LYMAN — As I tried to shape my blob of dough into a perfect 8-inch by 12-inch loaf, I suddenly caught myself doing exactly what I had been warned not to: I stretched the edges with my sticky, flour-encrusted fingers.

The instructor, baker Michael Jubinsky, offered a gentle correction. “Don’t pull the dough,” he said. “Encourage it.”

Fougasse – a French flatbread, this one scored to look like a tree – ready for the oven at Stone Turtle.

Fougasse – a French flatbread, this one scored to look like a tree – ready for the oven at Stone Turtle. Meredith Goad photo

On a recent Saturday, over the course of six hours at the Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School, I came to view dough as a living thing that I should talk to and, depending upon the stage of its development, either gently bend to my will (does bread like Barry White, I wonder?) or slap it silly, throwing it down with a hard thwack.

Sometimes deciding which approach to take was confusing, but I couldn’t argue with the results: Two loaves of a rustic bread, plus four dinner rolls, that made me groan with pleasure.

If you’re looking for a hands-on experience, Stone Turtle is the place to go. The classes are small – most are limited to 10 people – and you are guaranteed to get messy. The school is owned by Michael and Sandy Jubinsky, a husband-and-wife team who have built a beautiful, state-of-the-art bakery on their property, complete with a wood-fired oven from France. Check out their impressive credentials on their website, including the fact that in 2011, Michael was named one of the Top 10 Bread Bakers in America by Dessert Professional magazine. The couple often hosts well-known guest instructors, such as Ciril Hitz of the International Baking & Pastry Institute at Johnson & Wales University.

Most classes cost $80 and include lunch – a wood-fired pizza. (Military personnel and their dependents get a 10 percent discount.) All the equipment you need, down to bread scrapers, is provided.


Michael Jubinsky shows students how to work with dough.

Michael Jubinsky shows students how to work with dough.

I took the Rustic Artisan Bread Class. Students gathered around a huge butcher block table, wearing black aprons sporting the school’s cute turtle mascot. In addition to teaching us the rustic loaves, Jubinsky demonstrated how to make a rosemary-and-olive oil fougasse and a breakfast bread with chocolate chips and candied orange peel that would be good for the holidays. He showed us how to handle pizza dough, and was generous with recipes and tips.

I learned how to stretch-and-fold dough instead of kneading it, and how to properly measure flour. I learned that when I buy those little triple packets of yeast at the grocery store, I”m paying $53 per pound – if you’re baking a lot, better to buy a block and store it in Tupperware in the fridge. I learned that no bread stored in the freezer is good after six weeks.

Now, it’s up to me to practice.

“The first 2,000 loaves are difficult,” Jubinsky said to us, quoting a baker’s adage. “The rest is easy.”

STONE TURTLE BAKING AND COOKING SCHOOL, one- and two-day classes on artisan breads and pizza, most classes $80. 173 Howitt Road, Lyman, 324-7558. stone

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