Sunday, November 20, 2011

My kind of bachelorette event - A bread baking class at Mezza Luna

I’m back from the honeymoon! Ok, I’ve actually been back for quite a while now… Getting back into real cooking, after a month of predictable standards and eating out (wedding preparations take up SO much time!), has taken some time, and I’ve been pretty busy with my thesis as well. I’ve even been taking a break from the Daring Kitchen, although I plan to get back into it next month.

Then I realized I have a lot of food-related stuff to write about that doesn’t involve cooking and recipes. I’ve never been an event blogger, and I very, very rarely write reviews about anything, but desperate times call for desperate measures! So let’s try something different for a few posts, to give me some time to build up my stock of recipes and photographs.

If you’re eager to see wedding pictures, you’ll have to wait a bit. We have quite a few pics taken by our guests, but the official photographs will take a little longer to arrive. Besides, before we get to the wedding, we have the bachelorette party to deal with!

My two bridesmaids and I have been friends since we were fifteen. Ironically, I was the one who had moved around the most at the time, and I ended up being the only one to stay in Montreal all this time: both of the others ended up moving out of the country at different times. But we always kept in touch, and one of them eventually came back, while the other visits every now and then, and flew all the way from London just for the wedding.

One thing these longtime friends of mine have probably figured out about me by now, is that I am not really a party girl. I’ve had my clubbing period, but I was never completely comfortable with it, and was mainly tagging along with the other. I’ve always had a lot more fun at house parties, and now that I’m more in the dinner party years (probably a little prematurely, but it suits me just fine), I’m completely in my element.

So I was pretty happy when my friends suggested a daytime bachelorette party. However, I was a little taken aback when they told me to meet them at Jean-Talon Market at nine o’clock in the morning on a Sunday. What on earth were they going to make me do? Give me a grocery list and make me cook them breakfast? Then they told me to bring a bathing suit, so I thought maybe we would be going to a spa.

Well, it turned out the bathing suit was just a red herring, and I wasn’t that far off the mark with my first guess. They didn’t exactly make me cook for them, but the activity involved cooking, more precisely baking: they took me to the Mezza Luna cooking school, run by local chef Elena Faita (mother of cookbook author Stefano Faita), for a bread baking class.

My apologies in advance for the uneven pics, but since I thought we were going to a spa, I hadn’t brought my camera, and the lighting wasn’t good enough for the point-and-shooter my friends had brought.

The class was led by "baker on the go" Marc-André Cyr (sous-chef at Olive + Gourmando), and we covered three kinds of bread: basic white, English muffins, and cranberry-ginger scones. Now, longtime readers might be thinking: “But don’t you already know how to make bread?”. Indeed, but so did most of the other people attending. It’s one thing to read up on bread, and I do believe that bread is one of those things you can only perfect by rolling up your sleeves and just going for it as often as you can. But there are benefits to taking the occasional class, even if it’s only a demonstration. I definitely learned a few things.

My friends pulled some strings (ok, one of them just got up and talked to Elena) and got me an authorization to get up there and touch the dough. I was amazed at how much stickier Marc-André’s dough was compared to the kind I usually end up with (with the exception of Chad Robertson’s bread, where the dough is so wet you can’t properly knead it on a surface and have to keep it in a container). I was also surprised by how gently he handled the dough: I’ve always instinctively put my whole weight into kneading, whereas he just seemed to flip it around. It wasn’t easy, either: when I tried it myself, the dough kept sticking to the counter and tearing. It was mildly humbling, but I left with a pretty good idea of how to improve my breads. I also left with the recipes...

The class included coffee and breakfast. My friends had thoughtfully brought along a bottle of prosecco, which we downed in celebration; after all, nothing says “bachelorette” like getting tipsy before noon. As for the meal itself, it was good to be reminded how crazy good homemade bread still warm from the oven can taste – even better when it’s served with homemade jam and quality capicollo!

I’m actually glad to be posting about this so much later after the event: it gives me a chance to feel grateful all over again for the wonderful day my bridesmaids put together! The fun didn’t end there, but the food-related part does, so… I’ll leave you on that note!