Brad Dillon of Brad's Designer Breads is a lawyer by day, but about five years ago he took an easy baking class and got hooked on baking bread. Since then he has attended bread festivals and held classes, all working toward the possibility of opening his own bakery some day.
I met Brad and his wife as we were leaving a reception at 21c a couple of weeks ago. When he told me his story, I knew I had to check his baking class out. So Saturday morning I headed over to Cooking at the Cottage on Lexington Road to learn about scones, muffins, and quick breads.
I had never been to Cooking at the Cottage before, so I was pleasantly surprised by the setup-there is a mirror over the main work space and a camera pointing at the stovetop, so you have a great vantage point from anywhere in the audience.
Brad covered the basic points of baking first-always mix your wet and dry ingredients separately before combining them. You’d be surprised how few people know you’re supposed to do this. He also added one caveat to this rule-mixing the sugar and eggs together before combining the wet and dry ingredients helps muffins to rise better. It’s worth noting here that some cooks consider sugar to be a wet ingredient.
He also recommended measuring ingredients by weight, which is something I’ve reluctantly come to accept after years of watching Good Eats. Once you get used to this method you’ll realize it’s far easier and more accurate.
Brad uses the best ingredients in his baked goods, many of them locally sourced. He gets milk and buttermilk from Ehrler’s Dairy and his flour from the picturesque Weisenberger Mills in Midway, Kentucky. His vanilla and other spices come from Penzey’s, which I have only recently discovered.
If you get a chance to attend one of Brad’s classes, I highly recommend you do. He goes over everything from the very basics to the more advanced techniques. He even advocates for the use of a #16 disher when portioning out muffins, which is a real pro move. As a former restaurant manager, it is nice to sit back and watch someone else do the cooking for a change!
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl