The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

the back home bakery

mcs's picture

Sad Day at the Bakery :(

November 16, 2012 - 1:46pm -- mcs

I know some of you have been following my posts since before we were legal (Eric, David, Pat, Paul, Mini O, Floyd of course, and several others).  A few months ago I shared the happy news about the bakery's four year anniversary.  Today, it's a sad day at the bakery.  Today, November 16th was my last day for baking and delivering here in this place known to many folks as The Back Home Bakery. 

mcs's picture

Hey Everybody,
Well guess what?  Buddy of mine and TFL member Bob (TFL screen name bobkay1022) made a guest appearance at The Back Home Bakery this week.  Just in case you aren't familiar with Bob, both he and his wife of 41 years primarily reside in Arizona, but spend much of the year traveling the U.S. in their motorhome.  Although he bakes at home in Arizona, he has also baked during his travels using a convection microwave in his motorhome.  Bob and I have corresponded quite a bit in the last few years having first become aquainted with each other here on TFL.  As I knew he would be in the northwest part of this country sometime this summer, I extended an open invitation for him to visit should he make it to the Flathead Valley.
Anyway, they rolled in to the area on Friday morning and were invited to join us at 1:00 AM for a Saturday morning session getting ready for the Kalispell Farmers' Market.  Bob heartily accepted the invitation while his wife thought better and instead decided to decline.  Bob will also be joining me on Tuesday morning to get his hands in some dough and help prepare for the Whitefish Farmers' Market. 
Here's a couple of photos of us on Saturday.

Bob packages up some pizza dough for the market.  'Take-and-Bake' pizza dough is now one of our biggest sellers!

Here we are striking a pose while we should probably be working.


codruta's picture

Summer News.   My path in becoming a baker... (part II)

... goes through Kalispell Montana USA

 (A true story about chance, adventure and passion without boundaries)


Hello, TFL friends.

          As some of you know, there are some changes going on in my life and it all started a few months ago, when I decided I want to be a baker and open my own bakery in my town.
In the last years, I've been an amateur home baker and a TFL member and I spent hours and hours reading bread related subjects, experimenting and learning from my mistakes. I learnt a lot from books, blogs and from the greatest bakers on TFL. My love for bread grew so much, till one day I realized I'm only happy when I bake (no exaggeration here) and from that moment my final decision was taken.

I have been searching for a while some bakeries in Europe who would take interns during summer and some of you probably already read my previous post about this (link here) and so you know I'll go to Powburn at the beginning of August to meet Andy (Ananda) and to work with him for a week.

          One day I was talking with MC Farine, asking her if she can guide me to a nice bakery she visited in her travels in Europe. Her answer pointed me in a direction I would have never thought of: she suggested to talk to Mark Sinclair (mcs on TFL), the famous baker from the Back Home Bakery, Kalispell, Montana, USA. I needed three days to have the courage to write him, but I finally did and his answer to my request was affirmative.

          To make a long story short, I will spare you of the part that I had to go to the trouble of getting a tourist Visa for USA (there was some stress involved, because I was not the classic rich tourist type and there was a high risk of being rejected, but it all ended well) and I rather speak about the great joy I feel for getting the chance of traveling to USA to meet Mark, the baker who inspired me so much in the past and in the last months. My emotions are precipitating as the time for internship is approaching and I can't tell how glad I am because things arranged themselves as they did.

          I read all the posts here on TFL written by the former interns or by Mark himself, I read and re-read his internship application, I made my homeworks, I've talked to Mark a few times about the program and I know exactly where I'm heading (sleep deprivation, long hours of work, rigorous program) but I am very excited and motivated and determined to do my best and get the maximum from this amazing opportunity and challenging experience.

          TFL members who have been there before me, please feel free to advise me or to warn me, if it's the case, what are the dos and don'ts I have to be careful about.

          I think I will be the first Back Home Bakery intern who travelled from so faraway to get there. Also the first to spend more than 2 weeks in a row there. The first who's English is not the native language.

          For those of you unfamiliar with Mark's website, please visit it (link here) and watch his tutorial videos (link here) (or order the DVD's) because they are amazing and helpful whatever is your stage in baking (the ones demonstrating the shaping techniques are my favorites).

          I'll be at The Back Home Bakery in the interval between 16 August - 3 September. I will keep you updated when I'll get there, but till then I want to share wih you a drawing that Mark did specially for this blog post, which makes me smile everytime I look at it and it also makes my future to look so pretty :)

                                             "Under the spell of Kalispell" (my title)
with the note that "brutarie - deschis" means "Bakery - open"


If you have time and patience you can also read my post in my romanian blog (link here) (translation available on the upper right side), which given the fact that it was written in my native language it is a longer and more emotional version of this one presented here. Hope you'll enjoy it :)

Till we'll hear again, I'm wishing you all the best and keep on baking!



mcs's picture

Hey TFLers,
This is a short no-frills video re-visiting some of the parts of shaping that I feel are important.  In the beginning I demonstrate slowly using a damp dishcloth, then I use the same technique with a few different doughs.  Lastly, I use a slight modification on the technique to form a couple of boules.  Enjoy. 




pmccool's picture

I had the pleasure of spending a week working as a baking intern for Mark Sinclair at his The Back Home Bakery in Kalispell, Montana.  Other than the sleep deprivation, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week of measuring ingredients, washing dishes, mixing bigas and doughs, washing dishes, stretching and folding dough, washing dishes, pre-shaping and shaping loaves, washing dishes, making pastries and fillings, washing dishes, scraping the workbench, washing dishes, packaging the finished breads/pastries, building friendships with Mark and Sharon (his wife), and washing dishes.

