Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A day of test baking . . . the humble Bialy.

"When I was an adolescent in Auschwitz lying on the hard shelf that was my bed and hallucinating from hunger, I would often try to recall the shape and savory aroma of the kuchen we used to eat at home in Bialystok."    Samuel Pisar - Holocaust survivor

Today I had a date with bread history. With each of the breads I've baked, the process of test baking is like attending a History Class. I find myself eager to learn about the bread through the process of making it. Such was the journey today with the humble Bialy. Bialystok, a town in Poland, which is believed to be the birthplace of the Bialy.

Because of my passion for baking with sourdough, I converted the simple Bialy formula, that uses commercial yeast, to a formula that would use sourdough for leavening. I'm very, very pleased with the result. As they came out of the oven, I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning, walking into the living room, before anyone woke up, and seeing the lit Christmas tree with all the wrapped gifts underneath! It was magical to see these old world treasures come out of the oven and smell the wonderful aroma of caramelized onion! Here's my journey with the Bialy - Enjoy!

All ingredients into the mixer and mixed for 10 minutes on slow speed.

The dough temperature was a bit higher than I wanted.
But the small amount of dough cooled quickly to the desired
76° once I placed the dough bucket in a cool room.
The dough came together nicely. It was firm, but not overly stiff after the 10 minutes of mixing. It then went into a dough bucket to ferment for 2 hours. I stretched the dough after the first hour of fermenting.

I was excited to see wonderful fermentation from the sourdough
showing up after the first hour of fermenting.
Once the two hours of fermentation was done, I then scaled the dough into 12 - 3oz balls and prepared them for another hour of fermentation. The dough at this point was filled with life. It's one of the experiences as the baker of sourdough bread that I enjoy, the feel of the living dough.

I placed the dough balls onto parchment sprayed with non-stick spray.
I then covered the pan with a flour sack towel and then
put the whole tray into a plastic bag.

After the two hours of fermentation was complete, the dough balls were ready to be made into the unique form of the Bialy. Basically, forming them is like making mini pizzas!

The dough was extremely pliable but strong.
The trick was to make sure the middle was pressed down so that it was paper thin.
This would assure that as the Bialy baked, it would not pop up in the
middle and push out the onion mixture.
I used a fresh, big, juicy yellow onion from the Mesilla Valley.
I minced the onion very fine and then added some plain
breadcrumbs to the onions. 

The Bialys baked for 15 minutes. It was hard to wait for them to cool enough before taking a bite!

The aroma in the kitchen reminded me of being in New York City
and walking by a Bagel and Bialy shop.
So it's just like we say "a little taste of Brooklyn in the Land of Enchantment"!

I was so pleased with the flavor. And the crumb was nice and light.
I felt as though the first test bake was a success.
 Tomorrow I will test bake the Bialys again and then bake them in the wood fired oven! I'm already looking forward to tomorrows breakfast - a hot bialy with butter!

I will be sure to post the results! Stay tuned - Kath

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Seems everyone wants us to have a storefront!

Making mistakes and learning from them is crucial to winning. Learning from the mistakes of others is less painful 
Dave Ramsey

The last three months have been filled with growth and change. It's been exhilarating to say the least. Owning a business can make you a bit seasick if you're someone whose not up for the challenge. You need to be willing to take a road less traveled, think outside the box and have the ability to reinvent yourself over and over again and know when to say "no"!            

There are so many snares along the way, and if you're not paying attention, you can really get yourself sidelined. At first it's very subtle, you don't even notice them. You are busy keeping up the pace and focusing on growing the business. As each Saturday approached the customers were coming. New ones, repeat ones, tourists and even folks from as far away as Deming, NM and El Paso, TX! And between the hours of 9:30am to 11:00am at the market it was busy. And over the chatter you'd hear "do you have a storefront?", "is there any place else I can get your bread?", "do you ship your bread?", "do you sell your bread to restaurants?", "will you open a shop in El Paso?", "when are you going to open a restaurant?"

Our response: "this is our storefront - we're here every Saturday. ". It seemed to come out almost like an apology. Hum . . . why is that I questioned myself.

Let the search begin:
We needed to investigate this for ourselves. You cannot make a good decision about something, especially a business move, if you do not gather information. We started out by talking with a Bank, a long time landlord, who had owned several business properties and leased them out, two Realtors and also made notes of other vendors, like ourselves that had opened up shops and then closed them.

1) The Concession Trailers. Every shape and size. New, used, barely used (a lesson to be learned there). Several things kept making the concept unappealing. The cost being the first hurdle, the loss of our wonderful space at the market and the barrier that a vending coach presents. With the coach concept we would be inside a box looking down at our customers and handing them their food through a window. Very unappealing to us since seeing our customers, talking to them, joking, laughing and sharing our business with them is so much a part of who we are. So check that one off.

2) The brick and mortar. We looked at several buildings and spaces that were for lease. We had problems right from the start. We didn't want to have a landlord, and we didn't want to pour a huge chunk of money and our own blood, sweat and tears into someone else's building to retro fit it to our needs. And no matter how we looked at it, we had to be honest, our new location at the market was proving to be a huge success without being in a building.

3) Buying property and building our own shop. In the beginning, this was really exciting! We even had a builder in mind. Since we had built our own home and BakeHouse in New Jersey, taking on a project like this one was something we were familiar with! There was even an awesome piece of property within walking distance from Main Street where the market takes place and it was in a historic district. BUT . . . when we punched the numbers and did the pros and cons we found ourselves saying - if we do this we'll put tremendous stress on our product and ourselves. And the list of eateries that had come and gone, some within a matter of months after opening, served as a serious warning. And once again we found ourselves going back to our location at the market on Saturdays - there would be no way we could match the foot traffic that we received each and every Saturday at the market with a building and a huge pile of debt.

Our search had come to a conclusion, we are very happy and satisfied with where we were at. We like that our storefront was at the Saturday Las Cruces Farmers' and Crafters' Market. Right on an awesome corner in front of The Music Box, a store that has been a long time resident in Las Cruces. We like the buzz that takes place every Saturday morning as we're setting up, with that flutter of anticipation in the pit of your stomach as you wonder what the day will bring. We really enjoy our block and all the vendors that we share it with. And best of all, we like the fact that we are not owned by a Bank. It allows for us to be creative with our menu and breads, it allows for us to take on young employees, to mentor them and see them develop working skills that they will take with them into the world and it allows for us to enjoy what we do without the pressures of owning or leasing a building.

But there was one thing that a storefront would have given us - a place for our customers to sit down, in the shade to enjoy their BakeHouse fare. So we thought outside the box and we've put in our request for a third space that will hopefully become the "BakeHouse Outdoor Bistro" at the Las Cruces Farmers' & Crafters' Market! It may take some time for the concept to come to fruition, but our customers are excited about it and the cost . . . . well, let's just say it does not involve a Bank and Dave Ramsey would be very pleased.

We appreciate each and every one of you. Those of you who are far away and share our adventure with us on Facebook and our blog and those of you who faithfully come to the market each Saturday to enjoy our bread and bagels.

Thoughtfully - Kath