Saturday, March 12, 2011
Learning about bread
Passionate. That's what I'd say if I had to describe Sébastien Boudet with one word. (Good thing I don't have to - or it'd be a pretty short blog post.) He's burning with passion for his craft. He's not afraid to call out those in the business who do cheat, and he refuses to do so himself. And in his opinion, there are many ways to cheat, and many people do. It's not many who truly take pride in their baking anymore, but he wants to change that. And, after spending two days with this extremely charismatic and charming Frenchman, I believe he can make a big difference.
He bakes, with completely natural flour, water and salt. And time. And passion. A lot of both. His flour is free from additives, it's stone-ground just the way he likes it, and he's even bought a few fields to grow exactly what he wants. (That's taking things a bit far, perhaps.) He never uses yeast in his sourdough, and he always lets the bread proof for at least 12 hours.
He's a classically trained French pastry chef, and ended up in Sweden out of love. He met his wife, who is Swedish, and then moved here ten years ago. Three years ago, he opened Petite France, which is his bakery and café. He wanted to set the standard for excellent bread and pastry, to give everyone a point of reference. To know, this is good. His croissants, his loaves of bread, his macarons. All perfect.
Bread we actually baked during the class. (And perhaps not exactly perfect.)
In his bakery, it's perfect, never so-so. (He taught us how to roll croissants, and gently corrected us along the way. He applauded our attempts and called them very good. One of the students asked; would these be sellable? Short laugh. Non. But we got to take them home instead - much better!)
Flat bread baked from poolish, with garlic and olives. Extremely tasty!
I was really happy I decided to take a class with him - he offers them to home bakers from time to time, and they book very quickly. He also does classes for pro bakers, and he really wants to teach future bakers as well, as many of them don't learn proper baking anymore but are expected to bake from ready-made mixes. I spent a day and a half with him and ten other eager students, and we soaked up all kinds of useful information.
His massive stone-oven.
Sure, I don't have the same kind of controlled environment as he does, and I need to tweak proofing times to suit my own kitchen, but at least I have an idea now of what kind of bread can be made with just water, flour and salt. A GREAT one! (And so far, one that I can absolutely not replicate - it's definitely not as easy as it looked. I have three failed attempts in as many days.. well, I guess I'll keep on practising.)
Pain raisin - a croissant dough with vanilla cream and raisins.
Interestingly, he uses one sourdough starter for all his bread. Not one for rye, one for wheat and so on - just one, with a mixture of both. (He calls it a Michael Jackson starter - a little dark, a little light.) It works great in all breads, and there's no need for other kinds. He feeds it - a little bit of flour, a little water, nothing too exact - and bakes from it every day. He also has one simple recipe for all of his breads: 1 liter of water, 1500 grams of flour, 40 g salt. And a dollop - perhaps 200 g - sourdough starter. Any flour - he uses wheat, durum wheat and rye - in any combination, as long as the total is 1500 g. Instead of feeling nervous about such a loose recipe, I feel that it's empowering. It's saying that everyone can make their own bread, their way, and not just follow a recipe. That way, when you produce great bread, it's truly yours. I love that. (Or I will, when I succeed.)
Scoring the bread just before baking - very important. Sébastien uses a lamé which is basically a really sharp razor.
The class was a lot about technique. How to work dough, how it should feel when it's done. (A lot firmer than most dough I've made, by the way!) When to let the dough rest to activate autolys, when to work it, when to shape it, flour it, cut it, bake it. We talked about all of that, and I'm really excited about trying it out. It's all about love. He even shapes the bread loaves against his tummy rather than on the table, because it feels better and more organic, and makes a more natural seam in the bread. (And this was really charming to watch - I hope he makes a video of this.)
We also baked croissants and pain au chocolat - delicious, and not difficult to make. He uses cold butter for all his baking - obviously with laminated doughs, but also with brioches and yeasted buns which is a bit unusual. I got his croissant recipe, and will be trying it out once I have some more space in my freezer which is completely packed at the moment (with lots of bread!)
We had dinner - cheese, bread and wine - on top of the conveyor used to put the breads in the oven. See?
Sébastien blogs, too - as a way to record his work, and also as a way to share his passion. The blog is called, aptly enough, Brödpassion (which I'm sure you can all translate easily - Bread Passion!) and it's a great read. It's where he announces his new courses, shares technique movies (that he often records as he's alone in his bakery in the middle of the night - check out this one about making Choquettes, for example!) and shares some recipes.
Duck confit, simmering away for four days at the bottom of the oven.
If you're in Stockholm, do visit Petite France. It's a great place for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon treat. (Hurry though - it's for sale.) And if you see a café offering macarons from Macarong, those are the ones made by Sébastien and his brother Damien, and I think they rival those of Pierre Hermé and by far outclass Ladurées.
And most of all, if you have the chance to learn from Sébastien: do so. I'm sure the world will be seeing a lot more of him in the future. This is one bright star.