Archive for the ‘bakery’ Category

Figuring Out Flour

March 12, 2008

June 30 (flour)

Originally uploaded by romanlily

Since I got back from SFBI I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my flour. Around the time I switched to organic unbleached flour back in November I’ve been struggling with pale loaves. We talked about this at school and I suspect that the organic flour might be the culprit. It all comes down to enzyme activity:

* enzymes (specifically, amalyse) breaks down the starch in flour into simple sugars.
* the simple sugars are needed for yeast food, but left over sugars are what causes nice browning. That is, browning is caramelized sugars

So, you need sufficient enzyme activity to create enough simple sugars to both feed the yeast and have enough left over for a brown crust. How do I know how much enzyme activity is in my flour?

* Millers use a measurement called the Falling Number to determine enzyme activity.
* Basically, they make a flour and water slurry, put it in a tube, put a weight on the slurry, and wait for the weight to fall. Enzyme activity breaks down the flour which allows the weight to fall.
* Bakers want a falling number between 250 and 300 seconds.
* Conventional (non-organic) bread flour typically meets this falling number requirement, but my organic flour has a higher falling number — closer to 350 seconds.

Still with me? So my organic flour has a falling number that’s too high, which means I don’t have enough enzyme activity to create simple sugars for yeast food and also for browning. Well, why not? And why does my Robin Hood flour not have this issue? It comes down to grain storage:

* Enzyme activity increases as the wheat berries get close to sprouting. ie. moisture is introduced.
* However, any grain farmer will tell you he wants dry grain in the bin so it doesn’t spoil.
* Millers are no different. They want nice dry, stable grain in the bin to grind flour from.
* Conventional flour millers add a product called fungal amalyse to their flour after they grind it in order to introduce additional enzyme activity to the flour, while preserving nice dry stable grain in the bin.
* Organic millers don’t have this option, so it’s up to the baker to do the correcting on his own. Usually this is accomplished by adding 0.5% – 1% malted barley flour to the white flour. Malted = sprouted = lots of enzymes.

So armed with this information, all I have to do is find me some malted barley flour and I can fix my pale loaf problem. BUT, do you think I can find malted barley flour locally? Not yet! I’m afraid I will have to go back to conventional flour (and incur the wrath of my local organic miller) until I can find some malted barley flour in the city. sigh…

Bakery site is up!

September 29, 2007

Wow, lots of work lately in getting the oven up to speed and the loaves turning out on a semi-regular basis. I’ve set up a web site for the bakery to share what we’re doing, what bread is available, etc. Check it out!

Lund BC: worth it, if only for Nancy’s Bakery

June 26, 2007

This may well be the best bakery I’ve ever been to. The bread is good but not the best (Christies in Saskatoon is still #1) but the pastries, the lunches, the friendly staff and the amazing views are unbelievable.

You might think it crazy to drive 50km down a somewhat paved, very twisty road to visit a bakery, but this one is worth it.

It is as good as the Okeover campground is bad. Helln it’s even better, and that’s saying something.

I have some pics but they will need to wait till I get home.

Birds of a Feather

May 10, 2007

I just heard about two fellows on Gabriola Island BC who are building a commercial oven and hope to open a bakery this year. They started baking out of their homes two years ago, which is a pattern I want to emulate in Saskatchewan.

I hope to go see them as I’ll be out that way next month. I might even need to pack a trowel or two!

First Bake!

May 10, 2007

I’ve got to post some pictures soon (sorry!) but I had to shout out. My Brick Oven is now a Bread Oven! Yippee!!

I fired up the oven on Sunday and baked three batches of bread: some french loaves, semolina bread and seven grain bread. It was quite the adventure since I had no idea how long it was going to take to fire the oven so I mis-timed the dough pretty badly. Cooler oven than I’d like and over-risen dough but you know what, it was great fun and the bread tasted pretty good too. No complaints from my co-workers, that’s for sure.

It was fun working with larger quantities — in the end I baked 28 700g loaves, a big pan of granola and even baked off our supper. A very long day but very exhilirating. I can hardly wait for the next baking day!

Working “On” Your Business – The E-Myth Revisited

March 14, 2007

I just finished a pretty decent book called The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. It helped me get my head around some misconceptions I had about running a small business.

The author really pushes building your business as if it is a prototype for a franchise, regardless of whether you will ever spin it off into a franchise. By doing this, you are in effect documenting every important feature, process and procedure of your business so that you could sell the rights to someone else and they could operate it turn-key. And if everything is so well defined you could sell it turn-key, then at the very least you could hand off enough of the duties to take a vacation once in a while.

A key quote: You need to spend more time working on your business instead of working in your business.

Reading the book was a bit of a fluke – I had seen the title at the bookstore for quite a long time and always figured it was a dot-bomb retrospective. But a while back I picked it up and flipped to a section when the author is describing a woman running a pie shop. It sounded close enough to a bakery for me, so I read on and finally picked up a copy.

The only downside for me was that most of the book is written as a parable (a la The Wealthy Barber) which wears thin quickly — the author likes monologuing too much for that format. But it’s pretty good nonetheless. Well worth picking up at the library.

But I Want To Follow Directions!!

December 9, 2006

I was reviewing recent posts at the brick oven list and there was a post from a fellow just starting his oven building journey. He’s going to be building a 5’x7′ oven based on Alan Scott’s plans and was frustrated that the number and type of blocks the plans called for is a little off.

My first reaction was ‘join the club’ as I found many inconsistencies with my oven plans too. In the end my oven build required the knowledge within the plans, Alan himself, the brick oven list, my own experience, knowledge from product suppliers (minimal) and the opinions of a half dozen friends and family members.

Does this mean the plans are no good? I don’t think so. Maybe they are just mis-named. People have an expectation that ‘plans’, especially plans which cost up to 10% of the price of materials, should be very clear step by step instructions. Clear pictures, no inconsistencies and on Right Way to put the thing together. Alan Scott’s oven plans are not that type of ‘plan.’ I see them as more the compiled wisdom and best practices of a man who has built over 100 of these ovens and has been around long enough to see them in action for many years. Ideas change over time and Alan’s views on oven construction have changed over time as well.

Dealing with inconsistencies in the plans were a pain in the butt, no doubt. But in the end it was an advantage too. I now know the purpose of every component of the oven because I had to make a conscious decision of how to build each piece.

Now could the plans due with a new revision? You bet. But I suspect Alan is more interested in building ovens and learning from the build experience than going through the work of revising the plans. When I read his book on oven building I got the sense that Dan Wing was the catalyst for getting all Alan’s thoughts into a format where a book could actually be created. Perhaps “Brick Oven Plans 2.0” is an opportunity for enterprising copy editor with a passion for bread…

Mixer Woes

December 9, 2006

Hobart Mixer

The dough hook for my 20QT Hobart Mixer arrived this week so I’ve got the itch to do some large scale baking. I spent most of Friday giving the mixer a good clean. When I bought it it looked pretty clean already but once I got started I realized it was actually quite grimy.

I think I’m in a bit of trouble because the bowl lift is all gummed up. I think the previous owners were using the mixer for icing because the whole bowl lift mechanism is plugged up with syrup. I finally decided to take the bowl lift apart but the 6 screws that hold it all together are seized up too. I tried heat, cold, water and penetrating lube but I can’t get them to budge at all. Hopefully Canadian Tire has some miracle product that will release the screws.