DOBSON — The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service’s Easter Breads workshop literally stirred things up to prove the upcoming holiday wasn’t just for “loafers” wanting to return to homemade holiday breads.
Siloam Extension Community Association (ECA) member Carole Simpson, who has been with the ECA for more than 30 years, served as the instructor focusing on recipes for quick yeast rolls and hot cross buns. Family and Consumer Education Extension Agent Carmen Long said 13 were signed up for the informal workshop.
“We’ve received a lot of interest in classes teaching heritage skills,” said Long. “There is nothing like the taste and smell of fresh baked bread compared to what you can buy. We have a waiting list for the next class we’re planning.” She said Simpson had conducted similar workshops but the return of the event Thursday marked a gap of 10 years since it had been taught at the center in Dobson.
Simpson guided participants through topics including dough rising technique, “punching down” dough and a quick tutorial on how yeast works. She said previous classes had included kneaded loaves, Moravian sugar cakes and cookies, French bread and even pretzels.
She said she had no formal training in baking and bakes for a hobby, getting interested in the craft from her mother, Evelyn Patterson Snow. Simpson said Snow was known for her bread and cake baking and her recipes are still kept and shared among the family. She said she had been surprised at how young the workshop’s participants were and said she chose those two recipes because of how simple and easy they are.
“I make sourdough bread,” said Dobson resident Judy Lowdermilk. “I was interested in participating in this class because I though I’d like to try baking another way. This is my first bread baking class.” Lowdermilk brought chocolate covered Easter Eggs made by members of the Dobson Church of God to share with the class.
Long noted the informal atmosphere and the free exchange of tips and questions. She said this was typical of ECA workshops where participants also learn from each other. She and Simpson talked with participants about using a food thermometer to be sure the water wasn’t so hot it would kill the yeast. Simpson said yeast can rise too long and cautioned patience when working with yeast to not hurry the recipes.
“I do a lot of cooking but not a lot of baking because I haven’t had the best success at it,” said workshop participant Amanda Royall of Rockford. “I decided to take this workshop because I wanted to get better at this.”
Simpson said the two recipes they were learning worked best with yeast sprinkled on top of the sugar before water was added. Long said some local businesses sold yeast in bulk which is cheaper for those regularly using it in recipes. Simpson said yeast stored in a canning jar in the freezer lasts longer than storing it in a kitchen cupboard.
“Doing yeast breads is nothing like a cake,” said Simpson. “You have to be so exact with a cake.” She recommended using bread flours for yeast breads because they contain more protein because they are ground from “hard” wheat. Typically, biscuits are made from “soft” wheat flours because they can be kneaded to form the gluten bonds to make the bread rise correctly. Simpson also told the group storing eggs with the small end down takes advantage of an air pocket in them and will help them to last longer in the refrigerator.
David Broyles my be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.