Boquete is high in the mountains of Panama, not a likely place to find real, artisan breads baked in a clay oven. But, Mort’s oven was all fired up for his bread-making class of students eager to discover how Mort makes such a fine, rustic delicacy in Boquete.
Mort’s recipes are tried and true, baked many times in the high mountain air. The results can’t be beaten, anywhere in the world fine breads are baked.
Some bakers are famous for their baking, such as Rose Levy Beranbaum. She has written several books on bread and cake baking, and Mort studies her techniques and adapts them to our high, mountain location, making his breads just perfect.
Throughout the afternoon, students measured, mixed, kneaded, stretched and shaped dough, making it exactly the right consistency for a perfect loaf of artisan bread. Each loaf must be a work of art, feeling just right, formed just right and having just the right aroma of a fine, hand-crafted loaf of rustic, one-of-a-kind artisan bread.
The smells of the wood fire baking hand-made rustic bread, floated through Mort’s home. Aromas to remember! It was difficult to imagine being a part of making authentic breads like ancient tribes throughout the world made thousands of years ago.
Each student marked, seeded and set their loaf into Mort’s clay oven. The oven had reached 650F degrees, just right for baking “hearth” bread. In only a few minutes, the beautifully baked, golden loaves were finished and set to cool.
The final experience was learning the fine points of bread-making. Mort taught students how to measure by weight, to blend the dough smoothly and to knead it until silky smooth. Each time an additional ingredient was added, the scales were set to zero and weighed again. The ingredients were blended with a wooden spoon, rolled into a ball and kneaded until the dough was exactly right. Only after long practice, was the ball made into a perfect dough.
Learning how to create rustic breads in your own kitchen is an art, and it takes a little know-how and practice.
To learn these techniques, a second bread was made during class, an authentic French bread recipe. This bread is made using the baker’s own feel as the ultimate indicator of texture and tenderness.
The bakers will take this dough home to rest, ferment, rise and bake tomorrow.
The first loaf of warm hearth bread is to enjoy now, as soon as we can gather our family and friends to share this tasty, memorable “staff of life”.
Thanks, Mort, and happy baking!