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Sno-Isle Library series offers tips on baking, gardening and art skills

Never underestimate what a little dough can do in the right hands.

Master Bakers Gerry Betz and Larry Lowary of Tree-Top Baking will share tips and techniques on preparing sweet dough breads as part of a set of cooking classes offered by Sno-Isle Libraries in the coming months.

The next class in the cooking series is “Making the Most of the Fall Bounty,” with chef Vincent Nattress at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20.

And in November, Betz and Lowary lead “Sweet Dough 101.” Billed as a one-session short course, students will learn how to turn a simple “sweet dough” (cinnamon-roll type) into a variety of breakfast- and coffee-style baked items. The class comes just in time for holiday baking at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, also at Clinton Community Hall.

It’s called a sweet dough, Lowary explained, because of the amount of sugar and butter in the mix, and can be used to make a variety of baked items, from coffee rings, to German kuchen topped with fruit, to pull-apart coffee cake.

“It’s a fairly versatile dough,” he said.

Students will be shown different doughs at various stages, and Betz and Lowary will take students through the preparation of a “kitchen-size” batch. After preparing the dough, the class will then move on to the different products that can be made from the same sweet dough.

Lowary started Tree-Top Baking in Clinton five years ago with Betz, a former professional baker who once ran his own bakery. Both are graduates of Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minn. and have experience at bakeries throughout the region.

Lowary said that while it’s easy to read about baking, students can learn more by seeing how bread is produced and gaining their own experience with dough.

“The simplest bread we can produce is a baguette,” he said.

But with its creamy texture and almost paper-thin crust, a baguette isn’t as simple to make as it might seem, he explained.

“I’ve been at it for five years ... there is still some sort of magic that I don’t have. I’m still working on that,” he said.

The classes are part of a broader offering of library programs that will appeal to people interested not only in cooking, but also gardening and the arts.

Sno-Isle officials said the classes come from the community conversations hosted by the library district last year, in which 15 South Whidbey community leaders responded to the following question from library staff, “What could the library provide that is currently missing in our community?”

Library officials said the answer was adult community education classes for lifelong learning.

For gardeners, the fun starts Sept. 20 with four Tuesday evening classes at the Langley Library.

Sessions will include training on composting, rain gardens and sustainable living through community gardens. The classes will be led by Janet Hall, the WSU Extension Waste Wise volunteer program manager, landscape consultant Fran Abel and Craig Weiner from the Langley Community Garden.

A set of sessions for budding artists will be held at the Freeland Library, starting on Fridays, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28, with internationally-renowned artist Anne Belov.

Belov will share tips on project management for creatives, as well as techniques for printing decorative papers without a press.

The third art class, scheduled for Nov. 18, is still being planned.

The classes are free, but advance registration is required and class sizes are limited. Students can sign up online at www.sno-isle.org by clicking on events and programs, and at the Clinton, Freeland or Langley libraries. A registration form can be found by clicking on the desired class or call the library during normal business hours to register.

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