The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

This is NOT my bread!!!

  • Pin It
Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

This is NOT my bread!!!

 

As I stated before I did not bake this bread.

I just came back from a customers house and they were kind to give me this gift of bread.  They bought it from the local bakery in my town.  They know I bake bread regularly and they often get loaves of bread or croissants from my oven.  The loaf on the left is a walnut whole wheat and I don't know about the other but it's white.

The pictures are not the greatest but I would like your opinion of what you see in this bread.  If you were passing through my town would you buy some?

Just looking for your thoughts.

 

MANNA's picture
MANNA

My honest opinion. No, I wouldnt go out of my way to purchase it. On the first pic. The crust on both loafs lacks color due to not enough steam. Its also slightly mis-shapen. The white bread shows poor shaping possibly due to overuse of flour while on the bench. You can see in the larger score that there is a layer. The surface layer and another below it. Again over use of flour while handling the dough. The wheat loaf shows sign crust seperation at the bottom. This can be due to under-proofing or it was drafty where it rose and allowed drying of the dough surface. Second photo. Here on the white loaf we see  the big channel running through it about 3/4 the way up. Thats due to poor shaping (I've been there too). It also has large holes surrounded by dense crumb, under-proofed. The wheat loaf has compacted crumb with that channel on the left side. Poor shaping and under-proofed. If the flavor is good then the baker just needs to improve their bench technique and soon we may all be stopping in for a loaf.

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

No.

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Dear Faith:  Are these breads from a "bonafide" bakery?  How does it taste? I am not a Professional bread maker but my breads look much better than the above. I would never buy it.

By the way, I am going to Norwich to learn how to make "Mediterranean bread". We can exchange the recipe and how to when we get together.

Also, come and eat "free" my foods. I am doing a promotion of my school at the Plough and heart store in Roanoke(Valley view Mall next door to Panera Bread) April 20th

mantana

yy's picture
yy

Honestly, I would not buy this bread. The crusts are dull and pale, and the loaves are poorly shaped. Looking at the exterior alone, I would not expect good flavor or texture, so I'd definitely pass.

Did the flavor redeem the appearance?

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

When I was a teenager and travelling with my mother on camping trips for vacation, she might have bought one because they look "homey". I realize that the aspiration of most home bakers is to make bread that looks professional, but there are people out there who associate a less professional appearance with greater home-made virtues. I don't feel you could make a business based on that unless either the bread tasted really good, or you were selling to tourists near a historical or archaeological site, or possibly both.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

I realize you're looking for votes, so I'll chime in even though I don't have anything to add to Manna's critique. The layer of flour in the loaf on the left, and the odd cavities on the right, suggest some shaping problems. The exterior has that lumpy appearance I get when I've overproofed my baguettes. These probably taste good which is why the baker has been urged to go commercial, but they will be better with more expert shaping and more even crumb.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

common in the Mediterranean, not sure it should be scored but does strike me as a bland semi dry "good for one day" kind of daily bread often served with strong cheese and smoked meat, a big thick wedge of ripe tomato and olive pickles.  I would be curious to try it and compare to my experiences to see how much drippings or olive oil a wedge can soak up.  

The loaf on the left doesn't interest me.  The light lines of flour actually bother me.  

But if this was a assassin turned baker, I'd give him another month and try again.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

From a professional bakery I would expect enough appreciation for their craft to make their breads look nice and appetizing. Handmade doesn't mean it has to look homey, and I agree with the others: the crumb doesn't look very professional either.

And I absolute hate underbaked, pale crusts.

Karin

 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

No not looking for votes Otis.  Sometimes in life things don't make sense and this is one of them.   Manna was spot on with the assessment of this bread.  Amazing what you can see even with poor images.  Unfortunately the flavor is just as lacking as the crust is leathery and the crumb texture is unusual in the mouth and is also short on salt.  I have seen pictures of Mantana's bread and I agree her bread looks so much better.   I don't know exactly what you mean by "bonafide" bakery but she has a business location and apparently has contracts with local establishments for bread orders and sells to the public.

My customer that graciously gave me this gift are world travelers and I assume have been exposed to quality breads because of our discussion of baguettes he had while in France.  So it's not like they are some local farmer that has never traveled far from the farm and may have had limited exposure to good bread.  Yet, this bread was purchased with great pride, as a prize and of a quality worthy of being a gift.

MangoChutney may have a point. Over the years my town has become a place for tourists and we have a hippie culture that is lingering from the 60's.  So the rustic homey appearance to the loaf should not take away from taste and texture.

I think what is twisting my brain the most is this bread is selling and people are going back to get more.  Some things I just don't understand.

