Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 17

This week found Tom finishing the hearth bed and me busy test baking. By the time Sunday evening arrived, both Tom and I felt a great sense of satisfaction with all that had been accomplished.

I was encouraged when I woke up to find my starter incredibly active and ready to do it's work!

The life of our bread.

I spent all day Thursday baking bread with the flour I had received from General Mills. With each step of my dough mixing process I was pleased with the dough development and finished loaves.

Whole Wheat

Kalamata Olive

Until the oven is finished, this is how I'm baking my test loaves.

I've approached a local Gourment Food/Health Food Grocer to see if they would be able to bring in the General Mills product for me. They were very willing to see if they could help us in our search, now we all have to be patient as we wait for the suppliers to respond.

Tom was up early Saturday with his focus on finishing the hearth bed, get the concrete shelf in place and get the sides of the oven laid out. He also wanted to make sure that we had enough bricks. When you have to purchase and receive your oven supplies from 600+ miles away, you always have this queasy feeling that you've not ordered enough material, even when you double and triple check your layout. Well, this did indeed happen with the Lumnite! Remember a few Blogs back when Tom was able to get the firebrick and Lumnite because of a trip to Phoenix for his employer? Ughhhh!

So I called Mason Mart in Phoenix and they did indeed have 3 more bags and could ship them via freight. The hitch . . . the cost of shipping 3 bags would cost us more than we paid for the original 6 bags that Tom originally picked up! Yikes. We were in a bind for sure. That extra shipping money we would have to spend was allocated for other material. We really didn't want to waste the money on shipping, and even a drive to Phoenix would have been costly with the gas prices as they are.

Then up to the plate comes the home run pitcher! A friend from our church was willing to pick up the 3 bags of Lumnite for us this past week because he and his father were taking a trip to Phoenix. What's even more amazing is that the place that they needed to go to was only 7 miles from Mason Mart! This is pretty incredible when you consider just how big Phoenix is! So a big THANK YOU to Arnold and his dad. And I'll be able to return the favor since his wife, Nancy, is involved in a fund raising dinner that will need bread :)

Now with this issue solved - Tom was able to better focus on the job at hand.

Hearth bed completed - CHECK.

Refractory mix for the baking chamber.
10 parts Sand + 3 parts Lumnite + 1 1/2 parts Fire Clay

Dry mixing the refractory mix so it's all ready to go this
coming weekend - CHECK.

Side walls set up dry - CHECK.

Day's end. CHECK :)

Can't wait to bring you next weekends progress! Thanks for stopping by - Kath

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flour Samples Arrive . . .

I received quite a bit of curiosity in regard to our search for a supplier for our flour, so I only thought it fitting to share today's delivery with you. I had contacted three Flour brands: King Arthur, General Mills and a company in California that handles Central Milling Flour. Imagine my surprise when I arrived home today to find 150 pounds of Artisan Flour direct from the General Mills plant in Kansas City, MO! I had spoken to their Rep. for the Southwest region last week - and she did mention sending me sample flour, but I didn't expect 150 lbs. of it!

So the test baking will begin in earnest. I've been using General Mills conventional flour which goes under the Gold Medal name in grocery stores and I've found the dough to responds fairly well. I'm anxious to see how the dough responds to their flour that is milled specifically for Hearth Breads!

A very generous gift from General Mills!

I pulled out my flour buckets from the original BakeHouse. It's hard to explain, but it felt good to go through the process of opening the bags and emptying the flour in to the buckets.

I'll be sure to share the results of the test baking - thoughtfully, Kath

A visit to Wednesday's Farm Market

I took some time today to head over to the Las Cruces Farmer's Market. Once we start firing the oven, we will be able to bake, but not large volumes, so the Wednesday market will be a nice fit as we work to grow in to the Saturday market. I thought I'd share a little of Las Cruces with all of you - Enjoy.

Throughout Las Cruces you will discover
artistic expression.
The market hosts a wide selection of local Artists.

The Folk Art at this market is awesome!
Open air musicians are tucked in
and around the vendors and they add to the
festive atmosphere of the market.

Happy Cacti

Spring colors are arriving to the Sunny Southwest.

What would New Mexico be without the Ristras!

