Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Three years ago today . . . September 26, 2009.

Today marks the day three years ago that our last bake took place in New Jersey before we moved to Las Cruces, NM. I've been thinking about what I would post today regarding this milestone and I realized that what I posted on October 9, 2009 still resonated in my heart today.

As I look over our blog and all that's taken place to rebuild the BakeHouse here in New Mexico I am awestruck, deeply moved and overwhelmingly grateful.

So with that said, I redirect you to the post on October 9, 2009. It's been and continues to be, an amazing journey.


Monday, September 17, 2012

A Baker's Challenge (issued by the Oven Builder) . . .

"If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens." ~ Robert Browning

It all started with a conversation that Tom and I were having about a bagel shop in Mine Hill, NJ, Bagels on the Hill. We were reminiscing about going there and Tom getting his large coffee, light and sweet, I'd get a large tea with 2 tea bags and room for half and half. We'd check out the NJ Star Ledger newspapers piled by the door as our Everything Bagel with Lox spread and a Sesame Seed with Olive Spread were being assembled and the smell of Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese filled the air (this sandwich is as unique to Central and Northern NJ as the local Gordita is here in Southern NM).

Then the conversation transitioned and Tom started talking about how he'd watch the guy at Bagels on the Hill make his bagels. It was a tiny shop, just big enough to house the deck oven and the boiling pot along with a few baker's racks. And the front of the shop had the Deli cases and a grill which fit snugly in the corner by the big picture window. I do remember thinking to myself "this place is so efficient, it's just the right size for what they do". And their hours made sense, they were open early in the morning and closed shortly after lunch. If you went to get bagels after 1pm, they were usually sold out.

That's how the creation of our Sourdough Bagels came to be here at the BakeHouse. I have to say, I never ever thought that I'd find YouTube to be so tremendously helpful. I'm a very visual person, so watching and doing is the key for me not necessarily reading. So the last month of watching bagel makers on YouTube and test baking has been extremely valuable for me as a baker. I was committed to making our bagels with the same philosophy as our European Sourdough Bread. I wanted our bagels to honor a tradition of baking that is slowly disappearing. The "craft" of baking that centers around quality ingredients and minimal tampering with the use of only Sourdough as a leavening, flour, Kosher salt, water and Barley Malt.

So this presented another challenge. Finding a bagel formula (recipe) that used only Sourdough as a leavening on a commercial scale. I finally found one that originated from an Jewish Bakery in Brooklyn, NY from years ago. BINGO! I had to tweak it a bit, but the basic info and the percentages that I needed were there, so I was able to move forward with testing it.

The first few bakes were a challenge. I wasn't happy with the overall rise, but our customers encouraged us that the flavor and crust was there, that was important. Getting a better rise was easy once I understood the dough. The dough doesn't need any turns after it's been mixed for almost 6 minutes in the spiral arm mixer. It just sits in the dough bucket for one hour after mixing, then I shape the bagels and put them in the fermenting room with the bread overnight. Easy fix. It's a beautiful dough. Creamy and soft but very strong. It feels and cuts like hand made Mozzarella Cheese. So different from the bread dough. And they bake up so beautiful in our oven. Now we just need to keep up with the growing demand as customers are discovering them. And the word is spreading, as we now have people come up asking if this is the booth with the fresh baked bagels.

Which brings me to another experience the bagels are bringing us. Meeting all the New Yorkers that live in Las Cruces! It's almost like there is this secret ingredient in the bagels that just permeates the air and draws the New York natives to us! It's absolutely amazing. And the fun part is how our discussions are just like the discussion Tom and I had about Bagels on the Hill.

The life of our Bagels. This sourdough was started with the culture we use for our breads.

Our boiling pot! This baby is BIG, and it get the job done.

Tom made our Bagel boards.

Bagels stay on the bagel boards for only 4 minutes and then
they are flipped over, off the boards and the tops are then exposed.
The finished product. I only wish I could post the aroma!
And if this Bagel adventure hasn't been enough for the month of August and September, we also did the Tularosa Basin Wine and Music Festival. This two day festival takes place in Alamogordo, NM, about 70 miles from Las Cruces. It's home of the German Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. We've been getting many of our German customers from this area and thought it might be a good idea to be there in person and let more folks in that area know about us. It was a good marketing decision for us and we did extremely well. Between Monday, Sept. 10 to Sunday, Sept. 16th we processed 200+ loaves of bread and bagels, it was a whirlwind. I find that today, my body is grateful to have a day off. 

Tom ready for the day. One of the vendors noted that Tom could sell sand in the Sahara!
He is such a blessing to me and shoulders so much so that I can concentrate on
the craft of making the bread.
Erin was Tom's helper on Saturday. She also helped my mom the previous
Saturday when we had RAIN! She did a fantastic job!
What I don't have is a photo of my mom, Jolan and my Mother-in-Law, Rita working the booth at the Las Cruces Farmer's and Crafter's Market on Saturday. They were in a new spot at the market and it drew a lot of new customers. My Mother-in-Law must have passed on her selling skills to Tom because word got to me that she too can sell sand in the Sahara and she got the Bagels sold out before the bread! Then when they were done, my Father-in-Law, Tom Sr. came and helped them pack up. 

So as you can see, it's a family affair. I couldn't do any of this without the love, help and support of my family and the enthusiasm of our precious customers. Each and every one of our customers becomes a part of the BakeHouse in some special way. They share their experience with our bread. They tell us stories from their past, and on some days, they come weary and worried and reach for a loaf of bread to help cheer their spirit. And then there are the bagels that draw out the New Yorker who has been searching for this elusive creation. It's my deepest desire that the BakeHouse Bagel gives them what our Sourdough Breads has given our European customers - giddy joy!

Blessings to everyone - thoughtfully - Kath