Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Bread-baking at Enrico's

On Sunday, May 18, I got to enjoy a great birthday present from Lori's parents and her sister: a breakfast and bread-baking class at Enrico Biscotti in the strip.

The drive down worried me with delays on the Parkway. Who knew that the stoplights before the Squirrel Hill Tunnels got set to 'red' sometimes? But I got to Enrico's just at 10, which was before most participants arrived.

The breakfast itself was luxurious, with a bounteous buffet that included:
- provolone and asiago cheeses
- ham, sopressata and prosciutto
- lemon scones (yummy, but huge)
- chocolate croissants (among the best I've ever had)
- butter croissants
- banana muffins
- figs
and more goodies that I can't remember--that's what I get for posting this so late.

It also included drinking the homebrew wine that Larry (Larry Lagavutta, owner of Enrico's) and his buddies make in his basement. (They can't sell it, but apparently sharing it like this is okay.) It was really excellent wine, too. Unfortunately, I couldn't have too much because I was already feeling somewhat sick and out of it.

Later during the day, we also got to eat Larry's empanadas and his seafood bisque--the seafood bisque was particularly delicious.

The breakfast alone would have been worth a good deal, because the food was excellent, and because I'd be willing to pay a premium to be able to try samples of so many different excellent foods.

The bread oven is a wood-fired brick oven that Larry imported from Italy. He explained that he had made a fire in it the previous afternoon and let it burn down to coals, and there was now nothing he could do to control the temperature. (It takes three days to come up to temperature, so it's not really an option for me as a home baker.) We started the process by cleaning out the ashes from the oven.

The bread itself was a fairly simple recipe: 1 ounce fresh yeast, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup milk, one cup water all mixed together in the mixer, then with enough flour added to bring it to the texture of a woman's breast. (Much humor was made of that simile, but apparently that simile has been in use for hundreds of years.)

The kneading and shaping was the part I learned most from. I hadn't understood quite how the shaping was supposed to work before the demonstration.

I topped my loaf with sesame seed and coarse salt.

While the loaves baked, some of Larry's Italian buddies came in to chat; we had some nice conversations about Italian country living.

The bread was completely lovely when it was done: brown and hearty and flavorful. The salt-and-sesame combination on Larry's hot loaf tasted like popcorn.

All in all, the whole day was very physical and sensuous and romantic. I would recommend it as a fabulous date for any couple.
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