The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from the mountains

davidm's picture

Hello from the mountains

I have cruised this site only briefly, but love it already. 

Here I am, the son of a English baker, now at 9000 feet in the Rocky mountains, turning full circle and baking almost daily. I've been doing this now for about four months and having an absolute ball. Most astonishing has been to discover what I remember from helping my father in the bakery as a really young sprout. Mostly it's been 'sense memory' kind of stuff, like how to shape rolls and pan loaves and things like that. I found I could still shape a hot-water paste meat-pie crust on the end of a thick dowel without even thinking about it, for example, something that has not even crossed my mind in forty years. Really strange.

Anyway, it's really good to find a site such as this where folks so freely share what they know, and don't know, back and forth, without anything other than a friendly attitude. Which is going to be a life saver for me, since I have just begun to play around with higher hydration bread doughs, something I have never done, or seen done, in my life. What I have discovered so far is that they stick to my fingers (and everything else in the house) much more readily than the fingers of the folks in the videos I've watched so far. Clearly it's a zen thing, but my plan is to press on. The appeal of the Anis baguettes is just too strong, so I'm on a mission, and am determined to get past that 'working with an alien material' kind of feeling. Onward!

Best wishes to all, and looking forward to this part of the journey.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, davidm.

Welcome to TFL!

It sure sounds like you found the right place.

I bet I'm not the only one who would love to hear more about your memories of your father's bakery.

Happy baking, and Happy New Year!


davidm's picture

Thanks dm, and happy new year to you also.

It has been fascinating to observe the way some of these memories have returned, as there is no discernible logic or pattern to any of it. My dad was a baker and pastrycook in Lancashire up until about 1970, when he retired and pursued his passion for woodworking. I became a woodworker (still am) and am now pursuing my passion for good bread, which I must make myself if I want any, as there are no real bakeries within easy range here. All very symmetrical!

I'm still adjusting and trying to find a balance between my oven here (electric convection) and the memories of the coke-fired two decker in dad's bakery. Everything went on the deck directly, unless panned, in which case the loaf pans were on sheets, for ease of bulk handling, and everything wrangled in and out on a peel maybe six feet long. The bottom deck was usually hotter, the temps controlled with baffles operated with pull-in and pull-out levers. It was fired really high about 4 am and then was a slowly falling oven all day long, so everything was sequenced to accommodate that, bread first and slower goods later in the day. No steam generation that I recall, though late-afternoon custards were in water baths. English breads, at least those popular at that time, were pretty standard panned sandwich style loaves, white, whole wheat (Hovis, they were called, which was a proprietory flour I think) and some multi-grain. An item called barm-cakes in the lingo of the time and place, kinda like a kaiser roll in texture and size, but with no glaze and a soft, floury surface and a dimple in the middle. Two or three hundred a day. Come to think of it they might have been a pretty slack dough (?) ... I don't remember. Yet! :)  Yeasted though, with a preferment, no sourdough. Good, really good, for mopping up gravy from the plate!

Two, sometimes three, employees on the production end, with mom in the shop sales in front.

More will be revealed on this journey, without a doubt.

I am looking around presently for input from anyone with high-altitude baking tricks. So far things are going well enough (except for the wet dough experiments) though I have boosted the salt a little for most formulas, just for taste, and sometimes proof in the (cooler) garage to slow down the rise a little. It's really dry up here too, year round, and the 'standard' book formulas seem to do better with an increase in hydration from the suggested weights. Would high-hydration doughs be affected more by altitude than the 65% or so formulas, do you think? New territory for me.

Cakes, or anything chemically leavened, are another story though. Some stuff wants to jump out of the oven if I use the recipe as found in a book. Fun stuff!

Thanks for the note