A typical day would start at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning.  We'd begin by pulling bigas from the refrigerator (they had been mixed the previous afternoon or evening) and measuring the ingredients for each bread.  Most of the breads were mixed in a 20-quart mixer, except for the baguettes, which were a larger batch that was mixed in the 60-quart mixer.  The other exception was on Saturday morning, when about half of the breads were mixed in the 60-quart mixer because of the larger batches being prepared for the Kalispell farmers' market later that morning.  Mark also pulled 2 or 3 frozen pastry doughs from the freezer at about the same time so that they could be thawed and ready for sheeting and shaping during a lull in the bread production.

After mixing, the bread doughs were placed in a proofer.  Most were given 3 stretch and folds at 45-minute intervals.  After proofing, the doughs were shaped and placed on sheet pans, then put back in the proofer for their final proof prior to slashing and baking.  The baguettes, again, were an exception to this general practice; they received a pre-shape, then a ferment at room temperature, followed by a final shaping and final room-temperature ferment before slashing and loading into the oven.  Mark uses two convection ovens; one is electric and the other is gas fired.  All of the baking is done on sheet pans, rather than on a deck or stone.  Neither oven is steam-injected, so Mark throws a can of water on a cast-iron griddle sitting in the bottom of the oven when a bread requires steaming.  

What I haven't conveyed well is the overall planning that Mark does in deciding which doughs are mixed first and which are mixed last.  Based on experienced he has gained and on the particular day's product roster (it varies from day to day), Mark sequences the production steps so that he can maintain a steady flow of bread or pastries in and out of the ovens without creating bottlenecks or gaps.  And it's all subject to change, depending on the activity of the doughs.  There are anywhere from 1 to 4 timers in use at any given point and each step of the process for each bread or pastry is noted on a sheet of paper.  If it didn't get written down, it would get lost in the ever-changing flow of the work.  A couple of examples may help to illustrate just how important time management is in a bakery.  One: "If you have time to stand around, you've probably missed something."  Two: Mark muttering "That timer rules my life" as he leaves the dinner table to put the rye starter in the refrigerator for the night.

I encountered several surprises during my week at The Back Home Bakery:

- Mark produces a variety of pastries, using both croissant dough and puff pastry dough.  I had preconceived that he was primarily making breads, but that was a misconception on my part.

- Mark uses Wheat Montana's AP flour, which most other milling companies would label as a high-protein bread flour.  Still, he produces incredibly tender and flaky pastries and robust breads using that same flour.  The man knows what he's doing.

- Aforesaid pastries, still warm from the oven, make a spectacular breakfast.  My wife ran out of adjectives by Thursday.

- Mark is something of a Renaissance man: teacher, coach, log home builder and baker.  And very patient with a well-meaning but sometimes-addled assistant.  I'm sticking with the sleep deprivation defense as long as I can.  

Saturday was the biggest production day of the week because of the Kalispell farmers market, so we were up at 1:00 a.m.  Sharon also pitched in, so there were three of us banging around in the bakery, trying not to trip over each other.  That morning we produced and packaged:

- palmiers

- bear claws

- croissants

- cherry croissants

- blueberry croissants

- cheese danish

- pain au chocolat

- apple strudel

- ham and cheese croissants

- sticky buns

- sour rye bread (based on Eric's Fav Rye)

- rustic white bread

- buckwheat-flax bread

- baguettes

- Sal's rolls (torpedo shaped, made from baguette dough)

- Portuguese sweet bread (shaped as rolls)

- Kalamata jack bread

All of the above was loaded in the van, along with the booth and display fixtures, and ready to roll by 7:30.

Here are a couple of pictures from that morning:

Sharon, wisely, bundled up for the chilly morning.  Mark's concession to the cold was to change from shorts to jeans and put on a cap.

Sharon waiting on early customers.

Mark's commitment to putting out a high-quality product is paying off.  He has loyal customers who come looking for their favorites and who are very disappointed if they arrive too late and find that item has sold out.

I'm very grateful to have had a week working with Mark and getting to know both he and Sharon.  Should you have the opportunity to pursue a future internship, I can highly recommend it.


jleung's picture

Portuguese Sweet Bread

- What's a portuguese roll?
- Ohhhhhhhh, it's verrrrrrrry good.

So said Michael Stern during the April 4th episode of The Splendid Table.

They're mildly sweet with a touch of honey but don't taste "eggy" or like cake. The dough is a joy to work with and makes your kitchen smell wonderful as the buns are baking. I enjoy having them lightly toasted with a bit of jam, or just plain. I've heard they make excellent french toast, pulled pork sandwiches, or bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches too. They're simply excellent - in fact, someone told me it was even his/her new favourite bread.


These have been a huge hit among other Fresh Loafers and I couldn't agree more. :D

Thanks for sharing this recipe, Mark!

The rest of the post is here.

mcs's picture

the latest video from The Back Home

August 29, 2008 - 7:10pm -- mcs

The Fresh Loafers, This is the latest video where I'm working with some higher hydration (68%) doughs. Both of the breads are 'originals', and if you'd like to see the recipes you can probe around here for them or email me at the bakery. Anyway, I hope you like it. I decided to forego music this time and just add commentary. Nothing witty, strictly business.




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