Thursday, July 9, 2009

what makes it worth it

We did very well yesterday at both the Aville market and the GCM. Folks turned up in spite of the rain. Last night at Aville, it sprinkled most of the evening. We were so busy, I called the bakery and they ran us over some more bread. More testimonial to the fact that the world is starving for upper quality bread products. I must stress, I'm not boasting here, I'm stating facts.

Being there, working the market is very enjoyable. It's difficult for me to attend the daytime markets. I can make it to the one on Wednesday evenings. Last night was our third week there. We keep increasing the amount of product we offer. Gonna kick it up again next week. Rumor is, soon, on a Wednesday early evening, the sun might even be out. I'm gonna have to see it to believe it. I've begun to recognize people that are there every week. For some of them, I've begun to memorize their preferences. Coolest one of all is a French woman, who I converse with in French. She orders macaroons from week to week. For next week, she wants eighteen. Six each, of three flavours. We don't offer them for sale there, but she saw them on our website. Aside from the macaroons, she buys two or three loaves of bread. Creating those relationships with our customers is absolutely the most rewarding part of this business. There are customers who come in our store seven days a week. I know them by name. I like speaking to customers. If they prove to me that they are the least bit passionate about bread baking, I'll show them our bakeshop.

I mentioned Carla Hess, a few postings back. She is a graduate from The French pastry School, here in Chicago. Was here for two years. Spent most of her time here making croissants. She produced over the top croissants. She posted a comment about producing flavourful breads without the trouble of keeping a sourdough culture. I kinda touched on it yesterday. I mentioned taking an old piece of yeasted dough, that has been in the refrigerator for a few days. That is kinda what we do, only using a controlled plan. This process would be known as using a yeasted starter. They can be put together in many different configurations. Salted or not, stiff or liquid. I suppose on the first day, way back, we made a straight forward baguette dough. Maybe in the morning, let's say 6am. We used(percentage now, not pounds) 100 flour, 65 water, 2 salt & 1.5 yeast. We ran it five minutes in low speed. We cut it out of the mixer and placed it in a Rubbermaid barrel on wheels. We allowed it to set at room temperature for one hour. By 8am it was pushed into the fridge, and it was in there when the nighttime production crew started. This dough was allowed to ferment for twelve or fourteen hours. The yeast had plenty of time to do it's thing. It created a lot of aromas and alcohol. When it is uncovered, and one inhales thru your nose, you'll get a slight burning feeling in your nose. That is caused by the alcohol created during the fermentation. When you feel this mass of dough, it will feel much more "rubbery". What happens is the acidity created during fermentation has had it's positive effect on the gluten. This process is called the "prefermented dough process". At night when the final dough is mixed, we use 100 flour, 65 water, 2 salt, 1 yeast, .2 malt & 40 prefermented dough, from now on PFD. This is all mixed together, allowed to ferment and divided, shaped and baked. With one exception, the baker would hold back a big chunk of it and put it in that barrel, back in the fridge, until the next day.

That's pretty much it. The big question, what if you don't have enough PFD to make the next batch of bread? This is where the artisan process get tricky. As the bakers leave to go home, regardless of their shift, they need to make sure there is enough PFD for the next guy. Another issue is, how long can you use this PFD, until it gets over fermented. We need to use it up within thirty six hours. Never an issue here, we are constantly making it.

Alot of effort, yes, but I remember that French woman, her words make it all worth it. She said "vôtre est la première boulangerie i' , le VE a trouvé ici aux Etats-Unis, celui fait des produits comme nous avons la maison arrière, merci. Vous me rendez moins nostalgique".

Next week, I'm gonna get her name.


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