The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

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We would like to hire an intern to work at Bread Obsession in Lexington, MA for this fall.  This position would be ideal for someone who loves to bake bread and wants to try out commercial baking in a relatively small and high quality artisan shop.  This is a paid position.  Email if you have any questions and/or would like to apply.  Please include your resume, and explain your reasons for applying.


Bread Obsession, a woman-owned, independent, owner-operated artisan bread company, is looking for talented and creative individuals to help us produce delicious baguettes, ryes, sourdough, and pastries for our enthusiastic customer base.

Our bakers learn the entire bread baking process from preparing dough, maintaining sourdough starters, and shaping and baking loaves. We give ample training for cutting and shaping dough, measuring ingredients and combining with spiral mixers, scoring loaves, and loading them into our deck ovens. 


Job requirements include:

Design skills and artistic flair for shaping beautiful loaves

Energetic and hard-working

Available for early start times and Saturdays

Able to lift 50 pounds

Commercial kitchen experience a plus but not required

References required

varda's picture

   (Some home baking today - a 90% durum with wheat starter.)

I am thinking about going to the Kneading Conference next week.  Has anyone gone lately or planning to?   Any thoughts or tips?  Thanks!

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We are looking for help in our Waltham bakery, Bread Obsession - including delivery and logistics plus bread baking.   We will train.   If you know of anyone who is interested, please have them get in touch.
Thank you.

Varda Haimo


Bread Obsession

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Some may remember that I put out a call for interns to visit my bakery Bread Obsession this summer.   I am sad to say that no interns applied.  First, we got a lovely visit from exceedingly accomplished baker, Pat Roth, which she wrote about so eloquently here.  Then a couple of weeks ago, Alfanso showed up on our doorstep and proceeded to work alongside us for several weeks, with such zest and verve and talent and experience that I could hardly call him an intern - the better term would be visiting baker.   

Here he is shaping one of our standbys - Flaxseed Rye

and Multigrain Sunflower loaves...

A few of the final product are pictured above.

Alan noted that our big mixer had a tendency to walk around the room when it got going.   We have been wracking our brains trying to figure out how to solve this, but none of our attempts worked.   Alan looked things over, and came up with a simple and ingenious solution:   he epoxied little brackets to the floor.   Lo and behold, no more mixer stalking out into the middle of the room.  

It was so great to have him visit.  We miss him already.


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Are you interested in learning to bake high quality bread in a busy production environment?   Now is your chance. Bread Obsession is offering internships starting at the beginning of May and running through August for 2-4 weeks each.  We are a young and growing artisan bread company.   We sell to restaurants and stores, and will be participating in the biggest farmers market in Massachusetts at Copley Place in Boston.  You will work alongside us on all bakery tasks including mixing, shaping, loading the big oven, and keeping the bakery tidy and clean.   We need people who are passionate and experienced bakers who want to improve their skills, and try out working in a bakery.   We are in Waltham Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.   Please message me if you are interested and would like to find out more.  For more information about us check out my Fresh Loaf blog and this recent article.

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Hi.   I thought that some might be interested in this profile of Bread Obsession in the Spring issue of Edible Boston.

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It has been such a long time since I've posted on Fresh Loaf.   As some of you may remember, I went very gradually from baking for fun to baking for fun and profit.    Over that time, the business has steadily grown, but was limited by the fact that it was based in my home kitchen.   Over a year ago, my business partner and I started looking for a place to rent.   It took longer than I could ever have imagined to find a place that we could afford in a reasonable location, but finally we found a place last summer.   Then it took longer than I could ever have imagined to fit up the place to make it suitable, safe, and sanitizable to make food for sale.   But now it has been done and we are approved for lift off. 

I would like to say that now I'm cranking out hundreds of beautiful loaves of bread daily but the reality is that I'm in test bake mode trying to figure out how to use the new oven.   I'm hoping that will be a lot shorter than the search for a place or the creation of a functional kitchen out of a former driving school, and before that ...a tile store.

We're looking for some baking help - part time at first, and then more as we grow.   Message me if you live near Waltham, MA, and are interested in finding out more.

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What happens when your must have bread fails repeatedly?   Other than tears and recriminations, a lot of head scratching and experimentation.  This generally leads to upping your game at all levels as you optimize each step of the process, but unfortunately the main problem can remain hidden.  

This happened with my Lexington Sourdough which started out as an almost white, medium hydration sourdough and became....  This little devil had the most annoying habit of coming out absolutely beautifully for long periods of time, only to start failing alarmingly and in many ways, particularly when I made large batches of it for sale.   So what to do?   People must have their sourdough.   

First off - I finally had to break down and put a steam pan in my Cadco oven, even though I'd been avoiding this like the plague, as it already has a handy dandy piped in vapor setting, and that SHOULD BE enough.   Wasn't.   Denial was getting me nowhere.   So I took my cheap cast iron skillet and poured water in at the beginning of every bake, as well as turning off the oven for long enough for the bread to open.   This helped.   It stopped the scores hardening over and the sides splitting, and the bread giving birth to a baby bread.   So all done?   No way!   Many more successes but still alarming failures especially when getting ready for a market where "I love sourdough, what do you mean you don't have any!" 

So what did these next set of failures look like?    The dough would be absolutely beautiful, shape beautifully, and then mysteriously collapse into a puddle during the proof.   How could this be?   So time to fiddle with the formula - raise the hydration, lower the hydration, raise percentage of whole grains, eliminate whole grains altogether.   Some of these efforts created beautiful breads.   But come time to scale up for a market?   Same puddle bread, same failures, same walking away customers who didn't get their sourdough.  

