studies, and I tried to engage the industry from all angles.

siloUltimately, it was the liberal arts approach that landed me my job at SILO Distillery. Craft producers need to be swiss army knives rather than specialists, and the Gastronomy program prepared me well for this. To a degree, I understood marketing and sales, production practices, legislature and regulations. In a pinch I can crunch financials. And if I didn’t know something, I had the tool set to figure it out. I never would have guessed that I would know as much about boiler systems as I do now, but last week I answered a call from an aspiring distiller with a background in chemical engineering and we had a half hour call about our boiler unit. The liberal arts approach is real, and it can be very valuable.

But it can also be too vague, too broad. It’s important to have a goal in mind – something to anchor the Gastronomy net. Focus your intent, and the program will open amazing doors.

I frequently draw on my experiences with the Gastronomy program to fuel SILO’s growth. As a company we focus intently on local and regional agricultural systems. I’ve held meetings with groups of farmers in order to discuss potential crop growth for distilling purposes and to facilitate the collection of our spent grains. Having an understanding of their work and struggles goes a long way to securing these relationships. In conceiving of new products, I consider both modern trends and historic and cultural precedents. For example, amaro is really hot right now in trendy restaurants and cocktail circles. I’ve been working on a fun analog rooted in a mid 17th century cookery book. It’s been a blast and I think it’ll be quite successful.

Just as Gastronomy studies the art and science of food, distilling practices the art and science of spirits. In a craft that is as technical as it is creative, having a liberal arts background is a keystone of success. Sure, work can be stressful at times, but familiarity with the big picture brings everything back into perspective and keeps me energized and excited for what lies ahead.

Gastronomy Summer Courses

Registration for summer term classes begins on Thursday, February 23. Take a look at the offerings from the Gastronomy department.

Summer Term 1 Gastronomy Classes

MET ML 641 Anthropology of Food – with Dr. Karen Metheny

Summer 1 (May 24-June 28), Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

What can food tell us about human culture and social orfood-historyganization? Food offers us many opportunities to explore the ways in which humans go about their daily lives from breaking bread at the family table to haggling over the price of meat at the market to worrying about having enough to eat. Food can also tell us about larger social organizations and global interconnections through products like Spam that are traded around the globe and the ways in which a fruit like the tomato transformed the culinary culture of European nations. In this course we consider how the anthropology of food has developed as a subfield of cultural anthropology. We also look at the various methodologies and theoretical frameworks used by anthropologists

MET ML 673 Food and Film – with Dr. Potter Palmerh_julia_child_creative_commons_t670

Summer 1 (May 23-June 29), Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

We can all take pleasure in eating good food, but what about watching other people eat or cook food? This course surveys the history of food in film. It pays particular attention to how food and foodways are depicted as expressions of culture, politics, and group or personal identity. We will watch a significant number of films, both fiction and non-fiction, classic and modern. A good portion of class time will also be given to discussing the readings in combination with hands-on, in-depth analysis of the films themselves. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320

MET ML 650 – The Foundation of Beer and Spirits – with Sandy Block

Summer 1 (May 25-June 29), Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

Explores tRediscovery #: 00887
Job A1 08-131 Transparencies-1he great variety of beer styles and spirit categories currently available and the role each plays in our culture. Surveys significant developments in the historical evolution, production, distribution, consumption, and cultural usage of these alcohol

beverages in the United States. Includes tastings of beer and spirits to demonstrate examples of the most important categories and classifications. 2 cr. Tuition: $1660; lab fee: $200; total charge: $1860

MET ML 651 Fundamentals of Wine – with William Nesto

Summer 1 (Ten week course: June 5-August 7), Mondays, 6 to 9 PM

Suitable for students without previous knowledge of wine, this introductory survey explores the world of wine through lectures, tastings, and assigned readings. By the end of the course, students will be able to exhibit fundamental knowledge of the principal categories of wine, including major grape varieties, wine styles, and regions; correctly taste and classify wine attributes; understand general principles of food and wine pairing; and comprehend the process of grape growing and winemaking. 2 cr. Tuition: $1660; lab fee: $200; total charge: $1860 

MET ML 699 Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Baking – with Janine Sciarappa

