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codruta's picture
codruta

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!

 

Codruta

www.codrudepaine.ro

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

While I have been baking in the last several weeks, most of it has been geared to sandwich loaves.  Don't get me wrong; that is some pretty important baking.  While it has been nourishing to the body, it hasn't been anything to stir the soul.  I've had some old favorites: Clayton's Honey Lemon Whole Wheat and plain old honey whole wheat.  I gave Beatrice Ojakangas' Granary Bread a try.  Lovely stuff, but not at all anything that qahtan or others who have had the real thing would recognize as such.  Essentially, it's honey whole wheat (um, I'm beginning to see a theme emerging here) with golden syrup subbed in for the honey.  I'm going to digress for a moment.   For all of you in the U.S. who have been wondering what on earth golden syrup is, here's the inside scoop: it's molasses.  Yes!  Really!  A very light, mildly flavored grade of molasses, but molasses none the less.  There.  Now you know.


I've also been experimenting with some rye breads.  The most noteworthy was a spectacular flop of the Sour Rye, year 1939, which came to my attention via Shiao Ping's blog.  It looked and sounded so lovely in Shiao Ping's post and I'd been wanting to venture further into the rye world, so I thought I would give it a try.  The first bad decision (I won't bore you with the entire list) was to opt for the free-form loaf, rather than the panned loaf.  Being in full "never say die" mode (not readily distinguishable from denial), I soldiered on to the bitter end and was rewarded with something that had the general dimensions and texture of a 1x8 pine board, albeit somewhat darker.  The flavor was worlds better than pine, but the amount of chewing necessary to extract the flavor made the whole enterprise unrewarding.  Hence, my retreat to Ms. Ojakangas' book and the selection of her version of Granary Bread.  A man's gotta eat, after all.


This weekend, still smarting from last week's debacle and still wanting rye bread, I hauled out Mark Sinclair's formula for Sour Rye bread.  This I've made before, and in quantity, so I know how it works and how it is supposed to turn out.  There are some differences between my execution and Mark's.  First, he's a professional baker and I am not.  Second, he uses dark rye and what I had on hand was medium rye.  Third, he has some really big and really cool toys, while I was doing all of my mixing by hand.  Since my use of Mark's formula is by his permission and a consequence of my internship at his Back Home Bakery, I'm not at liberty to share it here.  If you really, really want to make this bread, sign up whenever Mark offers opportunities to intern with him.  If you want something very close to Mark's bread, look up Eric's Fav Rye on this site.  Mark started with that and made some adjustments that suit his selection of ingredients and production scheme.  Both are excellent breads and they are very nearly the same bread.


As noted, I have medium rye flour on hand, so my bread came out somewhat lighter than Marks.  Since I don't have a mixer here, I mixed by hand.  Initially, the mixing was primarily to combine the ingredients uniformly.  Since Mark relies on the mixer for kneading as well as mixing, I continued to work the dough in the bowl in what was essentially a stretch and fold maneuver to develop the dough's gluten network.  As the dough became more cohesive, I dumped it out on the counter for some "slap and fold" or "French fold" kneading, a la Richard Bertinet.  This worked very effectively to finish the dough's development.  The dough was then gathered into a loose boule and placed in a greased bowl for the bulk ferment.  After the dough had approximately doubled, it was divided in three pieces of about 710 grams each and pre-shaped.  After resting a few minutes, the dough was then given its final shape and placed on a Silpat-lined baking sheet for final fermentation, lightly covered with oiled plastic wrap to prevent drying.  As the dough was nearing the end of the final fermentation, I pre-heated the oven.  When the oven was ready, the loaves were uncovered, brushed with egg wash, liberally sprinkled with poppy seeds and slashed.  The baking sheet was put in the oven and hot water was put into the steam pan on the lower rack.  Half-way through the bake, I rotated the loaves so that they would bake evenly, even though I was using the convection setting.  I also pulled them off the baking sheet and let them bake directly on the oven rack so that they would bake and color evenly.  They were a bit closer together on the baking sheet than I thought they should be for optimum results.


And the results?  Well, I'm a happy baker today.  Here's the finished bread:


Sour Rye, Back Home Bakery


I won't have a crumb shot until tomorrow, but the exterior is encouraging.  Slashing can definitely improve and I might have allowed the final proof to go a bit longer, but I'm pretty pleased with how things are looking so far.


Maybe I can get back on that 1939 horse again...


Paul


Here is a picture of the crumb:


Back Home Bakery Sour Rye crumb


As I surmised from seeing how the slashes opened during the bake, the bread could have been proofed a while longer.  However, it's rye bread; it is supposed to be hefty rather than fluffy.  The crumb is very moist and surprisingly tender.  The interplay between the earthy rye and the pungent/astringent caraway flavors is balanced so that each complements the other, with neither dominating.  It makes a wicked base for a ham and swiss sandwich.  The lighting for this photo was an overhead fluorescent fixture (sheesh, I almost spelled that as flourescent!), hence the greyer tone of the crumb


 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

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.


Paul

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Today I made Mark Sinclair's wonderful Multigrain. I've made it before and don't know why I waited so long to make it again. The aroma of this bread baking should be enough to get me to make it often. Ehanner posted his loaves last year and his crumb is very open and beautiful. And the crumb on his is lighter in color for some reason. To see his take on this bread go here...


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7905/really-great-multigrain


 


Mark's recipe makes 4.6 lbs of dough enough for 3 good size medium loaves and one that I made into a small cinnamon raisin pan loaf. Even with a tighter crumb than Eric's the bread is still light and delicious. Toasted for breakfast or for sandwiches is my favorite way to eat it. I used mostly white whole wheat for the whole wheat called for otherwise I followed the directions as given. I didn't use a mixer.


 


MULITGRAIN

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