I have a motto when it comes to the bake shop. I don’t make anything I don’t personally like.
Some of you are correct. There are things I could make that would sell very well, but either I don’t like the product, or I don’t like the technique (too time-consuming or messy), so I don’t want to mess with it.
There are some things that I could make but I won’t because somebody else is already doing it, and I don’t want to step on their toes. That might not be a great business decision in your eyes, but that’s me.
Sometimes you are wrong. That product you think would really sell, well it won’t. You see, we’ve tried it already, or we’ve seen others try it. Not going there again.
So, I make what I enjoy making, and I’m glad that you enjoy it as well.
Whole Grain Ciabatta with Herbes de Provence. Want some?
At least one thing I make each week doesn’t live up to my expectations, or it fails outright. I can blame ingredients on occasion, and the humidity might be a significant factor at other times. It might be because of injury (two weeks ago), or mechanical failure (mixer mishap last week), However, in the end, it falls to me. Injury or mechanical failure can usually be attributed to inattention to detail or circumstances.
Problems with ingredients or humidity might be a little out of personal control, but again, attention to detail can help overcome those as well.
Attention to detail. It’s important.
Yes. I do.
I do have some help in the shop. In the past Michael Kelley assisted me, and that young man is a highly skilled assistant. Madison, my lovely daughter, is working full time for me now and learning the trade. I have help mixing and prepping materials, but in the end, every loaf of bread, every bagel, every croissant, etc., is my responsibility.
So yes, I bake it all, despite how incredulous that might seem to some.
*Except the cookies. Jacob does those. They are his private enterprise, so when you buy his cookies at the market, you are directly supporting an industrious 13 year old.
I’m a baker, not a pastry-chef.
If I was a pastry chef I would make many g-free items, as well as gluten-heavy items.
If you are celiac, I feel for you. My wife is celiac. I don’t bake bread for her, though, either. I can’t in my shop. There is no way to determine whether or not I’ve cleaned everything well enough to make something that is safe for her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ogre. I make very good gluten free treats like clafoutis, and I’ve made several delicious gluten-free cakes (pound cakes, carrot cakes, etc.), as well as gluten free corn bread, but no gluten-free breads. I make them in the house, not in the shop. And they are for special occasions, not daily consumption. They are also not for the markets.
Logistically, I can’t bake what I do AND experiment with gluten-free items. I have a small shop (your deck is probably bigger) and limited help (my children). And frankly, I’m not really interested in learning to bake items for an extremely small portion of the population that, in the end, won’t be willing to pay the price for them. Considering the extra effort and cost of goods that go into them, it’s not a wonderful niche-market for a small-scale baker. Large scale manufacturers have a wonderful niche market in gluten free items because they market based on the fear and ignorance of consumers, and they charge exorbitant prices for the product. I’m not going to lie to you about a product and overcharge you for it.
Unless you are a diagnosed celiac, or someone suffering with autoimmune disease, and you want to discuss alternatives to gluten products, I don’t want to talk about your g-free diet. I’m a bit frustrated with folks changing their entire eating lifestyle, feeling healthier, and then saying that going gluten-free is what made the difference. Bad logic? Yeah.
We have been selling at Farmers Markets for 6 years now. During that time there have been several questions that get asked over and over, and some of those get asked more often than not.
We love answering questions. We’re selling a product that we love, that we believe in – despite all the bad publicity and misleading information in the press and on the internet about gluten. Using quality ingredients that cost us a premium price, even in bulk, it is important to us that you know that. Different consumers want different information. There are those who want us to describe the entire process of how a particular loaf was produced, and for those people I will gladly geek out and go in to intricate detail. Others want to know about the provenance of our ingredients. Some want pairing information with other foods. We try to do what we can to help all these folks.
All this to say I’m going to try and answer some questions that are bread related here. Probably the most often asked question we get is about our starters. Probably 95% of our breads are naturally leavened with sourdough cultures. A sourdough culture is simply water and flour, mixed together, which allows the yeast that is naturally present on the grain, to multiply and ferment. The sourness of the culture is determined by certain species of bacteria, lactobacilli (think yogurt, cheese, and fermented foods like kimchi) and acetobacters (think vinegar), that are also resident on the grain as well. The yeast and bacteria live in a symbiotic relationship in the culture, both adding to the flavor and character of the bread. A properly maintained and refreshed culture can survive indefinitely.
Benefits of using sourdough cultures to leaven bread include the fact that sourdough breads are self-preserving, in that they provide an inhospitable environment for mold growth. I occasionally run ‘experiments’ with my sourdough rye breads, to determine maximum shelf-life. I have a loaf of Finnish Rye bread in the shop, placed in an area that experiences fairly drastic temperature extremes. It is bagged in plastic and has been on the shelf for over six weeks now without the first sign of visible mold growth. The bread is still moist and edible.
Another benefit of using a sourdough culture is that the acidic conditions in sourdough, along with the fact that the bacteria are also producing enzymes that break down proteins, result in weaker gluten, and a denser, chewier bread. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that people who have a hard time digesting wheat do better with sourdough because of this. Anecdotal is the key word here, though.
Another benefit is that they simply taste more interesting, without the need to load them up with extra ingredients for flavor.
Bread is pretty simple stuff. Basic bread consists of 4 ingredients. Water, flour, yeast of some kind, and salt. The difference in taste and texture from one loaf to another consists of a myriad different factors. Percentage of starter to flour, type of sourdough culture used (wet, dry, cool, room temperature), the refreshment schedule for the starter, mixing and kneading processes used, proofing schedule for the dough (room temperature or overnight retarding in a refrigerator). Other factors include the humidity, ambient temperature, types of indigenous yeast and bacterial cultures in the area. Taking all these factors into consideration, the same formula of bread made in Boone, NC, and Hacienda Heights, CA, are going to taste different. It may be subtle, it may be drastic, but it will be different. And it will still be good bread.