Next up - must be the dough development right?   Yes right.    Add stretch and folds, bulk retard, mix like hell.... Did it help?   Most of the time but never for those crucial moments when you need a lot of loaves.   

Then luck struck.   One day, when I was making a few loaves of one of the instantiations of the elusive Lexington Sourdough, I had a bit of extra dough.   I formed these into 3 pretty rolls, and sent them off to the chef at a restaurant that serves our bread.   I didn't expect him to buy them as I had given him many samples of this or that, and he never added to his order.    Surprise, surprise, he ordered 300 of these babies a week.   Now suddenly I had to start producing these never before made rolls in quantity.    And strangely this went fine.   This went on for a few weeks before it occurred to me what had happened.   Same dough, same oven, same everything except for size and shape.   What the heck?

Thinking this over, I realized these rolls not only had the same dough development process as the bread, they also got cut up and rolled and twisted into shape.  Hmmmm.  

On to the bread at hand.   If you take a breadsworth of dough, cut it in two and shape each half separately then your dough gets twice the workout, yes?   Yes.   The bread pictured at top is exactly that - an olive bread using (one of the) Lexington Sourdough base (medium hydration, 20% whole wheat, 20% prefermented white flour)   No puddles either of dough or tears.   Just behaved itself from start to finish.  And this was at least a medium sized batch.

And for those of you who are still awake ---- Have I tried a big batch of straight up Lexington Sourdough?   Haven't dared yet, but by Jove, I think I've got it.

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This week I've been honored by a visit from Pat Roth (aka proth5.)    I invited her here and happily enough she decided to come and share some of her baking wisdom with me.    One of the things I particularly wanted to master were those pesky brioches à tête.   How do you keep those heads up high?   How do you keep the neck from thickening until they look like body builders with no discernable distinction between body and head?   

These are urgent matters but first

--------------------------a shaggy dog story---------------------------------------

Years ago I worked in Boston.   On my way from the subway to the office I stopped in at the Pregnant Building at a little cafe in the lobby where I got my morning coffee and a spectacular brioche.   This being long before I started baking, I assumed that everyone could make such amazing brioche.   Little did I know.  

Then the tragedy of 9/11 struck.   All the big buildings in Boston started upgrading their security.    Since the pregnant building was the tallest in the area, their upgrades  were the most extreme.   Before I knew it I could no longer get into my little cafe as it was barricaded behind a security desk, and only those who had access to the building could get to it.   I searched half-heartedly for a new brioche source but nothing that I found was even close.   I tried to get an id for the building.   No dice.   I gave up.   

A couple of years later, remembering those brioche, I stopped by to see if the cafe was accessible and yes it was.  I was overjoyed but not for long.   Each time I stopped in there were no brioche on the shelves.   Finally I asked what had happened.   In the two years that I had been barred from the building, the baker had retired. 

Fast forward many years.   I have now made brioche many times, but the results have always lacked the artistry that I remember pre 9/11.   My brioche has to be better or the terrorists will have won.   Enter Pat Roth.

---------------------------End of shaggy dog story-----------------------------------------

A few important things about brioche:

Everything has to be very cold.   We weighed out and refrigerated all ingredients overnight.

Butter should be cold but plasticized by pounding (with a wine bottle in this case) before adding to the mixed dough.

The dough has to be mixed until it is very, very strong.

Here is Pat checking it out - is it strong enough?

With the cold weather all my doughs are drying out before I can even get them shaped.   But no need to worry.   Pat taught me to place the preshaped dough balls into a closed container so they stay moist before shaping.

She also taught me a new preshape method - stretch out, fold in half, turn so edge is on counter, fold in half and roll for a second.   Very fast, very tight.   Rest the dough and then shape into a ball.   The preshape gets you most of the way.

Then things start to get hard.   Make a pool of flour on the counter.   Flour the side of your hand, then start rolling a neck into the ball.    Not too much flour or it will just flatten out.  

Straighten up that bowling pin and place upright in a brioche tin.   

Now the really hard part and since I was working so hard no time for pictures.   With your left thumb press the head back while taking a floured right index finger and pressing it straight down from the base of the neck almost to the bottom of the tin.   Rotate all around until it looks like the picture at top.  

Proof well, egg wash and bake.

And now the really good part:

and even better...

Thank you Pat!

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A year ago, I decided to close down my little bake to order business, and see what else I could cook up.   I got my wholesale license, and into a pretty decent market, and set out to make a lot of bread.   A lot of bread all depends where you are coming from.   I'm baking out of my kitchen with fairly small equipment and it sure seems like a lot to me.    I picked up several wholesale customers, and just when I think I have that under control, I bake for a big market, all semblance of control vanishes, and I just bake as much and as fast as I can.  

In the meantime, I added a business partner (aka life saver) and the two of us hunt for the mythological rental that will allow us to expand from micro to small, shop for the equipment we hope to be able to buy once we find the rental and so forth.  

But that's just business.   The main thing is the bread.

Flaxseed Rye, Multigrain Cranberry and Durum Levain

Multigrain Sunflower Seed

Borodinsky Rye


New York Rye

Cherry Boule


Challah Rolls and...

Cardamom Buns

Oh, and I forgot the baguettes - 

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!





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