As I hurriedly pushed out my post on croissants the evening before I headed home, I knew I would need another post to fully flesh out everything I wanted to share about my week at the Steiner Institute. (Sorry that it took me an extra day to get this posted though.) The experience of the bread class was amazing, and I'm thrilled to have had this opportunity especially under Warren Lee Cohen's knowledgeable and energetic tutelage. (You can see his summary of the class on his blog.)
I'm finding it hard to know where to start because there is so much of my experience that I can't put into words. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Institute last year, but this year really felt different in such a positive way for me. The discussions about bread, it's history and physical connection to humans, both physically and spiritually; the camaraderie, through group kneading sessions, singing work songs, and constant sneaking back to the kitchen to monitor the process of our work; and always the lovely people who really make the Institute a warm and welcoming place for all, from my amazing teacher and his beautiful, sweet wife (and kids!) to the other fascinating and helpful members of my class (one of which even helped me make a wooden gift to bring home for Elizabeth. I'll share more about that another time.) Anyway, other than mention these experiences, I can't really share them with you in a tangible way except to say that if you ever have a chance to attend something like this you should jump in with both feet, arms open wide.
Part of our class time each day was spent painting, sometimes on collaborative efforts, sometimes on individual projects. It was such a fascinating way to process some of the topics we were discussing.
Here is our color study on wheat:
We had opportunities to hear musicians of every kind, from a Julliard-trained pianist to violinists, guitarists, fiddlers, homemade instrument players, an accordion player and a teen-aged bagpipe player. You should have seen the way the children gathered when he pulled out his pipes. I thought it was amazing how well many of the children there could play various instruments.
Another teen-ager saw me working on my knitting and brought her knitting to show me. Isn't this hat fabulous? She's also an amazing violinist who's spending this week at a music camp.
Once the puppeteering class was finished with their puppets, they put them on display for the rest of the crowd to admire. Such lovely handwork!
And there was the children's work. I'm always amazed at the beautiful artwork that flows from children sometimes. Aren't their pieces lovely?
These handmade books were also made by the children:
Lastly, I've gotten a few questions over the week about the breadmaking process. The number one question was to recommend a good breadmaking book. When I posed this question to my teacher, he hemmed and hawed (about the same as anytime we asked him about measurement). His typical answer was that sourdough especially, which is what he recommends as the closest to natural breadbaking, behaves differently in different environments and giving a recipe often dooms people to failure because they follow the recipe precisely but because their house might be warmer or more humid or higher in atmospheric pressure than the recipe author's house, the recipe doesn't work correctly. He thinks it's much better to experiment and get to know how dough behaves in your environment and adjust accordingly. With that said, he actually authored a lovely book, Baking Bread With Children, which I have raved about in the past, but it's so much more than just a recipe book with songs, poems, stories and information about building an earthen bread oven. Also in our class there was discussion from a few other books including Six Thousand Years of Bread, The Tassajara Bread Book, and The Bread Bible. I also purchased The Waldorf Book of Breads while I was at the Institute and I have to say that the Sky High Biscuits last night were fun for the kids to make and quite delicious. :)