The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

nate9289's blog

nate9289's picture

As I promised on my last entry, I took pictures of my bakery during work this morning.  I'll explain some of the methods and processes that we employ as well, since each boulangerie does things its own way.  We are an artisan bakery and use no pre-fabricated frozen dough or chemical additives.  The levain for most of the breads (excluding the standard baguettes) is all natural, made with apple juice we press ourselves.

I work with a small staff of two bread bakers and one pastry chef - the patron or boss makes the specialty cakes.  The bakers work from 3am/5am until 9am/11am every day, and the pastry chef from 5am until afternoon.  Breads not baked in the morning are baked by the boss in the wood-fired oven two or three times during the day, but all the work is done before 10am except for the specialty cakes.  The short hours and small staff keep costs way down while managing to put out between 800 to 1100 loaves daily in about 30-40 different varieties.  While some credit should be given to the equipment, most belongs to the two bakers themselves who are incredible to see in action.  I'm thankful to be learning from them!  So, the pictures:


We use an 8-deck hearth oven at 310 deg. C, or 590 deg. Fahrenheit.  Loaves are taken out of the retarder in the morning and let proof before going in the oven.  The first baker arrives at 3am and takes them out, mixing other doughs to let bulk ferment during the early morning hours.  Around 5am the other baker arrives and the oven gets going.  One baker forms baguettes to be retarded that afternoon and night while the other bakes the breads from the day before.  At 9am everything for the day has been baked and we weigh all the specialty doughs, which have been fermenting, and fashion all the loaves, and then they go in the retarder until the next morning.  This is the process for 90% of the breads.



The specialty doughs go in the spiral mixer and the normal white dough goes in the large oblique mixer.



Baguettes during pre-shaping:


Here are some loaves about to go in the oven.  The dark ones are baguettes aux céréales and the one with the ring is bread made with hazelnut flour.  The second picture show baguettes nouvelles, explained below.


For the baguettes nouvelles (new baguettes), the dough undergoes a 72 hour bulk fermentation in the refrigerator and then is formed with a hydraulic machine to not deflate the gas.  Notice the machine and the metal grill below:


Here are some loaves fresh from the oven: round miches, large pain paysan, regular baguettes on the oven loader, dusted baguettes de tradition, and baguettes nouvelles in the case.





My favorite bread we bake each Saturday is the grand pain paysan, a slab of dough weighing 5kg, or 11lbs!  It's sold by the kilo.


I don't do much with pastries - one absolute master pastry chef makes them all.  Fresh strawberries are all the rage right now, and we're doing a buy 3 strawberry pastries, get 1 free deal.  The picture with the almonds and raisins shows mini-kugelhopfs, the special pastry of my neighbor region Alsace.




Finally, some pictures from inside the store.  Most boulangeries suffer from either an overly-elaborate or overly-dull store space, often too small.  Not the case here!  From the enormous wood-fired oven imported from Mexico - producing an unbelievably tasty bread - to the lime green walls, it's a great place to find whatever suits your palate.






At home after a long morning of work, enjoying a baguette nouvelle.  Hope you've enjoyed the pictures!



nate9289's picture

I've been reading TFL and the countless blogs of its contributors for a while now and finally have decided to jump on board!  I figured this first post would be sort of an introduction, a get-to-know-me page.  

So, during the past 8 months I've spent my first year post-college teaching English at a high school and middle school in the Lorraine region of France.  I live in a shabby apartment inside the high school, ill-equipped for any kind of cooking or baking that's not of the microwave variety.  Hence the "difficulties" part of this post.

My "oven" is a toaster oven with the timer dial missing:

 Toaster oven


The only measuring utensil - much less scale - is a large plastic 1L cup with markings for water, sugar, flour, and rice:


I have random old pots to double as bowls; no whisks or wooden spoons; and no counter tops, just a small kitchen table (with an unforgivable tablecloth) and a cutting board: have you tried to keep 1kg of wet dough in the confines of a tiny wooden rectangle?  I assure you, it's not easy. 


Now, to the "delights" of learning to bake in France:

Organic T65 flour available for about 80 cents a kilo:


Nice Levure Boulangère, although I doubt this is much different than instant yeast found in the USA:

Great examples to follow from just down the street!!:


So far, the difficulties would seem to outweight the delights, except for one fact.  For the past three months I've been fortunate enought to be doing an apprenticeship at an award-winning boulangerie in my town.  Usually 2-3 mornings per week before teaching my classes I walk down the street to the boulangerie help with everything there is concerning bread: mixing the different doughs, shaping the breads, scoring, loading and unloading the breads in the oven, and getting them ready for sale in the store or delivery.  We make about 180 different breads and pastries daily, and I'd say about 30 of these are strictly variations on bread.

I'm going to bring my camera in with me one morning since there's only a couple weeks left and take pictures of my boulangerie and the different processes we use, since every one does them differently. 

In the past couple weeks I've tried to adapt what I've learned to baking at home, although as can be seen from above, this is not nearly as easy as I'd thought.  I'll be posting my attempts online from the two weeks I have left in my shoddy apartment, and then hopefully continuing from my home kitchen back in the USA.

Bon appétit et bon pain!




Subscribe to RSS - nate9289's blog