Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Camillo has hives

Camillo has been our starting night man for thirty two years. Has never been late. Walks to work. Our time clock divides an hour into hundredths. He punches a time clock, his start time never varies more than five hundredths of an hour. Thirty two years. Slipped and fell on the ice comin' to work once, broke his wrist. Missed some time for that. Fell down the basement stairs here, broke his ankle. Missed some time for that. Vacationed back to Mexico a few times. Never been late. He shapes all the dough's at night. Donuts, baguettes, ciabatta, a few coffee cakes, etc. His skills are well above average. Good baker, nice guy. Nice family.

Yesterday morning, he came in raised his shirt, he is flaming red. Even his face. He is covered in hives. Had a doctors note, bottom line can't work for three nights. He said he is only taking off, two. We shifted some things around and I ended up coming in last night to help out. I never mind. It's peaceful at night. The daytime elements aren't here to interfere with my day. No deliveries, phone doesn't ring, we just work.

While I was here last night, I was again reminded of the magic of fermentation. Amber loaves coming from the oven. I thought about the mechanics of the whole process. It's so simple, I only wished I had realized earlier, the importance of the proper flour. One aspect I've yet to mention,is the way this softer flour bakes. I can remember years ago, I'd arrive here in the morning with my dad. There would always be something that got overbaked. Always. Something I learned here in the recent past is about a thing called the "Maillard" reaction. It was proven by a French chemist, that protein, in the presence of extreme heat and moisture will yield a black substance. The best example is grill marks on a steak. Ever wonder why that happens? Now you know, extreme heat, protein and moisture. This reaction is not selective about where the protein comes from. Protein is protein, linked amino acids.
The same is true in the crust of baked goods. Primarily where there isn't a lot of sugars to caramelize. Bread is a perfect example, flour, water, salt and yeast. If you reduce the amount of protein in your flour, the bread can stay in the oven longer, bake more thorough, and not get that overbaked colour. It develops a better, more sturdy crust. Been a long time since I've seen bread, darkened by the flash of oven heat. Even our croissants, danish, brioche and puff pastry bakes with better colour. One thing so simple, yet so important.

Gonna call Camillo, see how he's doing. He told me that if he felt better he'd be in tonight. I could use some sleep.


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