Friday, August 17, 2012

Working out the kinks . . . .

A Yiddish Proverb: "Everyone is kneaded from the same dough; but not baked in the same oven"

A customer came to our booth this past Saturday all the way from El Paso, Texas.  He admitted that he had become addicted to BakeHouse Sourdough Bread. There was another lady that came by, she's a diabetic, and once she found out that all our breads are made with the Sourdough Method, purchased her loaf with joy and proceeded to walk away with a smile hugging the bag (my mom, a nurse, had just read an extensive article about how Sourdough Bread is the bread choice for Diabetics since it affects the Glycemic Index in different way when compare to conventional breads, and doesn't spike blood sugar). And then there are our German, Russian and Polish customers. You wouldn't think that Las Cruces would be a place where you would have a large European community, but there is. Especially in El Paso, TX with Ft. Bliss Military Base and also the German Air force Base in Alamogordo, NM. Both of these locations about 50 to 60 miles away. It's these Europeans that keep me on track. When we showcased the 5 lb Miche for the first time at the market, three German ladies saw it from across the street and came over, almost jogging. The first gal to reach the booth looked me straight in the eye and said "I know what that is, I will to buy it", the second lady went on in German obviously excited about their discovery, and the third lady said "thank you for making this bread. I can't have it unless I'm in Germany".  I offered them a sample, which they gladly accepted, and I watched them savor the bread they had longed for and had found. As they continued down the street with their bread, chatting away in German, I started to cry . . . . tears of gratitude.

On 8/3/2012 the BakeHouse Oven changed. Just like our oven in New Jersey, within three months I noticed a shift in how the oven retained the heat and baked the bread. It's amazing how it just "happens". There is no warning, no subtle change, it just  . . . is. The only advantage I had this time was the experience I had from our first oven. I knew that the three month window was approaching, so I referred back to my Oven journal notes from our first oven and waited to see if our new oven would follow the same time line.

There is one huge difference with our new oven. It stores heat longer, and it bakes more gentle. It's hard to explain this, it's something that as a baker you can see through your Oven journal notes. But basically what this looks like is that even though I start baking my BakeHouse Sourdoughs at 595°, they come out of the oven without being scorched and they are golden brown. It's amazing when you consider that it's the firing of the oven the day before that dictates the next mornings bake. I can't just turn the knob and get more or less heat! And I can't start another fire when I have over 100 loaves to bake and get to the market by 7:00am!
What I love about this part of the journey is that I get to "know" my oven! I'm getting familiar with it's personality, and believe me, it has one! I anticipate that there to be at least one more shift in how the oven holds heat and bakes, I'm thinking another 2 to 3 months. At that point, it will then be complete and it's true personality will be established. And as long as I do my part as the oven tender, and fire it properly, it will function like a well made clock and never skip a beat.

Our signature BakeHouse Sourdough. This is the first bread that gets baked.
The oven temps for this first bake are around 595° and when the bake is
finished, the oven temps are around 565°. If left to rebound, temps go
back to 575° within 20 to 25 minutes.
BakeHouse Breads ready for the market
It's these wonderful interactions with the customers that encourage me as the other aspects of running a business are with me every day. There is this romance people have in their minds about what it is to be a bread baker. But the bottom line is, it's a business and it has real challenges just like any other business.

We are still working on getting the BakeHouse Oven building finished. We had a setback due to a very unprofessional contractor. There were a few days where we thought that we'd have to dismantle part of the BakeHouse building for the Electrical Inspector, but, the inspector gave strict instruction the contractor and the problems were fixed. We now have our approval sticker and can continue working on the BakeHouse Oven building which includes several items that need to be completed for the Board of Health. They gave us our license based on these items being completed.

The hand sink for the BakeHouse Oven building was the first item we chose to tackle. We have no running water out to the BakeHouse Oven, so we had to come up with a way to get a hand sink out to the building. There are several companies that make portable hand sinks, but they are a bit pricey for what we needed. So we went to YouTube! And we found what we needed. A great video of a guy who made his own portable hand sink! Here's how we did it!

This Sterilite cabinet was purchased at WalMart.

Tom cut the top out for the sink insert.

We found this great little hand sink on eBay!

Wheels added to the base so we could move it easily.

Mini Electric hot water heater and waste water.

Electric and water connection.

We have water!

Our hand sink works like a charm!

Ah, as I'm finishing up this post I just got a whiff of roasting chili from our neighbor. He farms several acres about 5 miles from here and New Mexico's Green Chili season is upon us! It's such a great smell. Between his roasting chili and me baking bread, we fill our neighborhood with a wonderful aroma!

And just for fun, I thought I'd share with you a photo from our Pecan trees! They are covered with these wonderful clusters of nuts. The Mesilla Valley is starting to explode with produce ready for harvest, it's a very festive time here in Las Cruces.

Our Pecan trees are loaded down with nuts!
So until next time . . . blessings to all and thank you again for following along. Thoughtfully - Kath