The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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arlo

As some of you know, I was chosen to work with Sharon Burns-Leader, Jeffery Hamelman, and a few other wonderful bakers from the East Coast all of tremendous talent and charm. So much was done in such little time, and yet still so much more research is being done on growing heritage grain varieties to bring them back to market. I know that my time spent at Wide Awake Bakery this past weekend was one of the most memorable moments of my career to date.

Oh, yes, I was nervous. Yes, I didn't feel like I was deserving of being there. And yes, we baked some bread.

I was awfully busy and had little to no time to take pictures, but there was a wonderful young women named Allison who put together quite a site to commemorate our studies. The site can be found here; https://ausavage.exposure.so/wide-awake-bakery

I am the silly fellow with lots of tattoos and orange glasses. There is also a flickr of pictures too! That can be found here; http://www.flickr.com/photos/jruss/sets/72157640062973973/

This was the first day, I am seen mixing up one of the heritage varieties sourdough. We worked with eight kinds of wheat and were not allowed to know which kind either until the end.

There was many parameters, protocols, and evaluations for us to follow. Under the guidance of Jeffery, we all did our best, and we did it well.

I have been trying to figure the correct words to say about this event, but I think it will be easier to summarize why this research has been ongoing and still has a few years left to complete.

It is an attempt to find whole, sustainable, value-added organic grains, bringing back economically viable grain farming to the East again. Pretty short and to the point right? Can't say I ever really liked typing a lot ; )

Check out ogrin.org/grains_OREI.html for abit more info on the topic.

I sent my greetings from those who wished, to those in need of hearing. I met amazing people I would have otherwise never had the chance to cross paths with. I explored a great city, ate some great food, and took part in something larger.

And over dinner one night with Mr. Hamelman, I believe I was too choked up with trying my best to answer all his questions and thought provoking considerations he was asking me that I may have forgotten to say this in its entirety, but perhaps I did in other words. But what I have come to realize with all my time spent working in bakeries is that why I bake is because it goes beyond me, it is for something much larger. Community is a start, culture is a part, but it is being a small part in something so much more that I simply can't see doing something else.

I am flying back out this coming weekend and working at a very nice bakery in New York for the weekend. It is a job offer I am rather excited over, but my nervous nature is already making me in a tizzy. I will have more info on that at a later date!

Finally, I mean no harm in sharing the photos and linking to these websites. If the photographers mind, please contact me immediately and I will remove them. Otherwise, thank you.

 

 

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arlo

During the heat of my Thanksgiving rush in the bakery right now (so many rolls...so many rolls), I received word from a wonderful lady I was interviewed by back in May, named June. She works with New York State in Agriculture and specifically was interviewing about my heavy usage (roughly 90%) of local whole grains. 

We talked and talked about baking, why I choose, and how I can choose to use locally grown and milled grains. What I face with such choices and some more wonderful bread related banter. Near the end, she informed about a handful of bakers to be organized in Ithaca, New York for trial and analysis of some varietal grains -just yesterday I received the email asking to join along to work with some wonderful, gifted bakers, including Mr. Hamelman.

Needless to say, I nearly spat out my green tea, and thought, "Damn..." I'll keep everyone informed as this progresses towards the event date in January.

It isn't just because it is 'that time of the year', but I believe it goes without say, I am truly thankful for such an opportunity at nearly 26 years of age. I hope to make the most of this opportunity and continue my education, to the fullest.

Arlo.

 

Bread in the WFO, rolls to roll, orders to fill, no need to sleep. Oh and the picture is just a sourdough baguette (one of many) from this mornings bake so far. I haven't posted much pictures lately : (

 

 

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arlo

I just finished my bake this morning;  the loaves came out of the WFO just lovely, and I am proud of the new night mixer I have trained and graciously added to the team. His end game isn't baking, in fact, its medical studies and the sort. But he mixes some amazing doughs consistently, and works very hard each shift. I appreciate his efforts, and have been reminding him daily that I find his work ethics impressive and honorable.

An alarm went off on my phone at 3:30 a.m. this morning, I was already about two hours into my work day when I checked to see if it was a message from my partner telling me about her closing shift and how she is walking on her way home safely, or perhaps my Mother informing me of how my sick Grandmother was doing.

Turns out that it was a reminder.

Four years ago today I started my first position baking for a living. I remember exactly that moment too when I looked at the clock. I know, it sounds so movie-sentimental. But really, lately, everything I have been going through with my first Management position in the baking world...it has made me realize what I chose to do that day, and what it takes at times to follow something you love. I wonder if I would have done this if I knew how different professional can be from home at times!

