Learning New Things at The Bake Fest

Image by Anthea Chang @rainbownourishments
Image by Anthea Chang @rainbownourishments

When I first heard about The Bake Fest, the baking geek in me got so excited. Never having been to or even heard of a baking conference, I couldn’t wait to attend virtual lectures and hang out in chat rooms. It’s only been one day of The Bake Fest and already my head is filled with blog ideas for new creations, decorations, and scientific explanations.

The first half of the day I got warmed up by attending classes on cake and cookie decorating. It was inspiring to watch creative designers in their element, but then came the presentations most near and dear to my blog – Fundamentals of Baking Science by Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman, and Introduction to Vegan Baking by Anthea Cheng. It’s impossible to quickly sum up Baker Bettie’s slides as she offered so much that my brain is still processing it. One quick bit to share concerns the differences between light and dark brown sugar. She says, “Light brown sugar has a small amount of molasses while dark brown sugar has larger amounts of molasses added. Molasses adds caramel notes to baked goods and also keeps baked goods very moist and chewy. Molasses is also acidic in nature which means that brown sugar can be used in recipes with baking soda in order to activate its chemical reaction.” However, she mentions that they can be used interchangeably, so I may stick with buying whichever is in sale.

Baker Bettie talking science
Baker Bettie talking science

Anthea Cheng’s segment started with a recipe for Vegan Brioche. Vegan brioche? And she made it look easy? I am not a bread baker, but I look forward to trying this out. We were also treated to a cake decorating demo that wowed me when she made frosting tinted with real food, not chemicals. The colorants included beet powder and blue spirulina. I must search online for these ingredients to add to my toolbox. (Literally … I keep my decorating items in a large toolbox).

Now, you may be disappointed that you missed out in this educational event. But, don’t worry! There is more going on today. You can register for The Bake Fest here and view tomorrow’s schedule here. If you see me in the Lounge, be sure to say hello.

Irish Soda Bread with Currants

Irish soda bread with currants
Irish soda bread with currants

I should begin by saying that I attempted the following recipe with great trepidation. I had never made bread before, except quick breads that you essentially pour into a pan like you do with cake. You will see in my other posts that I’m not fond of making pie shells either. Both bread and pie crust recipes have directions such as, “move dough to a lightly floured surface,” or “knead until the dough forms a ball.” These types of instructions make my blood run cold. I am a bread wimp. But, if you are too, I have good news. I made bread and so can you. All that’s needed is the right recipe.

I pored over a variety of Soda Bread creations. They generally require no yeast and little or no kneading, so I figured it was a good place to start. Most importantly, they aren’t expected to have a light crumb or to look airy and beautiful. Great … bread I can make! The only change needed was to reduce the baking soda for high altitude. So, with a little Irish inspiration and luck on St. Patrick’s Day, I faced my fears and created my fruity loaf. The only drawback was when my favorite taster laid eyes on the baked treat and excitedly, yet incorrectly, thought it was chocolate chip bread. But all was redeemed when I slathered it with vegan butter and jam.

Irish Soda Bread with Currants based loosely on Classic Soda Bread from Williams Sonoma

1.75 cups unsweetened plain soy milk
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
550 grams plus 1 tsp all purpose flour, divided (plus extra for work surface)
2 TBS vegan sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1.25 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Whisk together soy milk and apple cider vinegar, then set aside to curdle. Spray an 8” tall-sided round cake pan with baking spray then dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together 550 grams flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the currants. Add grapeseed oil to the soy milk mixture; no need to stir. Gradually add this milk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until the dry ingredients are moistened. With your hands, knead the dough in the bowl to just combine the ingredients. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, lightly dusting your hands with flour if needed. Press dough evenly into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the top with 1 tsp flour.

With a sharp knife, mark an X in the top of the dough so it will bake properly in the center. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Cover the pan loosely with foil halfway through the bake time.) Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before upending the pan to remove the bread.

soda bread and chai tea
soda bread with jam and tea

Note: I listed the flour in grams as precise measurements are best when making bread.

Until next time, happy bread baking!