Thoughtfully - Kath

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 16

This weekend was a turning point for the construction of the BakeHouse oven. The laying of the oven's hearth bed has now begun and we are excited for you to see the baking chamber come to life. To think that Tom is now laying the firebrick that the BakeHouse breads will be baked on is just so exciting!

Our morning started with the reveal of the slab that is to become the shelf that sits in front of the oven opening. We were so pleased with the way it turned out - and it proved to be much more economical than purchasing real stone.

Notice the little bit of ice that formed - it was chilly in the morning!

The form and the slab. The slab slipped right out!
It's amazing what you can do with concrete!

Here you can see the support blocks in place. The concrete slab
is ready to now be lifted in to place. 
The concrete slab is now in place which allows for Tom to start
laying out the firebrick for the hearth bed.

The hearth bed is held in place with a simple mixture of Fire Clay and Sand. A slurry is mixed and used like mortar to set the firebricks in place. The use of this slurry allows for hearth bed bricks to be replaced if they break.

Fire Clay and Sand are mixed in to a slurry.

With a notched trowel, the mixture is spread on to
 the hearth bed and the bricks are put in place.

The brick is then tamped into the slurry to set it.
Tom makes sure each brick is not leaning.
The top of each brick is also checked
so that the hearth bed is flush
and level. 

The weekends work complete.
This coming weekend should find the hearth bed completed. The next step will be for the side walls to be put in place. Las Cruces is starting to reveal itself in that she's tired of winter and each day is deciding to bring the temperatures up to almost 70°. The mornings are still chilly, but by 9am it's already time to remove your sweatshirt - perfect oven building weather :)

Only a few more days until Saturday - we look forward to sharing our weekend's work with you. Thanks for taking the journey with us. We've heard from so many of you. It so encouraging, thank you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 15

This week was one of those in between weeks. A lot of things were accomplished, but not a lot of them could be photographed. The meeting on Friday morning with the Board of Health in regard to the commercial storage unit for our flour went very, very well. We've secured a unit that has a great location to receive deliveries. And just to give you an idea of how wonderful this solution is for flour storage, it's within walking distance from the location of the BakeHouse! My hope for this week is that I'll be able to secure a company who will supply and deliver our flour needs.

Before Tom started with the next project, he did knock out
the hearth bed form. To his relief, all the cut out pieces
released themselves with no problem.

Tom's main focus was to get the slab that sits in front of the oven opening poured. We used Blue stone for our oven in New Jersey. Tom really wanted to try something new and had been doing a lot of research on Concrete Counter Tops so he thought he'd give it a try on a small scale. We both felt it was a great solution.

A Melamine coated bookshelf was used to create the form.
This will assist in creating a nice smooth finish to the concrete. 
We used blue painters tape to create a barrier for the silicone.
Silicone was added around all the edges and corners to create a softer
edge for the concrete slab.
Form is now ready for cement.

Once the application of silicone was complete, the form sat overnight so that it would be completely dry when we filled the form with cement.

We woke up on Sunday morning with the sound of ice pellets hitting our roof! The cold front, that is now on it's way to the East blew through early in the morning. It was a bit chilly all day, but not so cold that we couldn't pour the cement.

Bradley's first meal of Ice Pellets!
The pour went rather quickly compared to pouring the hearth bed!

Tom taps the form along all sides and bottom to encourage
air pockets to surface.

Once half of the form was filled with cement,
re bar is added for added strength.

To finish the project, the cement was screeded and troweled just like the hearth bed was. We're both excited to see the final outcome when the form is pulled off.
With this small part of the project completed, we now enter the next phase in the building of the oven. We are really excited about getting to this point since Tom will now actually be starting to build the baking chamber of the oven!

Thanks again for checking and enjoying the journey - thoughtfully Kath 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 14 1/2


What a strange question you ask. Flour is in every grocery store you walk in to. Assorted sizes and varieties are lined up like soldiers on the shelves in the baking isle. Even convenience gas stations and dollar stores have flour! Well, since our blog is about the total journey, I thought I'd share with you what I as the baker have been doing while Tom has been building the oven.

When the BakeHouse was in New Jersey, the one aspect of getting our bread to the market that was most stressful was making sure we had a consistent supply of top quality flour. It sounds simple, but depending on where the baker is located dictates the level of stress.

