Tuesday, May 26, 2009

At it again

We're back up and running. All systems go. Tough coming back and needing to hit the ground with both feet movin'. Short weeks are especially hard when you are involved in hand producing a perishable product. We are short a days production this week that we won't feel until the end of the week. I've always said it would be easier for us to work holidays than to try to come back from the off day. This year we will only be closed five days. Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas, December 26th, and New Years Day. We will be open July Fourth since it falls on a Saturday, too much business to pass up. We used to be closed Easter and Thanksgiving, but sales volume is to the point that we just couldn't handle it in one day. Spreading it over two days is just so much easier.

I may have gotten ahead of myself. I thought about it yesterday, maybe a little overview of the baking process is in order. First, whenever I speak of the baking process, I'm referring to baking yeast leavened products. It's where a baker's true skills are revealed. Baking baguettes, nothing is more difficult. Four ingredients, flour, water, salt and yeast. To create flavour using those simple ingredients is very, very difficult. It's easy to make bread full of cheeses, dried fruit, olives, garlic, etc. But a real baker only needs the simple things. Why do you think there is a grocery store aisle full of "cake" mixes? Add water and stir. Some of you might be old enough to remember "Easy Bake Oven". A child's toy. To bake cakes. Add water and stir. Here is where someone who bakes, and a baker, get separated. There are so many variables that occur in bread baking. Every batch of bread is different. Every bag of flour is different. Knowing how to manage all the variables is what a baker does. Someone who just "bakes" doesn't know what to do when something goes askew. They just stand back and say "I don't know what went wrong, I followed the recipe".

A baker starts with flour, adds salt, water and yeast, and it's kneaded. It's allowed to rise, it's shaped and allowed to rise again. Placed into the oven, and baked. The oldest form of food. It's chiseled into the interior pyramid walls. Been going on and on for centuries. It's all about the manipulation and fermentation. Back to that fermentation thing. Managing fermentation is key.

Just had a thought. Ever wonder why there isn't a "beer mix" aisle? Keep following, I'll tell ya.


Blogger Laminatrix said...

Actually, there ARE beer mix aisles, at specialty shops (Hop House in Madison, WI, for example, or Perfect Brewing in Libertyville)--the kit provides the ingredients (yeast, barley malt, hops). Having participated in both beer-brewing and bread-making, I can say they're both fussy projects, but the beer requires more fiddly bits (washing & sterilizing enough bottles for 5-10 gallons of beer is no small feat).

There's also an interesting beer analogue to the airborne yeasts in bread: the Belgian lambic beers are made with airborne yeasts only, which means the brewers cannot precisely control the flavor of the beer from batch to batch.

May 26, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Laminatrix said...

Actually, there ARE beer mix aisles, at specialty shops like the Hop House in Madison, WI, or Perfect Brewing in Libertyville; the kits contain the ingredients (yeast, malted barley, hops). Having participated in both bread-making and beer-brewing, I'd have to say that beer-brewing has more fiddly bits (like washing and sterilizing enough bottles for 10 gallons of beer . . .).

There's an analogue to airborne yeasts in bread, too: Belgian lambic beers are brewed with only airborne yeasts, which means the brewers cannot precisely control the flavor from batch to batch.

May 26, 2009 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Jory Downer said...

I was unaware of any beer making kits. I'm sure there aren't any fermentation enhancers? I'm sure it still needs to be fermented. I don't think it's possible to create alcohol without some long fermentation. i don't know of any dehydrated, or freeze dried alcohol.

May 26, 2009 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Laminatrix said...

No--no enhancers. Here is a brief overview. It definitely needs to be fermented--for days/weeks, rather than hours--but basically the yeasties give up their lives to give us beer. The kits provide the sugars and yeasts and hops. The sugars vary depending in part on the grain--the most common is malted barley, but you can do something similar with other grains (e.g., rye, as in the Hop Rod Rye beer that Bear Republic makes). Different yeasts and different hops will affect the flavor profiles as well. Also, the link has you soaking the malted barley, but the kits provide a liquid version that enables you to skip the soaking part. But how much you toast the grain also affects the flavor.

I could go on, but will spare you, as I am more expert at drinking, rather than brewing, beer.

May 27, 2009 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Jory Downer said...

My point exactly, "It definitely needs to be fermented--for days/weeks,rather than hours". To make it real, there are no shortcuts.

May 28, 2009 at 7:07 AM  

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