New York Musings & My Bread Baking Program

New York City never fails to amaze me! Right from the time, I grew up watching the New York skyline in movies, to the point where I landed in this dreamland to do my Masters Degree. This post is just to reflect on the craziness, the hustle and the beauty of the city and the people living here and I’m sharing my experiences with the bread baking program I took at the International Culinary Center, Soho, NYC.

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This pic is My favorite view en route NYC everyday shot from the bus with my iPhone.I haven’t taken my camera with me to NYC so all the pics in this post are taken using my iPhone, please pardon the quality.

I have moved to the city for 2 months to study “Art of International Bread Baking” and traveling in the city  for a good 4 hours every day, I come across many incidents and interesting thoughts and people along this journey which I wanted to share just for fun.

  • The Hustle:  The prominent thing that everyone notices in the city is the hustle.People rushing and running to get to work.Not a second to talk, not a second to smile, not a second to take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of the magnificent city.The hustle is enough to get someone from California weary as to why they are not running(Read: me ) and before I knew it I was part of the hustle.
  • Escalator Walk: To my knowledge escalators were founded to avoid physical strain for people from climbing a lot of stairs or going down the stairs, but New York folks defy this rule as they are constantly still climbing up the stairs or down the stairs on the moving escalators too.So everyone who is still stand to the right of the escalator and everyone who needs to walk up or down does so on the left. And people actually get pissed if you are standing still on the left.
  • The Musicians: Every other day on the subway stations are great musicians singing or playing music with their instruments maybe for money or appreciation, of course hardly anyone has time to stop and watch or appreciate them except for tourists.
  • The Doorman: There is a man on the route to take subway station in the port authority bus terminal who comes there every day to stand and hold two doors ajar for the people passing by.But again none take the time to thank them or give them a dollar.
  • The Homeless: I always had ample bread on my hand from the program and tried to find homeless people who would be wanting a loaf, but every homeless person preferred money over bread, except one person who said he can’t chew on the bread because he doesn’t have any teeth.
  • The Yelling: Almost every day on the subway there is a person yelling either soliciting money and has a very sad story as to why they needed the money and again not one person donates the other set of people are often found cursing the government. One funny incident was the train was fairly empty and this homeless man comes in yelling to ask a gentleman dressed in a suit to give him space to get inside the train although there was a ton of space to the side to get in.The man kept yelling “Excuse me, sir, can I get through” until the gentleman moved from the spot and repeated this with every man that he came across in his path.
  • The Private Lady: One day I got onto a train and this man sitting in between two ladies got off at the next station, I go and sit in between them and this lady to my right says

Lady:”I’d rather have you not touch me and sit”

Me:(Perplexed) Excuse me?

Lady: Can you not touch me and sit if that’s ok?

Me:(confused as to how you won’t touch the person next to you on a moving train) You know this is not your private train

Lady: I know but I’d prefer if you can sit without touching me, is that ok?(shoving her purse in between us)

Me: You should travel by your private car you know

Lady gets up and stands by the door.

New York teaches everyone to be humble.Travelling by car is a nightmare in the city due to the traffic, so you find every race, every class and every age of people traveling by subway. They learn to get along irrespective of their differences. You have bags- carry them by yourself, you’re a teen going to school carry your books with you and travel in the subway, moving across town? move using the subway(yes I’ve known people who moved entire apartments using the subway system). Having been used to traveling by car we take so many things for granted in life.The simple act of not having to walk for groceries or work is a privilege.As much as I cursed all the travel by foot in the beginning, towards the end of the course I started to fall in love with it and now I’m back to my car and comforts of my home again. I come home and one day Im telling my husband that our home is too comfortable. LOL. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Now coming to  my International Culinary Center Bread Baking Experience:

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This was a very unique experience.Having gone to Culinary school prior to this I kind of had an idea as to what to expect with regards to the workflow in the class so I came well prepared, but still, I felt bread baking was more an art than skill.

The course is priced at 11,500$ and with alumni discount and scholarship I paid much less than that.

The course is 8 weeks long and is divided into 4 modules: French, Italian, German and International bread.Each module runs 2 weeks.Below are some of the breads we baked for each practical test.

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Each week you are allotted new teams with your classmates.

Each day starts off with measuring out ingredients for 6-7 bread recipes as a team and the process of mixing the doughs one by one, letting them proof, dividing the doughs, shaping them and baking them happens.Most recipes are made more than once so the student has ample practice on each. We made baguettes on all 40 days and I swear I can make baguettes in my sleep now, LOL.

