Paul McCool has been baking breads for family and friends since 1977. He has had the privilege of living in five different states and one foreign country (South Africa). Paul has also been able to travel to most states in the continental U.S, plus Puerto Rico, plus eight other countries, at last count. In 2009, Paul worked a 1-week internship in a friend’s bakery in Montana. The experiences and exposure to new things that he gained in those travels is reflected in the range of breads he enjoys baking.
Paul’s other passion is teaching, which means he’s really happy to be able to combine the two by teaching baking classes in his home and at private events. He also has been an instructor at The Culinary Center of Kansas City™ since 2012.
- What is your ingredient obsession?
Whole-grain flours. There’s a place for white flours in baking, so it isn’t that I’m against them. Whole-wheat, or whole-rye, or whole-anything bring so much more to the party.for flavor and for nutrition than their refined counterparts. So many Americans have bought into the mantra of “enriched” foods without really understanding what they are missing in those foods, even after the “enrichment”. Whole-grain flours are one way, and a very good one in bread, to close that gap.
- What is your top restaurant recommendation in Kansas City?
Much as I like Jack Stack and Joe’s when I’m hungry for BBQ, there’s a little place called Smokey’s on the Boulevard, located on Metcalf Avenue at about 144th Street, that consistently puts out some very good ‘cue.
- What is your most indispensable cooking tool?
A digital scale.
- Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen?
- Who or what inspired you to become a chef/instructor?
Baking has been something that I have enjoyed since I was a kid, starting with Mom teaching me how to make cookies and cakes. Bread is something that grabbed me not long after marrying; first out of necessity (still in college and (mostly) out of money) and then as something that was intriguing in its own right. Think about it: you don’t just make bread, you grow it. There’s a rhythm involved in the mixing, the kneading, the first fermentation, the shaping, the final fermentation, the baking, the cooling, and eventually the eating. Bread is very much a living thing and has to be handled in ways that respect the yeasts and their work on the baker’s behalf. Bread gives the baker a range of tactile delights, too. There’s an immense pleasure in bringing the ingredients together in a dough and then kneading that dough into a pillowy mass that magically, with some time and some warmth, grows to double or triple its original size. Scaling the fermented dough and shaping it into loaves or buns provides more tactile feedback and the satisfaction of creating something that will please the eye as well as the palate. Watching the bread expand as it bakes, taking on the intended shape and coloring, gives the baker the confirmation that all of the steps along the way have been done well. The perfume from the oven as the bread bakes is better to my nose than anything in those high-priced, fancy bottles that I have purchased for my wife over the years. Between the subject matter and the discovery years back that teaching is fun, it’s a treat to share my enthusiasm for bread with students at CCKC.