Sonoma bakers slicing at Central Milling

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Central Milling, the company that mills and distributes organic grains and flours in Petaluma, is featuring several classes with Sonoma-known chefs.

Coming up Aug. 27 and 28 is the Ultimate Home Baker’s Experience with Craig Ponsford, who started Artisan Bakers here in Sonoma with his family.

Ponsford and the Artisan staff, including the aptly named Mike the Bejkr, won the 1996 Gold medal at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, the renowned international baking competition held every few years in Paris. Ponsford then went on to coach the U.S. Team to victory in 1999, and has coached each U.S. team since.

Ponsford will lead a two-day class, and home bakers should come out of it as close to professional as one can get. $435. Monday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 28, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.

Then on Sept. 8, Sonoma-regular Jim Dodge will teach a yummy hands-on pie-making class, meaning guests get to participate. You will learn to mix, roll, flute and bake perfect pie crusts using traditional and new techniques, resulting in a flaky crust apple pie, pear and vanilla bean and fresh ginger crumble, and golden crust banana cream pie. No previous pie making experience required.

After growing up in his family’s luxury resort hotels, Dodge trained as a chef and did a two-year Swiss pastry apprenticeship. He soon became executive pastry chef at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco and went on to publish several award winning cookbooks. He then opened a pastry shop and restaurant in Hong Kong and was appointed senior vice president at the New England Culinary Institute. In 2000, Jim joined Bon Appétit Management Company as the general manager of food and beverage at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Since 2004, he has been Bon Appétit Management Company’s director of specialty culinary programs, based out of the corporate office in Palo Alto.

Dodge is currently the jury chair for the Julia Child Award, serves on the advisory council of the Julia Child Foundation, and is a kitchen cabinet member of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. $115. 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Finally, Mike “the Bejkr” Zakowski, whom many know from his green truck and wood-burning oven trailer at Sonoma’s Friday farmers market, will teach an intriguing class at Central Milling’s Artisan Baking Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

If you love Zakowski’s pretzels, this is a chance to learn how he makes them.

(Zakowski has often led the U.S. team to win, or almost win, the above-mentioned Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris, starting during his tenure at the original Artisan Bakers here in Sonoma.) Now he sells at the Friday farmers market, offers bicycle home delivery on Tuesdays, and teaches his ways of baking and procuring artisan grains from local growers all over the world.

In this class he will teach his pretzel secrets as well as cookies, his popular pain d’amande, pita bread, and sourdough cracker baking. $195. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Central Milling is at 1120 Holm Road, Petaluma. Call 778-1073.

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