Friday, July 6, 2012

The Quiet Mornings

With the weekly posts of the oven construction slowing down considerably, the rhythm of the BakeHouse has started to take shape. It's hard to describe, it's not just one activity, but several. And it's not just the "doing" part. It's the more subtle things, like sound. In fact, I think the sound part is what I enjoy the most. There is the still sound of the early morning, usually 2:45 am. No birds, maybe a gentle breeze and right now, crickets ( I call them Jimminies ). The cleaning out of the oven before baking. The scraping out of the ashes. Metal to brick, with a rhythmic steady motion. Then the sweeping out of the chamber, that gentle whisking sound as the bristles run along the hearth bed. The sizzle of the damp mop running along the hot hearth bed catching all the left over ash. The shuffle of bakers racks as I check the loaves that have been in the cooler since the previous afternoon. And then back in to the house to make my first cup of strong tea and check on my builds. I open each container, I use three different builds, and first listen. There is a gentle bubbling sound of the build as it reaches it's final stage of development. Then the smell, it has a tender sweet smell, not sour, but almost floral. Especially the Rye culture - which lately has a beautiful undertone of Lavender.

BakeHouse Sourdoughs ready to go in to the oven.
I am grateful to be back with my bread, creating loaves each week to share with the community. There is something to be said about having something your passionate about put on hold. I grieved. Although I didn't understand it at first, but now I realize that the BakeHouse wasn't just what I did, it was my creative expression. Like oil paint and canvas to a fine artist. All this to say that the baker is . . . gratefully content to be back in her element!


Las Cruces, New Mexico is crazy about bread! I keep adding bread to our bake each Saturday thinking that we've reached our limit but we keep selling out. This "problem" challenges me and my response it to create more bread. For the last three weeks I've been playing with a 5 lb Miche. This bread has captivated me. It's huge, dark and it bakes bold (dark). What I love about it most is that it uses up the left over heat that I have from previous bakes and it likes to ripen for a day or so before you actually cut in to it or release it for sale. This ripening fascinates me. When you do cut open the loaf, the first thing that is presented is the color of the crumb. Here this basically light bread has developed a crumb that is a rich Sepia color. The flavor is complex. First there is the subtle wheat, then it changes and there is an earthiness to it, then you start to taste Rye and then it all comes together and you find yourself cutting another slice! The bread just cries out for a good Hard Salami, Havarti Cheese and grainy mustard along with a Stout beer ( We miss Long Trail  & Magic Hat Breweries in Vermont ). The test baking of this bread has been a blast. Here's the process - enjoy!

First I created a Stiff Levain from my liquid culture

First two ingredients, flour and water are mixed only until they pull
together and then mixture rests for one hour.

This bread is a very soft, loose dough. This is 20 lbs of dough.

Pre shape and rest for a few minutes while I line the baskets.

Went to the local .99 Cent store and snagged four of these
giant colanders. They are perfect for the job! 

I lined the baskets with Flour Sack towels and dusted them
quite heavily so the soft dough wouldn't stick.

Each basket went in to a bag to protect the dough from drying out in our desert climate.

Tom created a makeshift peel for me using
one of my proofing boards. He's so clever!

The peel is the perfect size for this mass of dough.

Oven Hogs. They need a full 1 1/2 hours in the oven.

The finished loaves. 
The size just makes you smile. It's huge!
We'll be bringing them to the market on Saturday whole and cutting them
into quarters. I'm curious to see if we have anyone who wants to
buy the whole loaf. If anything, I think it will make people stop and take a look.

And the reason I do have left over heat that sticks around long enough to bake like this is the insulation that Tom decided to use. The Ceramic Fiber Blanket is amazing. I'm using less wood to fire the oven and the heat retention is incredible. Something so simple that adds a whole new dimension to the design of our oven. Thanks Tom!

Here you get a view of the blanket over the baking chamber.
Vermiculite was used to fill in all the gaps between the
wall and the chamber.
Here you can see where Tom set the Thermocouples in such a way
so that they can be replaced if needed. It's so nice that they are not
buried in the vermiculite like our last oven, we'll actually be able to find them.

I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our world of bread making. I look forward to sharing the next post with you. Thoughtfully, Kath