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Yesterday I took a bread class at CulinAerie, the sort-of new cooking school near McPherson Square, and was totally impressed. And not just because TV stars like Top Chef‘s Carla Hall Lyons and our own Tim Carman teach there.

The founders of this place, Susans Holt and Watterson, did it right. They created classrooms that are for teaching, not showing off (see Sur La Table for evidence of the latter); the classes are hands-on instead of mostly demo; and, if my class is an indication, they’ve hired engaging, knowledgeable instructors who make you want to go home and cook your ass off, or in my case, knead it.

Cookbook author and lecturer Amy Riolo, who specializes in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking and food history, taught my class. About a dozen fellow food nerds and I (in two separate groups) made focaccia, simit (sesame bread rings that look like bagels), fougasse (Corsican olive bread), and semolina griddle bread. Three of them were total winners (the semolina bread, a bit bland, needed a bowl of beef stew to make the effort worth it). All in all, it was the best cooking class (of a whopping three) I’ve taken in my lifetime and I felt like a better yuppie for having spent my Sunday learning yeast is not the enemy.

Recipe after the jump.

Fougasse/Corsican Olive Bread

Makes: 2 loaves

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
4 cups unbleached bread all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/3 cup pitted and chopped nicoise or kalamata olives
2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

1. Dissolve yeast in 4 tablespoons lukewarm water
2. Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
3. Pour in yeast mixture and stir.
4. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining water.
5. Mix to create a soft dough.
6. Knead for 10 minutes, adding enough flour so that it is workable, but not too much that you lose all tackiness (too much flour and the bread will be tough).
7. Grease a bowl, place dough in it and turn it to coat.
8. Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise for one hour, until about doubled.
9. Punch down the dough and divide into two parts.
10. Roll into 2 ovals.
11. Divide filling evenly over both ovals.
12. Roll up the dough, starting with the skinny part of the oval.
13. Form into a ball.
14. Slowly foll it into an oval again, distributing the filling.
15. Slash the dough four times, cutting completely through to the counter/cutting board but not all the way a cross the oval. It should like look a ladder or an oval with peep holes.
16. Brush with olive oil and cover with a tea towel.
17. Let rest for 20 minutes, preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
18. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
19. Eat, share.