Anyone who has ever bitten into a flaky, buttery croissant from Kelowna’s Okanagan Grocery or a perfectly crusty-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside artisan loaf from this bakery knows how masterful baker Monika Walker’s breads and pastries are. She is the high priestess of bread in Kelowna, and now she is opening up her bakeshop to home bakers and rookies in a series of baking workshops that are a perfect blend of fun and craft secrets. I had the fortune of attending her first workshop on the weekend, and it was such a great afternoon that I can’t say enough about how fascinating it was – so check it out if you love baking or think you might enjoy it!
The workshop was really well organized, with mixing bowls, recipe/instruction print-offs, and ingredients all arranged for each participant in baking stations around the large tables in the Okanagan Grocery’s bakeshop at 115-1979 Windsor Rd. It was a thrill just to be “backstage” in the bakery, where all the creativity happens. There were about 20 of us around the tables, eager to learn from a real Master Baker. The workshop was about 3 hours long (1 pm to 4 pm), during which time we each made a classic artisan loaf (“Rosalina”) and also learned the art of making croissants. We made friends with our fellow participants right away – everyone was there to learn and have fun, and introductions came easily.
There was a coffee break about half-way through, when we enjoyed individually brewed coffees and luxuriously flaky croissants, right out of the oven. We learned about the properties of wild yeast and even received our own sampling of her 10-year old sourdough starter named Naomi to take home. In her irreverent and straightforward style, Monika got us all mixing, folding, and handling the dough. I was tentative at first, but Monika proclaimed “you can’t hurt the little guy” and my apprehension started to lift.
Clustering around her ovens, we watched as she deftly slashed her loaves before loading them into the heat. We each got to try our hand at it, and the first few participants approached the task with caution for the lovely taut mounds of dough. “Like you mean it,” she grinned, and then we all found our gusto.
Sunlight streamed in through the front windows and lit up the bakery. We finished up the workshop by loading the doughy, risen mounds onto our own baking sheets (for baking at home later on), and each tucking away a wonderfully crusty loaf into a paper bag that we’d cut and baked earlier. The group was all smiles and waves as we dispersed out into the sunny afternoon, laden with our artisan bakery treats.
Here are the next workshops that you can sign up for (and I highly recommend that you do!):
March 7 – Level II – whole grain breads and the baguette – $60
March 16 – Level I – wild yeast sourdough process & the croissant – $40
March 30 – Level II – whole grain breads and the baguette – $60
April 13 – Level I – wild yeast sourdough process & the croissant – $40
** It is important that you attend Level I before attempting a Level II workshop. To secure a spot on a workshop, stop in at the Okanagan Grocery Artisan Breads bakery at 115-1979 Windsor Rd in Kelowna. You’ll need to provide your full name, phone number, email address, and full payment when you sign up.