18 March 2008


I mentioned at the end of last year that I'm baking full time, as in, I'm a baker. One of three (bread bakers) at relatively small bakery, meaning that I usually only get one bread shift per week, as we do everything by hand from start to finish: no mixers, shapers, etc. (Otherwise I do muffins/cookies or laminated doughs and cakes).

With the head baker in Argentina for ten days I picked up a whole handful of shifts (in fact, I got two weeks without making muffins, which is wonderful). Doing bread once a weeks means a blunted learning curve and long days (often thirteen-and-a-half hours) with a week to forget some subtle motion of the last shift. Even working two consecutive days -- and then three consecutive days -- has led to what seems a vast improvement. My baguettes will always need improvement, and shifts in protein and moisture in the flour this week didn't help, but I'm feeling more and more comfortable in each movement. And I'm shaving off hours from my days.

...Which means, being probably a bit obsessive, more time for baking at home. I made a three-and-a-half pound miche last week that far surpasses any of the other's I've made. I used a high-extraction flour -- something between white and whole wheat, only part of the bran being taken off -- which led to a light bread for having the richness and keeping quality of whole wheat. I also used a higher amount of pre-fermented flour (more of the sourdough build) which helps in all of those regards.

And now I have two days off (otherwise I'd be in bed by 8 pm).

(N.B.: We do have a Hobart mixer, if I made it sound like we had no electric mixers. We just aren't a bread factory with people who are mixers, shapers, etc. We do shape, load, etc by hand.)


  1. That's exciting. I would love to see some of the products you've baked at the bakery.

  2. The fact that you mix your doughs by hand for a bakery is amazing. I was thinking today that you are such an incredible cook, very much the way I was, that you should consider becoming chef at a nice, small country inn that would appreciate your talents.
    Your sauerkraut reminded me of my friend's, who also has a very old 50 gallon oak barrel of cider vinegar. It's strong enough to take the chrome off a trailer hitch! But is it ever good... fruity and complex.(I use a toasted oak barrel to age my mincemeat every year.)
    I've often wondered if I'm overboard with some of the lengths I go to for my cooking and baking, but reading your blog is an inspiration.

  3. How's the baking business coming along? A lot of work, right? Why don't you tell us the name of the place so we can look up the site. I often get inspiration from other shops... make their good ideas my good ideas.
    Quick question: a right-pointing arrow on a blue field, does that mean you're a... consevative Democrat?

  4. Sorry, we don't have a website.

    And, sorry, not a conservative democrat. That was a sign pointing out of a town in which I lived in Normandy -- I was for some reason taken by it (and the burned out garage in the background).

  5. You have a hobart but do everything else by hand. That's exactly the way we work in my shop. I don't have a site either. Who needs it; there's enough to do without managing that, too.