I did get a couple quizzical looks when I said I was going to a baking class. Why would I want to go to a baking demo? What's left to learn?
Truth is, there's always something to learn. I hope I never get to the point where I think I know it all and I stop finding new and interesting things all around me. I probably didn't pick up as much information as some of the audience. Some of the things discussed were things that I had recently written articles about, but it was nice to confirm that King Arthur flour and I agreed. The questions from the audience were interesting, though. I'm always curious about what questions people have or what cooking problems they encounter, and sometimes I learn things from those sorts of questions.
One new little tidbit was about yeast, and this was something that was relatively new to the folks at King Arthur Flour, as well. They had a meeting with the people at SAF yeast, and in that meeting they discovered that active dry yeast is now being made differently than it was before. Active dry yeast used to have live yeast cells in the center, surrounded by dead yeast. That was because of the manufacturing process, where the yeast was heated to aid in the drying process. So, the yeast on the outside of the pellets cooked and died.
Now, though, water is removed by a vacuum process, so there is no layer of dead yeast. Why do we care? Well, there's one big reason. This means that active dry yeast doesn't have to be proofed. You can add it to your flour directly the same way you can add instant yeast directly to flour. On the other hand, there's no problem with proofing either active dry or instant yeast, if that's what you want to do.
But I digress...
The classes were in two 2-hour sessions. The first was a pastry class, which included demonstrations of a flaky pastry crust and a chocolate tart. The second was all about a sweet dough and several ways to use that dough. There was a lot of conversation and explanation in between, so rather than seeing a dozen things demonstrated quickly, there were a few things demonstrated and a lot of detail. Sort of the opposite of some of the cooking shows on TV where multiple dishes are cooked in 30 minutes.
One nice thing about the demos was that there wasn't a hard sell on King Arthur products, unlike some demos I've been where the point seems to be to drag out as many products as possible and extole the virtues of those items. There were some King Arthur gadgets that made an appearance, but it's not like they made a big deal out of them. And of course they talked about the King Arthur flours, but again, it was more informative than it was a sales pitch.
When it was over, there was a raffle. Flour, mixes, and gadgets all found new homes. On the way out, everyone got a plastic dough scraper and a card that was worth $10 off a $20 purchase or $20 off a $40 purchase - basically a half-off deal, which is pretty good. It's about time for me to order a few things, so my card will be used, I'm sure.
There were some coupons and samples as well. Interestingly, there was no need to register, no need to hand over an email address or mailing address ... all completely free, and with no strings attached. Pretty cool.