Summer 1 (May 23 – June 28), Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 5:30 to 9:30 PM

Exposes students to a craft-based understanding of the culinary arts from which to better understand how food and cuisine fit into the liberal arts and other disciplines and cultures. Integrates personal experience and theory through discipline by training students in classic and modern techniques and theories of food production, through pastry and baking methods and working efficiently, effectively, and safely. Also introduces students to baking techniques from various cultures and cuisines from around the world. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320; lab fee: $1500; total charge: $4820

 

Summer Term 2 Gastronomy Classes

MET ML 698 Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Cooking – with Christine Merlo

Summer 2 (July 5 – August 9), Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 5:30 to 9:30 PM

Exposes students to a craft-based understanding of the culinary arts from which to better understand how food and cuisine fit into the liberal arts and other disciplines and cultures. Integrates personal experience and theory through discipline by training students in classic and modern techniques and theories of food production, through cooking and working efficiently, effectively, and safely. Also introduces students to foods of various cultures and cuisines from around the world. Students are expected to provide their own chef’s coat and knives. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320; lab fee: $1500; total charge: $4820

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MET ML 704 Special Topic: Survey of Italian Wine – With Bill Nesto

Summer 2 (July 6 – August 10), Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

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Topic for summer 2017: Survey of Italian Wine. Provides students with a thorough knowledge of Italian wine. By the end of the course, students will know the history, cultural context, and styles of wine made throughout Italy and will understand issues within the Italian wine industry and the market performance of Italian wines in Italy and in other countries. Regular class tastings illustrate examples of wine types. 2 cr. Tuition: $1660; lab fee: $200; total charge: $1860

MET ML 719 Food Values: Local to Global Food Policy, Practice, and Performance – with Ellen Messer

Summer 2 (July 3-August 9), Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30 – 9 pm

Reviews various competing and sometimes conflicting frameworks for assessing what are “good” foods. Examines what global, national, state, and local food policies can do to promote the production and consumption of these foods. Teaches how to conceptualize, measure, and assess varying ecological, economic, nutritional, health, cultural, political, and justice claims. Analyzes pathways connecting production and consumption of particular foodstuffs in the U.S. and the world. Emphasizes comparative food systems and food value chains, and the respective institutional roles of science and technology, policy, and advocacy in shaping food supply and demand. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320

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MET ML UA 510 Special Topics in Urban Affairs – with Walter Carroll

Summer 2 (July 6 – August 10), Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 to 9:30 pm

Topic for summer 2017: Feeding the City: Urban Food. Examines historical and contemporary issues involved in providing food to cities and metropolitan areas. Tracing the routes that food takes into the city and the major sources of food, the course looks closely at the accessibility of food, especially in poorer urban neighborhoods. Among topics covered are obesogenic neighborhoods, food deserts, gentrification and foodie culture, public school food and nutrition, attempts to minimize food waste, and immigrants and ethnic foods in the city. The course also considers recent attempts at food production in cities, including urban agriculture, vertical farming, and craft production of food products. After closely looking at the history and current status of food programs, the course concludes with a consideration of urban food policies. 4 cr. Tuition: $2640

Alumni Spotlight: Audrey Reid

img_9996Fun fact: There is such a job as Brewing Scientist. No, not a scientist that has taken up brewing, a scientist that studies beer and works with brewers to craft the perfect libation.

BU Gastronomy alum and self-proclaimed Gastronomical Chemist Audrey Reid started Imbibe Solutions, a Charlottesville, VA based laboratory that works with craft breweries and small wineries, to do just that. She found a need for laboratory testing by breweries and wineries who didn’t have a fully equipped lab of their own, so she opened Imbibe Solutions to fulfill the need and save the businesses from the large investment required to build one.

Breweries and wineries measure a variety of variables throughout their processes. For breweries, quality control testing is about consistency of product from batch to batch, process efficiency, elongation of shelf-life, and elimination of off-flavors. For wineries, QC tests help winemakers understand what their starting product is, monitor fermentation and aging, make adjustments, add preservatives, and prevent microbial contamination. Common lab tests you will likely be familiar with but may not have given much thought to, include: ABV, IBU, residual sugar, gravity, acetic acid, carbonation, and sulfites.