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Dear Faith:

  Looking and reading your post, I too am flabbergasted of why poor food thrived in our neck of the wood????  You know where I live and also know that this is a retired community with million dollars homes andpeople who traveled all over the face of the earth. It is not uncommon that many of these people traveled oversea more than 3 times a year! ( I know, I exercise at the same place with them).

  What puzzled me the most was that we have approximately 3-4 Mexican restaurants, 3 Chinese, one Japanese and bunches of fast foods.  The "awful" Chinese thrived and sells all you care to eat buffet, the Mexicans restaurants are not much better and the Japanese restaurant should not be call "Japanese" because the food, the taste and the presentation are horrible.   These people on the lake ca afford to eat anything but they choose to eat these "cheap foods"!  One may think that these people are old so they can't cook. No they are not.  They are strong and educated people. 

I came from a big town in Fl. and Thailand where poor quality restaurants will never survive so I am wondering that these may be the trend here in VA. rural? 

Thanks for your kind comment about my bread. 

Mantana

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

The path to good bread is not an easy one. The feast always begins with the eyes making presentation a large part of the sales process. 

Hope you left TFL's URL with the proprietor so it could be passed on...,

Wild-Yeast

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I did not want to mention any names here or the name of my town for this place to be searched.  My intent with this post was not to trash the bakery or the baker  but to look at the product and know that it is selling and people are going back for more.  She has been in business for over a year and the bread has not changed from the time that she started.

I agree with the eye presentation,  just the pictures of your baked goods makes me really want one in hand.  The one time I visited this bakery she had racks of this pale globs of dough that got baked.   The word ugly would be kind.  I bought a loaf and the look matched the quality.  I was thinking to myself that there is no way this bakery would survive.  But I was wrong and she is still going.

You know I would love to start my own bakery and this would be my competition.  She is in town and I'm 5 miles out.  This bread sells and I don't know why.  I have a strong business sense so I look at things like this.  Guess I lack the bakery experience to take that leap and get my own place going.

mcs's picture
mcs

Faith,
Everyone in this forum could bake better bread than that, but they're not the ones buying that baker's bread because they're already educated.

The first year I was selling in Kalispell, I sold very few baguettes.  One of the interns asked me a pointed question.
Him:  "If you tried baking half of your baguettes so they weren't so dark, and half as dark as you bake them now, which do you think would sell more of?"
Me:  "Of course I would sell more of the lightly colored ones because that's what people are used to.  But that's not how they're supposed to be."
Him:  "So in addition to selling your customers baguettes, you are trying to educate them?"
Me:  "Yes."

Two years later, this same intern came back, we made 45 pounds of baguettes for a market (among hundreds of other loaves) and within one hour we sold the baguettes.  Dark ones.

Now here I am in a new location and I'm starting over.  I watch and see people walking around the market with pale bread that they have just purchased from a baker 50' from me.  Why did they buy that bread instead of mine?  I could come up with a million reasons, but the bottom line is they don't know any better.  It takes a bit of time for people to change their habits. 

-Mark

proth5's picture
proth5

In my town, the owners of a small, upscale grocery store went to study with "my teacher" - when I saw what they were producing, it was underbaked.  I'm sure they were doing it to resemble the loaves put out by other bakeries. I could not believe it - because I know that they were taught better ("When in doubt the answer is - bake it more"  - a quote from a fellow student in my pastries class) (And I have seen "my teacher" proudly serve up a palmier that looked nearly black -and it was a bit much for me - but not nearly as unpleasant as I thought it would be.)

Oh- and by no means is the quality of the loaves poor - just not what they could be.

Thing is, I have observed that these loaves were not selling and now the owners a baking a bit darker and trying to use signs to educate people.

I'm wondering if the lack of personal contact (this is at their store) hasn't made the whole thing harder for them and I wonder if the dark loaves will ever sell. Or maybe it is a matter of why bother to buy these when there are plenty of "just out of the oven" pale brown "baguette" to be had from the big boys.  I think about this.

I've been doing quite a brisk trade in free loaves and people rave about the taste - but often ask me if I burned them.  I can only answer that the dark color is what makes them taste good.

As I see the finish line of what might be my final career - I wonder how this baking style could figure into a business plan.  A very timely topic.

Pat

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

I'm guilty of buying light golden baguettes because I stock up on them by freezing them and then re-baking them later. Re-heating the dark ones end up being too hard and burnt.  When we would go to a bakery, we buy both dark and light baguettes. We eat the dark ones immediately. We stock up on the lighter ones. So there's one reason as to why the lighter ones are purchased.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Actually, you get better results if you buy a sufficiently baked baguette, and, before re-crisping it at 375 degrees, spray it with water, or even sprinkle it with water from the faucet. You will get a crisp, but thin crust, whereas, if you re-bake a pale loaf until it's brown, you might end up with a thick crust on a dry bread.

