Edit: War Eagle Mill's head baker, Faith Brockoff, has graciously allowed me to reprint her bread recipe here on the blog. To view, click HERE. Thank you Faith!
The story of our War Eagle Mill's Artisan Bread class is one of mystery and intrigue. At least for Aunti Susan it was. Being on the mill's email newsletter list, a few weeks ago I saw notice of a special artisan bread class being given by their head baker, who turned out to be a lovely woman named Faith. Knowing the class was going to be hands-on and quite small, I shot off an email asking for them to reserve three places and that I would get back to them by the end of the day. I immediately called Ann and asked "Any chance you have Friday and Saturday, April 23rd & 24th off so we can take Aunt Susan to War Eagle for a bread class?" Sharp intake of her breath "Yes! I think...let me check...oh I hope so...YES!!!"
And with that, it was pretty much set. We didn't give Susan much of a choice, we just emailed her and told her she was being kidnapped for her birthday on those days and to be sure and pack a casual overnight bag. Always being up for fun, her response was "Okey dokey." Being a good little kidnappee, she asked no questions.
We drove in Friday night and stayed in Eureka Springs, shamelessly dragging Aunti into The Rowdy Beaver for her birthday drink where we watched the many TV's that were tuned to, not sports, but the local weather which vacillated all weekend between fancrapful and craptastic. For more pics of our other adventures including our Sky Bar Scrabble mini-marathon, click HERE.
Ahhh, our official class photo. In the front, War Eagle Mill's head baker, Faith, a very talented and down-to-earth baker and teacher whom we look forward to taking more classes from (pastry class--hint, hint!). Her background is that of not only being a fabulous home cook, taught by her mother and grandmothers, but also as a pastry chef with Publix grocery store chains for the many years she lived in Florida. On the back row from left: Aunti Susan, Me, Cousin Ann, and the MIll's outgoing General Manager Doug, who is passionate about the mill and its place in the arena of local culinary arts.
Not only did the class turn out to be small, it turned out to be just us! Which is a good thing on their part since, although we love to learn we can be annoyingly (to others, not ourselves) smarta**. Faith told us that since we were our own little group, celebrating Susan's birthday, and it was their first testing-the-waters class, they decided to close the class to only us that day. Yay for us! What I meant was: Thank you! Being together for our own private class made it all the more special to us.
Here's the opening picture Doug took of us while we were still getting to know Faith and on our best behavior.
We really didn't cause any trouble but we did have a good time and we were definitely ourselves which meant that Faith didn't have to painfully carry all the conversation, which is any teacher's biggest fear. Personally, Faith is exactly the kind of teacher I want in a class like this: someone who is fun and outgoing, very real, and with tons of experience. I'm looking for real world experience, knowledge, and friendliness, which Faith had in abundance. She's open to lots of questions and gives out tons of creativity and tips you can take home to your own family. (If I wanted something dry and institutional, I'd take a class at a local college, if you know what I mean.)
Each time I make bread by hand, I'm reminded what a gift it is and how such simple ingredients and tools: flour, yeast, milk, eggs, a big bowl, and a spoon, can turn out something that smells, tastes, and keeps life going and happy.
Although I often use my big mixer to save time creating bread, I was also reminded of the simple joys of kneading the dough into its elasticity and the pleasure of shaping those loaves and rolls, creating little personal edible masterpieces to share with those we love.
The recipe Faith led us through was a personal egg bread handed down at least four generations through her family. We were honored that she shared it with us.
We learned the proper way to shape a loaf, pulling and rolling to make a uniform shape while pinching the air out for a consistent texture inside. She also taught us braids and all manner of dinner roll shapes, as well as, hamburger and hot dog bun rolls.
Because of the challah-like qualities (eggs and sugar) of Faith's Farmhouse bread recipe, it made for excellent tea rings and would make an incredible King's Cake base for Mardis Gras. She showed us how to fill the center with strawberry/rhubarb jam (or any combination of cream cheese, preserves, and nuts), seal, and then form into a ring (the last of which is best done on a piece of parchment paper on the baking sheet rather than trying to form it and then transfer). Then she clipped into the outside edge with kitchen shears and twisted some of the edges to form a beautiful tea ring that turned into a delcious dessert following our lunch of bean soup, cornbread, and the perfect side of chilled, crunchy, dilled cole slaw.
As if the day couldn't be warm and fuzzy enough, Faith went the extra mile to make it special for us and unknowingly made Aunti's all-time favorite "Poke Cake" where you poke holes in the warm cake and drizzle jello pudding over the top. It was soooooooooooo good! And adorable too, just like our Aunti!
I recommend that everyone in the Ozarks go poste haste over to www.wareaglemill.com web site to sign up for the email newsletter to be alerted of upcoming classes. You'd probably better sign up fast too when you see them because you'll be fighting Aunti Susan, Ann, and I for space.
As a funny side note, we made two large loaves of bread in class which was one too many for Gene and I to gobble up before it went bad, so I dropped off my braided loaf (in the pic at top) to Julie at work whose daughter is a budding chef. She posted this pic to Facebook a couple of hours later, saying "I think the anklebiters in my house loved the bread because this is all that's left!"
Hmmm...I'm thinking Julie plus one might be joining us for the next class...
Sigh. Great weekend, great company, great food...what could be better in life?