[caption id="attachment_17769" align="aligncenter" width="630"] Challah created by students in Emily's class.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_17763" align="aligncenter" width="630"] (L-R) Emily's mom at the Biltmore, Emily in front our our outdoor wood fired oven, Emily's mom's quilts at Show & Tell.[/caption]
My recent trip to the Folk School was a little different than usual. For one thing, after ten years of teaching “The Science of Bread,” I shifted gears slightly and taught “Making Traditional Breads.” Thankfully, science still applies in traditional breads.
The other difference was that my mom accompanied me for the first time, to take a quilting class. While I was busy lighting the wood-fired oven, hunting down recipes, and mixing doughs to demonstrate with in class, Mom was putting in long hours at the studio, turning the bags of scrap fabric she’d brought into quilts. Three times each day we met for meals in the Folk School dining hall.
Are you ever inspired during the holiday season and decide to try your hand at making a gingerbread house from scratch? Annnnnd then your dreams of edible decorative glory come crashing down when your gingerbread house looks more like a shanty shack than a storybook chalet? I’ve been there, and maybe you have too. Have no fear! Expert baker and cake decorator, Jodi Rhoden will be here to save the (holi)day with her upcoming weekend class: Handmade Gingerbread Houses.
[caption id="attachment_15383" align="aligncenter" width="630"] Jodi and her son Jasper show off their gingerbread house creations.[/caption]
CP:What do you like about gingerbread houses?
JR: The first time I ever made a gingerbread house, I was enchanted. I really felt like I wanted to become miniature and live inside the house! It feels completely magical and fantastical to create a little home out of candy and sweet gingerbread, and the smells, and textures (and of course, tastes, because there’s always scrap pieces of gingerbread that need to be eaten!) are uniquely pleasurable to the senses.
[caption id="attachment_15381" align="alignright" width="226"] Photo by Nicole McConville[/caption]
CP:Do you have to be architecturally skilled to make a good gingerbread house? Who is the ideal student for your class?
JR: You do not have to be architecturally skilled to build a gingerbread house! The icing and the candy make it very forgiving. Like most things worth doing, though, it does take time. We will spend a good amount of time in the planning phase, cutting and measuring templates to create the right sizes for the pieces. I also always like to bake extra pieces, in case something breaks or bakes wonky.
CP:Have you ever participated in the National Gingerbread house Competition is at the Grove Park Inn? Did the proximity of this annual event in Asheville influence your interest in gingerbread house making?JR: It has always been my dream to enter a house into the competition at the Grove Park Inn, though up until now I have been too busy with my business, Short Street Cakes, to seriously consider it. But now that I have sold my business to my employee, this just might be the right time!
Every year, we have a sweet tooth soothing tradition in Emily Buehler's bread baking class. On Thursday, students team up to make a special recipe: Emily's Mom's Sticky Buns. The beginning of the week is spent learning the basics of breads like baguettes, sourdough loaves and whole wheat sandwich bread. By Thursday, students are happy to shift gears from savory to sweet for this divine gooey treat.
[caption id="attachment_13951" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Juicy, tender duck breast in the cast iron pot[/caption]
Halloween weekend brought delicious dismemberment to the Folk School. Don’t panic! All the butchery occurred under the expert tutelage of Mark Rosenstein in the Cooking Studio for the class “Whole Bird Weekend,” where students learned advanced techniques for preparing duck, chicken, and turkey for maximum flavor and juiciness.
[caption id="attachment_13953" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Mark demonstrates how to debone a turkey leg[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_13955" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Jerry adds flavor with thyme and marjoram / Students work on deboning a chicken / Sheila blanches spinach for the stuffing.[/caption]
Mark Rosenstein is a critically acclaimed veteran restaurateur who has been running restaurants in the WNC for over 40 years. Mark's cooking is based on local, seasonal ingredients and his current passion is cooking with fire. His newest project, the Smoky Park Supper Club in the River Arts District in Asheville, features wood-fired, seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine. If you are interested in wood-fired cooking, check out Mark’s upcoming January Folk School class: Wood-fired Cookery - Breads, Meats, and Vegetables.
