Last week I documented my pizza fiasco. Pizza was pretty stressful, and not conducive to working as a team with a 9 year-old. I think I've got the kinks worked out, and I'm going to throw myself back into the pizza pit again next week. This week we decided to try bread and it was a lot less stress, but not as lucrative - you can charge $15 for a pizza, but only $4 for a loaf of bread. If this were my only means of support, I'd do both - bake the bread in the morning, re-stoke the fire and do the pizza in the afternoon - that would be a good days wage.
But for us, it's a hobby...a way to learn, bond, have fun - and if we make a few bucks, so much the better. My daughter was with me this week as self appointed sous-chef -in-training, working side by side with me on Wednesday and Thursday and, as a result, got a split of the profit and lessons in work ethic and applied economics.
On Tuesday I consulted with my Bread Guru, Eric Kastel - Hearth Breads instructor at the CIA. I showed him Ruhlman's simple 5:3 dough recipe (with my additives of spelt, wheat berries, and flax) and got a revised version which yielded a much nicer texture of both crust and crumb. Here's Eric's tweak on the standard 5:3
- 50# King Arthur bread Flour 32.5# water 1.5# salt 6 oz. Instant yeast (Saf-instant brand - this is different than "dry-active yeast")
- 1# wheat berries, lightly crushed in spice grinder 1# spelt, lightly crushed 1# flax seed, lightly crushed Soak in 2.5# water over night
Combine all dry ingredients (including yeast) in mixing bowl, add water and knead with a bread hook for 10 minutes on low speed. Add adjunct (all water will have been abosrbed by now) and continue to mix for another 5 minutes. Remove from machine to a cool place until it has risen once. Punch down, shape and retard in very cold box (34 F) until ready to bake.
On Wednesday, using a borrowed Hobart 30 quart mixer, I mixed the dough in 4 batches (machine couldn't handle 80# at once), packed it in a large cooler, and drove it to the farm.
At the farm Sierra (my daughter) and I set up a table with a digi scale, a knife, flour, corn meal, waxed paper, and 75 small baskets from the local Dollar store. While I cut and weighed the dough into 500 gram masses, Sierra shaped them. Ron and Kate, the farmers, lined each basket with waxed paper and a heavy dusting of flour, loaded the baskets into plastic tomato lugs, covered each lug with towels and stacked them in the produce cooler - cranked down to 34F to slow the yeast growth. Before turning in for the night Ron lit a fire in the oven to begin a slow warming process - we needed it to be up to 800 degrees by Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday Ron pulled the dough out of the cooler at 1:00 pm and stacked them in the barn. It was a beautiful day, 65 degrees and sunny, and the dough began to rise.
By the time I left work, collected Sierra, and drove to the farm, it was 3:00 pm - I had one hour to get the oven completely up to temp, unload and reshape the loaves onto peals, rake out the coals from the oven, and load the bread in.
Using an infra-red laser thermometer, the oven temped at just over 800 and, at 3:45, I began to load the dough. The loading was a ballet in itself. As I loaded one peal in, I passed the empty peal to Sierra who would reload it as I used the other peal to load the next group. Striking a rhythm like this we fit about 40 loaves into the oven in 15 minutes. By 4:00 PM the oven was full, the door closed, and we could relax, set up for sales, eat some apples, and enjoy the beauty surrounding us.
Occasionally I opened the door and shuffled the loaves around in a clockwise direction to ensure even baking, but it became apparent that the temperature was dropping fast and the bread was slowing waaaay down each time I opened the door. Absent the fire, 40 loaves of bread were sucking the heat out of the clay and brick pretty fast.
Getting most of the first load out left room to kindle a small fire in the opposite corner of the oven, raising the temperature, creating infra-red, hastening the baking and enhancing the browning. The remaining loaves baked quickly and were the best of the day.
Meanwhile, Sierra had her sales pitch in full swing and was selling the bread faster than I could remove it from the oven. "Fresh Baked in our home-made clay oven with a mixture of Spelt, Flax, and Wheat berries with King Arthur Flour all the way from Vermont! Only $4 per loaf" "It's still hot out of the oven, don't burn your self and don't carry it away in a sealed bag until it's cool - it'll get mushy".
By 7:00 pm the last two loaves - still warm - were sold - 61 loaves sold in all.
We ate bread ourselves for supper in the barn, eating pears and apples along side, while we discussed the successes and mistakes of the project with Kate and Ron. It was mutually agreed to be a good thing and we vowed to keep up our Thursday night productions until the end of October, when the season ends.
On our way home Sierra asked "Are we going to keep doing this next summer too?"
"I don't know, honey, it's a lot of work" I replied, "Maybe we can figure out a system where we just get it started and then hire some CIA students to do the hard work and the actual baking"
Her response took me off guard, and then just reaffirmed how deeply the "Chef Gene" can run - "Daddy, where's your sense of pride? Doesn't it feel better to look at all of the people eating our bread and know that WE made it with our own hands? Why would you pay some one else to feel that way instead?"
Holy shit...she's got the bug.