The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The culture and the soul of the bakery, its not in the formulas

Chausiubao's picture

The culture and the soul of the bakery, its not in the formulas

First of all, I'd like to say this:



Now that thats out of the way:

I've been taught that thats a textbook example of the improved mix. There's three mixes; the short mix, the improved mix, and the intensive mix. When you pull a window, the short mix tears easily, the improved mix has characteristic "veins" that run through it, and the intensive mix looks very even and opaque. This is how you can judge the crumb of your finished bread before you even divide the dough.

It'd be an understatement to say that I've learned a thing or two while working at the bakery, truth be told, I learned more in my interview with the owner of the bakery (an interview which was 5 hours on the bench of course,) then I did in the few weeks we spent on bread in school.

I wanted to showcase my bakery's breads and the title I wanted to give the blog was, "the soul of the bakery, its in the formulas" but the truth really doesn't reflect that. Formulas are the backbone of any bakery, but its melodies, subtleties, and nuances are what really define a bakery. We make this dough with three different kinds of levain in it. Thats a really unnecessary thing to do, and personally I have a notion that having the three different cultures all together might hinder the growth of the individual cultures since they'll be competing (a fight that the white levain will have an advantage in!). We create formulas, we calculate water temperatures, use our hands to tell us all the things about the dough that we should ever need to know, and we live bread. Or at least thats how it is meant to be. whether we actually reach (or want to reach) this lofty attitude of bread baking is debatable.

I like to think that as an artisan bakery, we bake bread as it has been made in past decades. This involves small ovens, a single mixer, couches, loading boards or peels, and hand shaping. But ultimately, how feasible and how practical is this arrangement? Bread bakers are the eccentrics in an already quite eccentric field. Moving into the culinary field is almost romanticized in our culture, yet many do it for reasons other then the love of the process. The man hours, the physicality, the odd work schedule, all of it pushes away possible bakers. On the other hand, when people need work, all of that diminishes in significance.

If we were to become a chain bakery (either privately owned or corporate) is this a business model that could be passed from store to store to store? Or are we a fad, living a fast, high octane experience that will ultimately and inevitably implode and collapse in on itself?

We definitely make good product, though there's always better; but is artisan baking a relic of the past or an unrealized future?


 Despite the high costs of labor and running an establishment based on perishable food stuffs, we continue to expand and put out good product. And the more I work and throw around thoughts about bread with my colleagues, the more ideas for my own bakery spring spontaneously into my mind.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


Chausiubao's picture

I will!

arlo's picture

It's good to hear about your experiences! Keep up the hard work at the table too : )

Chausiubao's picture

You should share your experiences!


EvaGal's picture

Whether in a bakery or a family kitchen, isn't the soul of the bakery within the heart of the baker him/herself?  The integrity of ingredients and lifestyle of the baker create an attractive ambience for those who return for more. 

Since my family is currently ambivalent about the bread I am baking, I need to examine myself as well as what goes into the loaves. Children are painfully discerning...e.g. "Mom, you didn't make this with Love and it seems empty."

So, IF you can find the "one in a million" baker with the right kind of "heart" to anchor a bakery, it has a good chance of success. If you can, let the children point you to the best candidate.


(I hope I posted this in the correct place)

Chausiubao's picture

Here's my opinion:

Artisan baking is baking where the baker is a craftsman. That baker is a person that holds himself and his products to a high standards and has the desire to pursue those high standards. This baker might be in it for the money, or for some other reason, but also, there is a desire to produce high quality, healthful, delicious products just like his customers want.

I would say that the soul of the bakery has a lot to do with how much follow through the baker has, its the little details that show what kind of person is running an establishment.


turosdolci's picture

Your thoughts are very interesting and fun to ponder considering how many people dream of opening a bakery.  I will be interviewing a young Swiss Master Baker the last week of June who is following in his fathers footsteps.  They have several bakeries and I have asked him to give me his thoguht on this subject.

I would be willing to ask any questions that anyone might have if they send them to me. They are members of the Swiss Bakers Association and own several bakeries.

ehanner's picture

Yes, lead with a strong image. Well done on the bread. The key to success in this business seems to be good planning, strong products and low overhead. Oh and of course being willing to work 60 hours a week. Good luck!


Chausiubao's picture

I know! Isn't it amazing?

We started getting this new flour at the shop, and we get this really beautiful cream color that comes out in both the dough and the crumb of the breads we use it in.

We don't even use bread flour anymore, we only use all purpose flour, yet we get beautiful crumb its pretty amazing stuff.


wally's picture

And good bread and good thoughts in your post.  Here in the U.S. we live in a culture where bread is at the periphery of life, and that makes artisan baking as a commercial enterprise a challenge.  People will drive 30 minutes out of their way to buy a cake, or pie or a kind of cookie they absolutely love, but they won't generally go out of their way for a good loaf of bread.

Even in cities location probably trumps quality.

Don't lose the dream - it's mine as well.


Chausiubao's picture

Bread is an after thought, but maybe that is because high quality bread is so hard to come by.

I don't really want to buy a loaf from a chain bakery, maybe I've been burned one too many times by those types of places, but when I think of high quality bread I think of an independent establishment.

Maybe its the lack of those that are the source of my belief that high quality bread is so rare, thus the market is so small.

I do however recognize Acme bread, Beckmann's Bread, so maybe it isn't about chain bakeries or not, maybe it is all about quality.

I will have to find a good location then!


LindyD's picture

...but is artisan baking a relic of the past or an unrealized future?

I think that depends on where you are located, Chausiubao, as well as the people who live in the area.  The above comment brought to mind a small bakery outside a nearby town, started by a young baker who had a dream and wanted to bring good handmade breads to the area.  

It's a rural area, but a beautiful one heavily populated in the warmer months by the "summer people" who flock to to the sparkling, dancing waters of the lake and its bays.

The baker worked very hard and succeeded, supplying both the local and summer people (and local restaurants) with wonderful breads.    One day he introduced a concept of the "three-o'clock baguette," offering wonderful, freshly baked baguettes that can be purchased at 3:00 p.m. each afternoon and enjoyed at dinner.   Each afternoon, just before 3:00 p.m, the lines begin to form at his shop.

For this bakery, the future is now.  

Thank you for sharing your own experiences.   I've enjoyed your blog very much.  Keep on thinking and creating, and when you decide it's time to make your own move, choose your location wisely.

Chausiubao's picture

I was talking to the head guy of our bread production, and he was saying how it'd be great if we had some kind of temperature controlled room where we could keep our starters, poolishes, and other types of preferments so we could really nail consistency on the maturity of the starters without too much of a "baker's sense". And that kind of thing is expensive, so your comment about selling to nearby restaurants really got me thinking about wholesale and how to properly mix mechanization and artisan baking. Its an interesting conundrum, if I do say so myself.

At our bakery we bake baguettes throughout the day, so its similar to your bakery's idea of the 3pm baguette.

Thanks for your kind words!