During her time in the Gastronomy program, Audrey relied on both classes and the amazing opportunities that Boston presents to shape her education. She studied national wine policies and flavors produced by yeast in beer at 808 Comm., while learning about fermentation from Boston Ferments, brewing with friends, and picking the brain of an intern at a local distillery. She thought she might do policy work for the wine and beer industry after graduation; never once did she think she would become an entrepreneur. It wasn’t until she moved to Charlottesville and spoke with a brewer about the need for chemists in the industry, that she realized she could do one better than beer policy, she could combine her love for food and science as a beer chemist.

One of the biggest lessons the Gastronomy program taught her, is you have to design your own path. The program certainly doesn’t dictate which classes to take (beyond the core); you take the classes that sound interesting and teach you what you want to know, whether in the program, elsewhere at BU, or at any of the other amazing schools in the city. And as students well know, this is a unique program relatively new to the world, which means you often have to create your own job upon graduation. Find what you want to do and convince the right people that they need someone like you.

For Audrey, that meant starting a laboratory to help brewers and winemakers succeed in their ever-growing industries.

New Students, Spring ’17

Classes have just begun for students enrolled in the MLA in Gastronomy and Food Studies Graduate Certificate programs this Spring! Here are three of the new candidates.

 

sydneySydney Manning, originally from Wisconsin by way of California, was raised on cheese, brats, Kringle, and soul food. She spent junior and senior year of high school in England, where she was exposed to new countries, cultures, and authentic European cuisines. She received her BS in Marketing Communication from Emerson College and ventured into a career in social media marketing for both the food and hospitality industries. While working, Sydney began to develop an interest in cooking and eating that went beyond a night out or writing copy for one of her clients. Suddenly she found herself looking at a dish, longing to learn how to create it on her own, and began documenting every triumph (and occasional failure) on her blog, DaintyDwellings.com.

Gradually, each project she took on got more ambitious until she realized that preparing food (especially for others) had somehow become a part of her very being. It was then that she decided, the world of food was not only where she wanted to spend her personal life, but her professional life as well. With her degree in Gastronomy, Sydney hopes to pursue a career in food media, food activism, restaurant marketing, and/or hospitality.

madisonMadison Trapkin is a native Atlantan, born out of a love for food. As the daughter of a chef and a restaurant owner, she began her culinary love affair at a very young age. Madison graduated with a BA in Anthropology from the University of Georgia in 2014.   Shortly after, she boarded a plane to Italy to work as an au pair for a family of Russian winemakers living in the heart of Tuscany.  She returned to the US with a fire in her belly and a mission to make something out of her passion for food.

While in college, Madison created Bread & Thread (http://bread-and-thread.com), her food and art blog. She uses mediums such as photography, recipes, poems, and music to give her audience a multi-sensory food experience. The most important events in her life have always seemed to happen around a table – whether it’s her best friend’s teary wedding rehearsal dinner or a plate of fluffy pancakes at her parent’s house on a Sunday morning. Madison is elated at the opportunity to continue her liberal arts education as a part of BU’s Gastronomy program.  She’s especially excited about the possibility of combining food and gender studies and hopes to one-day work as a food writer or critic in some capacity.

 

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Photo: Jimmy Chau

Sarah Wu grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but considers herself a bi-costal girl, as she was born on and frequently visits the East Coast. She earned her B.S. in Journalism at Boston University and has studied Spanish for nine years, including as a minor in college. Sarah can speak hours about Madrid and the Spanish food she deeply misses. She is a travel and food writer and the former managing editor of the Buzz. She also wrote, translated, and edited for Where Madrid, a travel magazine in Spain. After speaking with former Gastronomy students and taking Taste, Culture, and Power: The Global History of Food and Food Writing course at BU, she knew that she wanted to combine her love of writing and travel with global tastes in the Gastronomy program. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her taking photos of food or ballroom dancers, as she is a competitive ballroom dancer herself. She hopes to write for a national magazine in the future or even work as a public relations coordinator for restaurants or food establishments. A less realistic goal for her is to host her own Travel Channel show, but she knows that her fast talking might not be great for television, so she prefers her pen and paper.