Seems that our location in NJ put us just outside the distribution radius of the suppliers that I wanted to purchase flour from. So that forced us to have to become our own distributor. We purchased our flour in bulk from a big distribution center in MA and then we had to rent a cube van and travel to Newark, NJ to pick up our 3,500 lbs of flour at a time! Then I'd drive 60 miles back home and we'd spend the evening unloading, by hand, all the flour, take the truck back to the rental place and then home! Yikes.

Just before we left New Jersey for New Mexico, very dear friends of ours (Shout out to Glenn & Dawn in Blairstown, NJ) realized our plight and Glenn donated his time and truck and picked up, delivered and helped us unload flour. His business, a delivery company, was just around the corner from the warehouse in Newark that received our flour! What a blessing that was!

Here the flour supply was stacked - this photo is showing our
supply at about half of what we would order.
So as Tom is working on the oven, I've been spending hours on the phone with flour reps from various companies trying to secure our flour supply. Since bread is the only focus of the BakeHouse, the quality and consistency of the flour is of ultimate concern. And like New Jersey, it seems that Las Cruces, NM is also just outside the distribution radius of the flour company that I want purchase flour from.

Since our property and set up are located on a smaller footprint than in New Jersey, storing flour posses a new challenge. I'll be meeting with the Board of Health this Friday to go and look at a commercial storage unit in which I would store my bulk flour. 

What's great about talking to all the reps is that you find out what's going on in our country in regard to the wheat market.  We discuss how the wheat harvest will be affected by the weather, the economy and what is going on around the world. Wheat is so important in sustaining us  - it's has been from the beginning.

"Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest wheat." (Psalm 147:12-14)

It's interesting when you're passionate about what you do - even though this part of the journey is stressful, it's not negative stress, it's sorta like the stress when you're training for an athletic event. You have good days and bad days, but you have the goal to focus on and that gives you the drive and determination to see it through.

I know that when we sell our first loaf of bread to our first Las Cruces Farm Market customer, my heart will swell with joy in knowing that my determination to get the best quality flour to bake our bread with will have been well worth the effort!

Thanks for checking in - thoughtfully - Kath

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 14

This morning Tom and I wake up with a great sense of accomplishment. Tom confessed that he'd been concerned all week about pouring the hearth bed foundation since he'd changed two major elements in the construction, the support system and then the insulation. In the end, he's very, very pleased with the outcome.

Our week started out with getting all the re bar tied into place.

 Next Tom built the hearth bed form. Then he had to cut a slot for each piece of re bar to go through. There was a lot of detail work to this form which you can see in the following photos.

A slot was cut out for each piece of re bar to allow for
the re bar to pass through the form walls.

Several layers of duct tape were added to the sides of each
cut out so that they would stay in place during the pour.

The cut outs were put back in place. Now when the concrete is poured it
 will not flow through to the outside of the form.
Here you can see the space that needs to be left open
and clear of concrete. This will allow for the expansion and
contraction that will occur each time the oven is fired.
Tom then built a protective box around the ash dump so that it too would stay clean when the concrete was poured.

Bradley giving Tom moral support as Tom checks
the support structure.  Petie on the other hand
prefers to be a sunbather.

Now we were ready to start mixing cement and pouring. 

While Tom was mixing cement, I dumped mixture into the frame.

We'd screed each section as we went across

In the end, my hands proved to be the best tool to work the cement
around and under the re bar making sure there were no air pockets.

With the pour complete, now it was time for Tom to start troweling. It was fascinating to watch the  surface of the cement become smooth as Tom  worked the trowel over the surface.

As Tom ran the trowel over the surface the last few times he added just a hint of water to keep the surface moist. At the day's end we covered the whole oven base since the weather forecast had the evening temperatures dipping down to freezing.

I did take the tarp and covers off the oven today as well as wet the cement. The covers and tarp were put back on the base this evening since the temps were again going to dip down to freezing.

And this morning I was able to go to the Mason Supply Yard and pick up the Red Brick that Tom will use for the chimney and the face of the oven!

Tom did take the form off the oven base this evening. He did it in the dark with a headlamp on! I'll be sure to post some pictures tomorrow so that you can see how it all turned out. Thanks again for stopping by. Thoughtfully Kath