I remember waking up at 2:30 a.m. and being so bleary-foggy-headed that morning/night and thinking, "What on earth...", my fiance at the time rolling over and covering her head with a pillow because of my alarm ringing was thinking the same. But I did it! I awoke. From that day forth and still to this day, I have never been late for a 3:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 1:30 a.m. or even a 12:30 midnight shift at a bakery. I guess I was just born to do this kinda thing.

It was chilly, I drove with my music blaring loudly, something punk rock I am sure, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Minor Threat...something. That hasn't changed still to this day. No amount of tea or coffee could make my body understand why I was up right now. That really hasn't changed either. For a moment I asked myself what I was doing. I was a bread enthusiast, baked some loaves at home, took a class or two prior with my fiance, owned a few books on the topic, but I was a medical major in college and was working a nice paying job full-time as well. A nice paying job I quit to start something I didn't even know if I had the potential to do. I suppose it was the push from my fiance to do something I actually enjoyed instead of considering money and 'down-the-line' all the time. It also seemed so romantic -to bake bread for the community! Regardless, I pulled in to the Great Harvest to see a fellow already scaling some ingredients. He greeted me with a kind smile and the heat of the bakery hit me. I was welcomed kindly by two other bakers and the owner. I was to be put right to work mixing the first sponges and some pastries as well; muffins, scones, cookies. The morning moved quickly and I did a bit of everything that day; Mixing using a large hobart, scaling ingredients, prep work, shaping loaves, baking and taking home my first loaf of bread I 'professionally' baked. I could go more into detail about the exacts of my shift, but I'll hold off.

Eight hours later though I was done and on my way home with a smile on my face, also a nap on my mind. When my Grandfather found out I was baking, he laughed. Before the war he baked in a European-minded bakery and always used to mention how hot the ovens were in the morning for the rye bake, and how he hated cleaning the pans more than anything. Suppose it is in the family too...

The years passed and I continued to bake and learn more and more, never happy with my results, always striving for more. The following years saw me complete my degree in restaurant-hospitality management, become an ACF Pastry Chef, become a head-baker at a small shop, work a stint out of state, work another mid-sized bakery, become a main-mixer at a world-class bakery, and now a manager at an organic, wood-fired oven bakery. I am young, and sometimes I ask where the time has gone. I need to look no further than the loaves of bread that I am pulling out of the oven, or the sourdough starter I am continuously stirring each day.

I haven't posted a lot, and that is in part because I haven't baked much at home at all lately. I've learned what management can mean in this business (restaurants in general to I suppose), and what it takes at times to triumph through some hardships. A little glimpse would be this: I was finally able to take my first day off in over two solid months this past Saturday for my partners birthday. The best gift she said she could have asked for was for me to be able to sleep-in next to her -I haven't had two days off in a week yet since March either. Part of it if the state of the current bakery and my effort to turn it around, part of it is employees leaving for school, changing jobs, covering prior scheduled vacations, trying to adapt to new hours, all the normal facts you face in the industry and running a business I suppose. Last time I talked to my Father who has run corporations, has traveled constantly for work, and now is a VP for a North American operations again, laughed whole-heartedly at me when I told him I was tired. He understood, but knows I will continue to persevere. There was a month period where I was working 2:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., then returning to work from 5:00 p.m. till 9:30 p.m., sleeping my day away, then sleeping for a few hours at night and doing it all again. The hiring process was slow and unforgiving, my partner was so accepting of it all and stood by me and that was more than I could have asked for. I had lost a relationship prior to the oddities that are baker hours. So it goes.

So what made me not throw in the towel?

As I pulled some loaves of organic Caraway rye with Rye flakes outta the oven, some pumpkin pecan rolls too. I set them aside, jumped back to shaping up some batards of locally milled sifted-wheat and rye. The dough felt exceptional this morning. Perfectly hydrated at 77%, the canvases lightly floured, my hands repeating the motions like it was all they know. Keeping my eye on the clock, turning up one of my favorite hardcore songs that was playing and realized that it is because of bread that I keep coming back each morning. It is like my mornings are secret at times, in a sincere, special, romantic sort of way. Me, a co-worker on occasions, the heat of the brick oven, some of my favorite vinyl spinning, and the loaves of bread that will feed some people that I may never get the chance to meet. I work through the night, till the early morning light. The small issues of management/staffing/ect. that I am facing is temporary, like much in life. The happiest part of my day is moments like yesterday when I talked to a young lady on the phone about how she was so happy to know I was baking more of the sourdough caraway rye. She talked and talked about how no one else around town makes it like me. She thanked me and told me I made her day. I just said, "Thank you, and you can expect the loaves on the shelves tomorrow."