Karin

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And when?  Are laborers picking up lunch bread for stew?  Single households?  Mom's with strollers?  What are the demographics of your area?  Is the location of the shop convenient and require little or no advertisement?  

Competition is not the concern.  If you put up a bakery, you could wipe her out.  Have you considered buying that bakery and hire her as an employee, bring up her skill level and reduce her business work load?  Maybe she wants to retire or work elsewhere but doesn't know how, this being her only income.  How did she come about owning a bakery?   Maybe you could approach her from that point of view.  She could be scared, has a fear to stop and seek the skills she needs to improve the product.  Just a few thoughts.  :)    

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

I was going back to Dallas several times to visit my mother, who has now moved to a retirement home in Austin. I went to a farmer's market in a parking lot behind a suburban church and discovered some folks called Village Baking Co who were making beautiful, professional breads and pastries. I could not try any because it was about 11 am and they were sold out; the pieces remaining were display and they're not allowed to sell them. So on my next trip I went at 8 am and stocked up and the breads were indeed of high quality.

Now, in this same farmer's market there were 3 or 4 other folks selling bread but Village Baking Co was the one that got 75% of the traffic. The moral is that is you put out a great product people willl figure it out competition or no. Do it Faith!

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Mini, You make some very good points.  I don't know who  buys her bread other then our common customer.  I know the bakery is in the basement of her home but her basement is ground level on the front side of her store.  I think she has a husband that works elsewhere.  She said her father built her deck oven.   I know she worked as a baker at one of our high end restaurants in town. That is all I know.  I honestly think that she considers her bread quality therefore does not need improving.

I have looked at the numbers of running a bakery and the first thing that came to mind is I need to keep the overhead low or I will be baking for the bank.  I also don't want the stress of carrying any debt to support this bakery so buying anyone out is not an option for me.  So going from what I'm doing now to a bakery is more then scary.

Mantana, I sent you a message about the 20th.   You have something there.  I was thinking of the eating places in this town for such a small town we have quite a few, 10 restaurants in the town limits.  Out of that 10 I would only eat at 2 of them and that is only when I'm too lazy and tired to cook for myself.

Perhaps people just don't know what good food is anymore.

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Here in Maine I know very few bakeries with really good bread (apart from my own): Standard Baking Co. in Portland (French types of breads) and Chase's Daily in Belfast. Also, a German (1. generation) restaurant, Schulte & Herr in Portland, bakes their own delicious bread.

All the other bakeries where I got some loaves had pale, underbaked, soft breads that people bought, nevertheless. I'm sure it is all about education, if you grow up with "Wonderbread" you don't expect anything else but squishy, fluffy, or rubbery thick-crusted loaves.

It took a while before my breads caught on in the natural food store where I sell them,  but now they are always quickly sold out.

Karin

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I can see the education of the consumer to a certain point but the bottom line is eye appeal and how the bread eats and tastes(you would think).  The bakery in this discussion could be "educating" her customer base  that the globs of unsightly bread with no taste is the norm.

The customer we have in common has received many of my loaves of bread over the years.   Some were better then others but all of them were miles above this bread from the bakery.  In addition to that I know these people have traveled the world and enjoyed quality bread.    So these nice people have been schooled yet still find this bread good enough to buy and give as gifts.

I know my bread would sell and be enjoyed.  But the reality is the local Food Lion has a bakery, then there is the bakery with ugly bread,  then there are some people that make nice bread one day a week on the other side of the county and that does not address the standard store bought bread in the bread isle. So bread is everywhere and convenient.

Now with my customer that has clearly demonstrated that quality is not the #1 priority  why would they drive 5 miles out of town for my bread?  I do know that I would not survive on bread alone and have other ideas and baked goods to offer.  If I wanted to get down town central  I would need to drop 200K + for the location or pay high rent.  Baking for the bank again.

I do think that you also need to cater to your customers as well as educating them.  My aging parents are a good example.  They love my sourdough but have difficulty with the crust because of the dentures.  Knowing this I tend to bring softer breads to them.

In the end I'm unsure of things.  This is a great example of what I expect to be (based on my own perceptions) is not necessarily how things are. 

 

mcs's picture
mcs

My guess as to why she's successful despite producing pale tasteless bread:

She's connected. 

-Mark

Oh, and one more thing.  You're never going to (and you don't need to) educate everyone.  You just need enough to make a living.  Remember, even if Bud Light was the same price as your best Belgian Ale, more Americans would still buy the Bud Light.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Bud Light (aka dishwash water) and other so-called beers are one of my pet peeves, especially since there are so many wonderful beers available in the US.

Karin