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Through the course students are taught to understand when the dough is mixed enough, how to mix each dough by looking at the recipes, understanding when the dough is proofed enough for the next step, making time tables, preparing pre ferments, sourdough starters, shaping the dough, scoring the dough and baking them.

 

In the above picture, I’m checking the window on a chocolate bread to test gluten development and shaping a millet bread.

The Chef was one the most patient person on the face of the earth.I’ve never seen such a patient Chef in my entire life. I’m a question bank when it comes to Baking and Cooking and he answered each one of my questions with the most patience.

At the end of every two weeks, you have a written test that runs for 1 hour and a practical test that runs the whole day where you are required to produce a set of breads from start to finish with your team members.

More details about the program can be found on their website

Skillset I learnt- Bread teaches you immense patience, with bread you cannot rush or delay, it keeps you on your toes, When its ready for the next step you have to be ready to move, there is no postponing anything in bread as it will affect the end result. The dough really speaks to you, communicates to you to wait or proceed to the next step.Workflow is super important, the sequence of steps, when you are making multiple breads at the same time, you really have to be careful about what step you are doing next so that you keep track of all the stages of all your breads plus keep in track your team mates speed and strengths and weaknesses to produce the best possible outcome.

Below is a slew of croissants both plain and chocolate , the process of shaping and proofing them to baking them.See the lamination inside?Impressive isnt it?

 

The one and only con I’ve personally noticed in the course was- In culinary we were all taught by the Chefs to maintain the best kitchen etiquette – i.e; to clean up after yourself, clean as you go, the workflow, participation, sharing the work etc. But here since not everyone was from a culinary background and we were not briefed as to what to expect in the course, some folks came in with no preparation of what to do and about kitchen etiquette due to which some of us had to see the wrath of it.Nevertheless, I was able to graduate “top of the class” with distinction.

Every day we got to take home a lot of bread which my family thoroughly enjoyed and also our neighbors.I also took the time to visit some of the famed food spots in NYC like Dominique Ansel bakery, Georgetown cupcakes etc to get an idea of whats trending in the city.

Are you thinking if I gained weight with all that bread?Lol. Working in the food industry for the past one year or so, I adapted to this “one bite rule”. Anything new that we make or come across, I take one bite of it and leave the rest to toss or share.If I love it like crazy I save it for the next days bite or sacrifice the main meal to accommodate it. So I applied the same rule.For example we bake 7 breads a day I taste a bite of 3 breads today and 3 breads tomorrow or eat a full slice for my evening snack, so I was able to get out of the program intact. My Chef who never works out is super fit but has his bread every day, I guess its all about moderation.

The week I got home, I clearly noticed that I was able to apply the principles I learned at the course to the breads I made at home.I’ve made a 100 percent whole wheat levain bread and Pita breads at home and the way I understand the dough now is so much more different to what I was doing before the course.Overall it was a very rewarding experience.

Do let me know what you think by leaving a comment and if you’d like to continue seeing such posts please do take a moment to like my page Yummiliciousrecipes

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. selviafei says:

    😅😅😅 that private lady so funny or freak 🤔🤔🤔

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      That lady just got up and stood by at the door after my response 🙂

      Like

      1. selviafei says:

        Hahahhaaha.. she is really funny 😅😅😅

        Like

  2. rashs says:

    Awesome pratima 🙂 I am drooling 🙂

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      Thank you for stopping by 🙂

      Like

  3. Fams says:

    I did an Artisan Bread Baking course there and it was simply fantastic. My only disappointment when ainwent to India was that I could not source the same quality of bread flour there

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      True I always wonder how I’ll deal with the different product line If at all we have to move to India, thank you for stopping by.

      Like

  4. Prathima srinivas says:

    Well written and Beautiful pics! Best wishes!

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      thank you so much

      Like

  5. Shyamalima says:

    Loved your write up. Sort of living vicariously through your experience 🙂 What a wonderful adventure. Look forward to reading more.

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      thank you so much

      Like

  6. There is something about New York my favorite hush bush City 😊 it was an interesting post and congratulations on completion of course 👍 if you plan to ever start basic baking classes please keep us posted..I would like to join… Good luck for your future plans in the culnary world 👍

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      Thank you, I am in the process of hosting classes for baking, I will keep you posted.

      Like

  7. Seems says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the whole blog. About the city and the program both. I was a baker once not a professional though. If I have a choice I would suggest that to people to bake the bread instead of meditation . Would like to read more of your blogs.

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      I agree baking is my stress buster and meditation

      Like

  8. Simi says:

    Love the blog! So much for inspiration

    Like

    1. prathimakoneru says:

      Thank you so much 🙂

      Like

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