Monday, March 24, 2014

Baking Bread, Breaking Bread Part 1

It's Monday and I'm back to my normal life after an amazing weekend. We drove to Olympia on Friday so that Tom could cash in on his Christmas gift -- a three-day artisan bread baking class at Hains House. Pat Hains, who operates the bed and breakfast, has studied bread baking in Germany and Italy and offers classes of her own one weekend a month. Finally, after a three-month wait, it was Tom's time to attend Pat's class.

We pulled in at 3:00 Friday afternoon. Jen was just getting out of her car. She'd flown in from Illinois earlier in the day, dropped her sister off in Seattle, and had found her way to Hains House. Last fall she helped build her own wood-fired brick oven and she wanted to perfect her skills as a baker so she'd be ready when the oven is delivered.

Jen, wearing goggles as she prepares to dip bagels in a lye solution before baking

A short time later, Julie arrived. As a birthday gift her husband had registered her for the class. He handed her a piece of paper and told her to drive from their Portland home to this address in Olympia and he'd join her later in the evening. He did tell her it was a class on baking bread, but that's about all she knew. I was impressed with her ability to go with the flow.

Julie, preparing her husband's pizza

Just the three students in the class -- Tom, Jen, and Julie. And then there was the instructor, Pat. I'd gotten to know Pat a bit over the phone, so opening her back door and stepping into her kitchen seemed like stopping by to visit a friend. That sense of being friends just grew stronger over the weekend. She showed us to our room and, while I settled in, Tom and the others went to work in Pat's classroom.

Pat's baking shoes

Pat was wearing her favorite shoes, the ones she's worn as she's worked in several bakeries in Europe.  She's laid back, welcoming, a put-you-at-ease kind of gal. The breads baked in class got incorporated into the meals. So did a lot of vegetables, whether they appeared on the wood-fired pizzas we had for dinner Friday or the tasty roasted vegetables we had for dinner Saturday which got  pureed and turned into fabulous soup for Sunday's lunch.  While we sat at dinner that first night her phone rang. "I'd better take this," she said. "It's an international call." She left the room and came back later, laughing. "It was the rug seller I met in Turkey years ago! He has friends coming to Seattle and he wondered if I or any of my friends would like to buy a rug!"

I spent a lot of time in the classroom and running to the outdoor oven, camera in hand. The afternoon light in the classroom is perfect, warming the room, enhancing the joy of learning new techniques, and allowing for some nice photos.

Just steps from the outside door is the oven that Pat got from a company in California. Pat's longtime friend, Skip, went with her to learn how to use the oven, and he tends the fire. He's always on the lookout for ways to serve in the kitchen, too. Not only did he grind and make my decaf coffee both mornings, he also roasted the beans for me!

Skip, tender of the fire and all-around great guy

For three days the house was filled with the aroma of fresh bread. We kind of lost track, but we think the class made twelve different kinds of bread over the weekend. The tables in the living room held nothing when we arrived but were both laden with varieties of beautiful breads by the time we left at 3:30 Sunday afternoon.

Tom brought home several bags of bread -- bagels, pretzels, focaccia, whole wheat bread, German pumpkin seed rolls, brioche, cranberry walnut chewy rolls. I thought if the traffic on I-5 came to a standstill we could jump out of the car and sell bread to other drivers, like I've seen kids do in the Philippines. We could have gone home rich! Instead, we stopped by to see my sister's family and my parents. Mom made up some soup and Tom sliced up some bread. This morning he's sharing a couple of loaves with his co-worers, and there's still lots left at home!

I didn't bake, but I threw caution to the wind and, with the aid of half a bottle of digestive enzymes, ate my fill of breads. Each bite was so rich and tasty, whether spread with some cream cheese or with olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. Today I am completely back to wheat-free, dairy-free eating but, oh, were these three days a delight.

You can tell a lot about a B&B host by reading the guest book. What I learned about Pat simply confirmed what we discovered as we spent the weekend with her. She takes you as you are. She loves you and serves you. Her heart for her family and friends is deep. She's a great teacher. Once she's in your life, she's there to stay. And it's all about bread. Of  course I mean the process of making a quality product but it's a lot more than that.

It's about the joy of sharing bread with others, the process of making a place around your table for fellowship. We were there to learn about baking bread. Pat took it a step further by sharing her gift of breaking bread.

1 comment:

Karen S. said...

Your weekend looks like you both enjoyed all you expected, and more! The results of the classes sound fabulous!