Seldom in my four years have I experienced gratitude personally from customers. I wake in the middle of the night, bake away my energy, load the shelves with fresh baked goodies, then manage to go home, spend some time relaxing and being tired by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Friends my age typically are partying the weekends away, some are finishing their doctorates, some have started families. Sometimes when the bars get out, my friends stop by and wish me a good day of work. I appreciate it.

Four great years have passed and no, I haven't baked the perfect loaf yet. In fact, far from it. And I have many miles left to go too. Where I am now is not where I will be in a year from now. But I will be baking a year from now as long as my body lets me, and I will be sure to let everyone know where as well.

Four years, not even really that long of a time...

But damn, if I could only recall just how many loaves I have shaped, scored, baked and yup...eaten as well. Good thing I like to run and work-out. And darn it, I have a full sleeve of tattoos dedicated to baking. Yup...I am in it for life.

Haha!

 

Thanks TFL, and those that took a moment to read a personal blog.

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arlo

Oh jeez, where'd my holidays go?

Oh wait, waking up at 11 p.m. for work at midnight till noon! What a rush! I loved it!

As amazing as it was for my first holiday as the one of the main mixers at Zingerman's for the holidays, kinda glad I clock in at 2 a.m. now though! Unforunately, being a production area, cell phones are highly discouraged so snapping pictures isn't really a possibility. But I'll fill everyone in by saying, I mixed all through the holidays, baked some nice loaves, spent many many days in a blur of work, come home to sleep till my alarm went off at night, repeat. Laundry was neglected, so was shopping for food, and if I had a pet, I don't know what happened to it! (Did I have a pet?)

When Christmas day and Thanksgiving day came, all I did was sleep. Glorious! I don't know, but no matter how much sleep you get, waking up at 11 at night is still really hard, haha!

But I was making some amazing bread, and that's what matters. In fact, the day before Thanksgiving, I took part in making over 20,000 pieces for the day shift alone! Insane to think I was working with that much dough!

Now things have calmed down a bit and I am switching between being the main mixer, baking challah, french and starting on the rye ovens soon. We also have had Tino from the Dresdner Stollen backerei staying with us to teach a few classes this coming week at our school, and enjoy some American baking. This morning Tino and I were mixing together with Wurzelbrot, Dinkelbrot, Kartoffelbrot and one other spiced and delicious dough as well. Tino is pretty awesome to work with and in a matter of a few hours I learned quite a bit from him.

His bakery and a bit of profile can be seen here; Dresdner Stollen.

Whats in store for my baking in 2013? Well, I just received my third baking related tattoo yesterday with a partial-quote from Hamelman on it, so cross that off the list.  Just gotta finish a bit more of my arm to have a sleeve of baking related tattoos! Oh, jeez, I'm marked. In it for life.

Perhaps travel to another bakery this summer for a week internship (maybe Dresdner?), I should be putting in a few hours a week doing pastries at Zingermans as well as bread baking, and also working the night shift as well as the day shift too. Essentially try and learn everything Zingermans has to offer me. All of these ideas have been conveyed to those that need to hear them, and actions are slowing being made to make it all work. Nice n' busy.

Oh, and make my Pain de Urban loaf even better with skills I've picked up from all the bakeries I've worked at now over the years. And to think, I turned 25 in December and still have a whole life-time of baking ahead me. Makes my heart flutter a bit.

Take care!

Arlo

If you're wondering, my other bread tats are a baguette that says fresh daily on the inside of my whole bicep, and then a play on the band 'Black Flag' with four chocolate eclairs lined up like their logo, and the words 'Baked Goods' aligned accordingly.

Classy right? Hahaha....

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arlo

Holy crap! What a year so far!

So did I go to Madison to be a pastry chef? Or did I stay in Michigan and start bread baking at one the nations best bakeries?

 

...

 

Well, I ended up staying in Michigan and striking out on my own for the first time in a very long time! With support of my once-fiance, and her still standing by myside in a sense, I made the move realitively easily and haven't looked back on it yet. So if you are reading this dear, thanks again for always listening to me and still being so kind of a person to me! Hope our birds are well!

-

What am I doing at Zingermans? Well, I am doing the 3:45 a.m. mixing, and french baking currently. Along with scaling, shaping and blah blah blah. But my primary focus is the 2nd shift mixing at 3:45 a.m. and the french at the moment. 3:45 a.m.? Yea, it is like sleeping in for me :) But there really isn't a second of down time at all- on any given day. Which I have come to enjoy truthfully. My 8+ hours are filled with dough. It keeps my mind off everything else in life. There is constant practice of shaping, scoring, baking, mixing and scaling. I am certainly thankful to have this position.

