Vegan's Chronicles + [vegetarian]

Baking Bread at Hansol Cooking Hakwon

I recently started taking bread-baking classes at a cooking hakwon! Y'all know how much I love baking, and I would be lying if I said I haven't spent many hours pondering the idea of becoming a full-time vegan baker. So I've been looking into different baking programs in Seoul, mainly just for the fun of it, but also to see whether baking is a career that I could see myself fully investing in... . There's Le Cordon Bleu in Seoul, but it's far too expensive for someone like me who's just curious about the field. My mom did some online searching and found this Hansol Cooking Hakwon, that is much more affordable. It's a franchise with locations all around Seoul, and they have courses for Korean food, Western food, pastries, and bread baking. I'm enrolled in their 'Set A' Bread Baking course, which is 6 weeks, two classes each week, for 200,000 won. They have other programs that meet every day, or ones that only meet once every Saturday. It's definitely not 'hardcore' like Le Cordon Bleu, but they do have certificate programs for those who are serious about starting a food career, where you have to complete a bunch of classes and pass the written and cooking tests. Me on the other hand, I just wanna be surrounded by flour and dough. I'm not in it for the final certificate.

Ofcourse, the biggest 'con' about this baking program is that very little of what we bake is actually vegan. You would think that a bread baking course would require little eggs, milk, or butter, but practically all the recipes include at least one animal product. And since we make a big batch of dough in groups of 4 students, I cannot 'veganize' the recipe for myself. The only areas I can control are the more 'cosmetic' ingredients that don't actually go inside the dough, like not brushing my brioche with eggwash before it goes in the oven, or leaving out the cheese and ham on my pizza. So although I've been baking all sorts of different breads, I haven't actually tasted a whole lot. I will admit, in the beginning, it was really hard to be in a room filled with the heavenly smell of freshly baked bread and resist taking a bite out of my own creation. But I've gotten used to it now and I'm not so tempted. Since I choose not to eat the breads that aren't vegan, I've been giving my loaves away.

Pullman Bread on the rise

Anyway, it has been a challenge reconciling the fact that I'm a vegan, yet baking things with animal products. However, I've come to accept it as just part of the learning process. I'm gaining a lot of knowledge and practical skills, which I will apply into my own vegan baking in the future, whether personal or professional. I'm getting a feel for what it's like to bake in large volumes, and I'm learning how to use professional equipment like large mixing machines and ovens, etc. hehe. I'm also learning technical information and skills like how to know when your dough has risen properly, how to handle dough, how to roll it neatly so that it rises and bakes prettily, etc.

My loaf of pullman bread, all cut up!

Pullman bread, closeup.

The instructor demonstrating how to divide, measure, and roll the dough for Milk Bread.

I've also met some great people. The majority of the class are women, both single, and ajumas. There are only 2 male students. My group has 3 other girls and we're all around the same age. We have a lot of fun. I'm also proud to say that I can follow the majority of the Korean spoken by the teacher, and if there's anything I don't understand, my group mates are happy to help me out.

A huge bowl of raisin bread dough, after rising.

Rolling out the dough to go into the pan...

My loaf of raisin bread, just before it has to rise for the second time.

Raisin Bread

Making dough balls for 'Brioche' bread.

Brioche, all warm and toasty. They look like baby chicks!

You can easily spot the brioche that do not have any eggwash. They're still not vegan though- they have egg, milk powder, and butter inside! :(

We also made pizzas in one class. Unfortunately, there weren't many veg topping options provided by the class, so my pizza was very humble without any toppings. The dough and sauce were vegan though, so I got to actually eat my pizza, and it was quite yummy.

I let other students try my pizza and they all appreciated the simplicity of it. I like to think that it was better than their pizzas, which were overflowing with gunky cheese and processed Korean ham. The crust was quite delicious. Soft and slightly chewy.

Here are some sweet, twisted rolls that we made. Again, they're not vegan, but it was fun learning how to twist the dough into these braided shapes. The trick is to roll the dough strips out evenly, and not to twist them too tightly or they will lose their shape when they rise and bake.

Here, the instructor is evaluating everyone's batches. Some batches were overbaked, underbaked, too tightly rolled, brushed with too much eggwash... and then some were juuuust right. :)

Some other things we made that aren't pictured here are 'milk bread' and whole wheat bread. So far, I'm about half-way through the course now. It's been a good experience and a different way of spending my weekday evenings.