[caption id="attachment_13059" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The "Science of Bread" Class Photo, May 2015[/caption]
Magical. That’s the word used over and over to describe a week at the Folk School. And there’s always something that makes the visit extra special: last May it was the baby barn swallows peeking over the edges of their nests in the rafters outside Davidson Hall.
This year it was the mountain laurel in full bloom; the mother-to-be barn swallows sat patiently atop their nests. The Folk School is a magical place, but also, when you’re there, you slow down and pay attention to things like the birds and flowers.
[caption id="attachment_13066" align="alignright" width="215"] Nicholas holds the focaccia fresh out of the oven.[/caption]
I was at the Folk School last week to teach my annual “Science of Bread” class—not a magical name by any means, but bread-making can be wondrous even when you know about the microorganisms and molecules that make it work. In addition to making dozens of loaves, the class started a sourdough starter by attracting wild yeasts and bread-making bacteria from the air into a container of flour and water. They also braved the production of salt-rising bread, a first for me. Making salt-rising bread is similar to creating a sourdough starter in that ingredients (in our case, raw potatoes, corn meal, sugar, and baking soda) are left out to attract microorganisms that cause the bread to rise when the dough is mixed the next day. (“Salt-rising” is a misnomer.) The ingredients are kept at 110 degrees, however, so that the microorganisms attracted to the mixture are different than the usual ones; this results in the unique flavor and aroma of salt-rising bread.
[caption id="attachment_12123" align="aligncenter" width="599"] Student Matt waits in front of the outdoor wood fired oven adjacent to the Cooking Studio while his artisan loaves bake.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_12128" align="alignright" width="202"] Nanette in the Cooking Studio[/caption]
Love the magic and allure of the wood fired flame? Do you savor the flavor of food cooked in a brick oven? The Cooking Studio at the John C. Campbell Folk School has not one, but two, wood fired brick ovens for students to bake all sorts of savory and sweet treats, from flatbreads and loaves, to roasted meats, fish & vegetables, to delicious curries & stews, and even pies, cakes & gingerbread cookies.
In 1998, when I was asked to become the first Resident Artist for Cooking at the Folk School, I was eager to learn the art of wood fired baking in our brand new Woodstone Domed Pizza Oven which was installed in the Cooking Studio on the ground floor of Davidson Hall. We recognized the growing revival of interest in wood fired baking and we wanted to make these techniques available to our own community. A few years later, we added the second outdoor student-built oven, housed under a student-built timber-framed pavilion. Clay instructor, Mary Dashiell and her husband John designed and led the construction of that oven.
[caption id="attachment_10916" align="aligncenter" width="459"] Emily demonstrates how to shape focaccia dough to the class[/caption]
You wouldn’t start your oil painting career at an easel on the midway of the state fairgrounds, surrounded by people, tents, and trees with the sky overhead and the light shifting throughout the day. Instead you’d set up some apples on a tablecloth, lit by a desk lamp to create obvious shadows that don’t move. Once you’d practiced how to capture a simple scene—sketching it out, building the shadows, painting the background to make the objects pop—you’d move on, maybe to a plant or some dishware.
[caption id="attachment_10911" align="alignleft" width="212"] Finished loaf[/caption]
Similarly, last week’s “Science of Bread” class started with the most basic bread possible: a French baguette made with flour, yeast, water, and salt. Each student made a pair of baguettes on Monday, with the class moving one step at a time. Keeping everyone on one schedule enabled me to demo each step of the process (kneading, folding, shaping, baking) as it happened. While the doughs rose, we discussed the chemistry occurring inside and how it affects the final product. We covered practical tips for managing dough at home, like using a desk lamp to keep rising dough warm in winter months; best practices, like using a pizza stone in the oven (and how to use it properly!); and tricks to get better bread, like preheating your oven hotter than desired to make up for the heat lost when the door opens to load the dough.