So here is some pics of some baguettes I mixed, scaled, pre-shaped, shaped, scored and baked!

Enjoy!




 Pay no mind to the recycling bag or messy counter top...

Take care!

Arlo

 

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arlo

This isn't a bread picture blog and I apologize. It is more of a catch-up blog for those who have wondered where I have been and what I have been doing in my baking career. No, I am not conceeded, I just remember one or two people asking what I have been up too while I pop in-n-out of TFL on occasions.

It has been quite some time since my last post, and I have plenty of reasons for it too. A seperation between my fiance of five years and I in late Decemeber, opening a new bakery at beginning of the year in Lansing, finishing college in two weeks(!) and now picking between moving to Madison, Wi to work as a pastry chef for the University, or to bake bread at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor.

Of course I face the pain of leaving my small independent bakery where I have been working for a year, and as of three months ago, six days a week work schedule -- the downside of being the only bread baker!! I have learned lots for sure and it has helped me work on my skills even more so in the three years I have been baking for a living. But I must move on... just like when I left Great Harvest after spending two years there.

Lots of choices and going on's in my life for sure. So that is a little window into my life lately. A lot of bumps in my road and at one point I felt like I was at the bottom of the barrel with the seperation in all. When you are scratching the bottom though, the only way from there is up, right?

I'll let everyone know my choice of where I am headed when I make it. Which will be very soon.

 

 

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arlo

Advanced warning: For those seeking pictures, turn back now. I was too busy to pull out my phone and take pictures over the course of production. Sorry. Maybe in December though!

As some of you may know, I moved on to a new bakery a little bit more than a half a year ago. My new employment brought along great opportunities, such as being in charge of bread production, recipe development and better hours. I have been enjoying it, though it has given me plenty of ups and downs, but thankfully I made it through my first holiday at the new bakery.

I arrived Tuesday morning a bit before 2:00 a.m., so not much earlier than normal. I had been working through the weekend on and off formulating what I felt I would need to bake for Tuesday and Wednesday, and had it checked over with the owner. This saved some time Tuesday morning allowing me to start the mixing as soon as I arrived. I had on the agenda 250-300 rolls (butter, sour-seeded, multigrain, rye, pumpernickel), around 70 loaves of bread (eight varities), stuffing mix (essential old bread, re-baked, seasoned, ect.), crostini, numerous brioche-cinnamon rolls, and I am sure something else as well. Doesn't seem like too much, but I am the only one who does any of the bread baking, shaping, mixing, ect. And I also needed to be at college by 9:30 a.m. Ha! Challenge accepted. I just turned on my favorite cd and began.

Needless to say, I took up every deck of our Blodgett Oven, used a lot of flour, butter and other goodies and made a nice assortment of products for our small bakery. When my time came to leave, I had everything out of the oven and all products cooling.

Wednesday morning I arrived a bit earlier than Tuesday. I had another 200 rolls to make, about the same quantity of bread, and even more crostini. Also some help making various pies, scones and other assorted pastries  a bit later in the day. Thankfully because of my early arrival, I was able to make the most of my time and used it effectively. I was able to leave around 10:00 a.m. with everything all cleaned up and the products cooling on the racks. I felt accomplished and hoped for a good day!

I stopped by my old bakery to chat with my friends since it is right across the street from my current apartment. They were up a great percentage from last year (not that they were down the past years) and made around 1000 rolls on Monday and Tuesday, plus they worked Sunday. Wednesday was another day for a tremendous amount of rolls as well. It was nice to see everyone and they let me run the oven for a bit, finishing off some rolls and loaves of bread.

I thought about how different my two jobs are from each other when I walked home. One was a large production kitchen were I was a baker among three others, not including the two table helpers for shaping and panning. At the new place I am all alone with my music and my craft. Do I regret the switch? No, I do not think regret is the right word. I enjoy my freedom and responsibilities now, and the thought of growth. But I do miss sharing all those laughs with my co-workers. Such is life though! So it goes.

Now here I am, I didn't sleep-in since I was planning on making some goods for my fiance and I while we relax before she has to work tonight for Black Friday (4th year at Best Buy and watching those crazed shoppers) and before I go back in and start all over again.

Hope you baking goes well today :)

 

 

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arlo

I am in my Columbus, Ohio suite waiting patiently till I can leave to go to the culinary institute to take my American culinary federation pastry test. I have been working on this for pretty much the whole year, maybe starting around Febuary.

