Baking 101 at Brooklyn Brewery with Three of the Area’s Most Progressive Bakers

Keith Orwasher (left) with a few of his incredible Upper East Side-baked loaves.

Next Wednesday night marks the second in Edible Brooklyn’s series on DIY food projects at Brooklyn Brewery (the first, naturally, was on canning). This one is on baking, and we’re especially excited about it as it marks the convergence of two things we care about here at Edible: The resurgence of good old-fashioned foodcraft, and the slowly growing local grains industry. (Read more about that in our Summer 2010 article on the subject here.)

To that end, our events planner Samantha Seier has curated an evening with three of the area’s best bakers, who will talk about flavorful techniques for bread fermentation, how to make pretzels and pastries and also just about the joys (and hardships) of working with milled grains other than plain old all-purpose flour.

Speakers include Keith Cohen, who bought Orwasher’s Bakery on the Upper East Side a few years ago with a plan to bring back artisanal, hand-crafted breads to the 1916 bakery. He uses traditional starters — he’ll have some on hand to show you next week — whole wheat and other grains like spelt, rye and barley, and also locally sourced ingredients. Those include not just flours — Cohen was the first and perhaps still the only to produce a 100% local whole wheat bread in the city, and it’s outstanding — but things like wine grapes from Channing Daughters winery in Long Island. He used their natural yeasts to make his fantastic rye country loaf, the focus of a 2009 article in this magazine, and also employs beers from Sixpoint in Brooklyn for an ale bread.

Matthew Tilden of SCRATCHbread in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, will also talk about his business, which started out in the off-hours of Toby’s Publick House, a pizzeria with a brick oven in central Brooklyn. Tilden’s breads — olive-oil soaked focaccia, rosemary chocolate orange peel scones — are masterpieces of flavor and form. Tilden pays attention to the details and devotes time to perfecting them, and it shows in his oven-baked handiwork, which was profiled in Edible Brooklyn in 2009. (Back then, he even tied each loaf with a bit of twine.)

No explanation needed.

There to talk about yet another approach is Alfred Milanese of Martin’s Pretzels, who have been coming in with their handmade Pennsylvania Dutch twists to city Greenmarkets since 1982.  Milanese will give a brief history of pretzel-making, and talk about how to master them at home. Rolling and twisting will of course be covered.

Doors to the brewery open at 7:30, and lectures run from 8 to 10 p.m. Entry is just $5, beers are just $4 and yes, snacks are available for sale from presenters. And to RSVP, check out our events page.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.