I believe I will be testing with six other candidates today, some doing pastries, some doing artistry.

Nervous, slight headache, and a father who has smoked more cigarettes than I could remember, telling me to take it easy.
:)

If I don't succeed today, just gotta save up the money, practice more, and try it again.

-Arlo
From my phone, so bear with me:)

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arlo

At work I make a 'Pain de campagne' style loaf that features a whole wheat preferment. The outcome is a delicious dough with a flubbery like feeling when it comes off the mixer. It is an all around good loaf of bread for toast, sandwichs, dipping and so on. I have come to enjoy the flavors offered by prefermenting whole grains which is why I decieded to formulate this new recipe featuring a whole grain preferment, but better yet, a whole-rye sour also removing any commercial yeast from the loaf!

Now, I live in the heart of the capital of Michigan...hardly the country. So I felt it wasn't right in calling this loaf a 'country bread'. So I suppose it is my Pain de Urban if you will. The formula for the loaf follows;

Rye Sour -

The night before or depending on how active your rye starter is;

3.4 oz whole rye flour - 24.3%

3.4 oz water (68 degree water for me at the time, my apartment was very hot with the 90+ degree weather outside before I went to bed) - 24.3%

1 tspn of starter

Combine to form a paste lightly sprinkle the top with rye flour. Let ferment until the starter is ready for use. The flour on top should form little islands.

Dough -

All of rye starter

10.57 oz all purpose flour (used KAF) - 75.8%

.25 oz salt (used grey salt) 1.7%

5.1 oz water (once again I used a bit cooler water since even at 4 a.m. my apartment was rather hot) - 36.5%

 

Combine all the ingredients in your mixer, holding back a little bit of the water. Mix till a shaggy mass forms, at this point turn off the mixer, reach inside and squeeze the shaggy mass. If the center feels a bit dry, add the water and continue mixing for another thirty seconds or so. Turn off the mixer if needed and check again. A bit more water may be needed at this point, but if you take a look at the doughs percentages, this isn't really a 'rustic' loaf, its around 60% hydration. Complete the mix till it cleans the bowl and forms a very low degree of window pane.

At this point though, the loaf should be fairly smooth, but not fully developed. The developing will come later with a stretch and fold on the bench.

This was my dough after mixing, I'd say very presentable!

Allow the dough to ferment for one hour, apply a stretch and fold and return to your proofing bowl/basket/bucket/ect. After two and a half hours, my dough became nicely fermented and was ready for shaping!

Numerous bubbles of all sizes all over the dough and easily doubled in size. The dough felt supple as I removed it gently from the container to begin with shaping.

I shaped the loaf into a boule and placed on linen and covered. An hour before you think the loaf is ready, pre-heat your oven to 450 and prepare whatever new wild steaming method you find to be helpful. For me today, since I was baking one loaf, I used the good old dutch oven.

The final proof lasted around two and a half hours. I then scored the loaf gently and placed under the dutch oven for twenty minutes covered. After twenty minutes, I uncovered the loaf and let it bake for another twenty minutes, then a final five minutes with the oven off.

Crisp, crackley crust, and a nice rye flavor to it.

It went well as a vessle for Dubliner cheese grilled and pressed sandwiches served with a side of some fancy french mustard as my friend and I brewed some more beer this weekend. Our ritual is now becoming beer brewing, discussion of new tattoos, and delicious sandwichs when all is said and done. I am ok with that.



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arlo

Trust me, I've been baking, but not much in my tiny apartment where if the oven gets turned on, it feels like it for days.

But on and off in the wee early hours of the morning on the days I have off I try to squeeze in a few small bakes that have been used as gifts for those around me. Included in those bakes are;

40% rye with caraway - went to a fellow baker at work.

Vermont Sourdough, though the loaf was longer than anticipated resulting in the ends being a bit smooshed. Family friend felt this one was of the tastiest loaves yet, I on the other hand could not get past the superficial factors of my poorly planned length during shaping.

Here is a shot of the crust crackling shortly after being removed from the oven...

And finally, this loaf I baked today shortly after leaving the bakery in the morning. It's your basic Pain Rustique, a loaf I highly recommend for those who have yet to try it. It will be going to a high school friend I recently reaquantied with after a few years away from him during college. He brought me along to brew a very large batch of Hefeweizen yesterday after last week we met up for tea and discussed what we are becoming involved in. It was quite lovely to catch up, realize how similar our passions are and how great they can taste!

 

 

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