Well I've been taken completely by surprised by the number of people who've been reading the blog. I've gotten four comments already, and so at least four different people have looked up the website. Awesome! Well that means I have some content creating to get after.
Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Dan Lliteras. I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey, home of Bruce Springsteen and two of New York's professional football franchises. After spending a few years in the armed forces I bounced around a bit and wound up taking classes in sunny Santa Barbara, California. In search of an alternative to the mediocre offerings of the local grocery stores I resolved to learn to make my own bread. I got a copy of Flour Water Salt Yeast, written by Portland baker Ken Forkish, from the local library. My life has never been the same (Thanks Ken!). After baking for my self and five roommates for half a year I moved to Wyoming where I worked a seasonal job in Grand Teton National Park. On my weekends I worked at Persephone Bakery, making world class bread and yeasted pastries (Thanks Ali and Kevin!). My part time job became my full time job and I made baking my profession.
This past winter I made a choice. I could have stayed on for another beautiful summer in the high country of Northwest Wyoming, or I could strike out in pursuit of a dream. I decided to strike out. So here I am in Silverton, a beautiful small town nestled among the foothills of the Cascades, but a town without a baker.
Not for long, Silverton. Not for long.
Hello again my internet friends,
I promised introductions in my first post, and here I am to honor that promise. So lets take a few minutes to talk about my future bakery. We can introduce me later.
So I should clarify, when I said "future bakery" right there I wasn't talking about a futuristic bakery, one which I presume would sell astronaut bread and be staffed by robots. I mean to say I'm in the process of opening a bakery, it just won't be ready for a while. Instead of being futuristic, the bakery will be both antiquated and modern. I plan to do many things the old fashioned way, using my hands to mix, divide, and shape the dough, discarding the commonplace machines of the modern bakery. One very big exception to this old fashioned theme will by my oven, which will be about as sophisticated and modern as one can get, but there will be a refrigerator and polycarbonate tubs and other modern things too.
You might ask why I want to spend hours a day doing something that can be done in minutes by a machine? Well I'm happy you might have asked. It boils down to this: I will be doing it that way because that's the way I like doing it.
Some aspects of baking lend themselves well to mechanization; for example, a prudently used mixer can save a lot of sweat without impacting the final quality of the bread. A big ol' mixer is essentially ubiquitous in today's bakery. At the other end of the spectrum there are giant machines that reduce the baker to technician rather than artisan. At this scale the baker/technician must stiffen the dough consistency, use additives and conditioners, and tinker with the fermentation process, all for the benefit of the machine, and all at the direct expense of the bread. These giant machines are very good at making crappy bread very quickly.
So, when presented with the wide range of today's equipment options, one must draw the line somewhere. For me it's an easy choice to stay small and forgo non-essentials. I've decided against the mixer for personal preference. Does that choice introduce some production challenges? Big ones, but I'm willing to try working with them, for now at least. In exchange I expect to get a level of connection to the dough that a big ol' mixer can't provide. As for the oven, I've decided that I want to have a baking chamber that I can control precisely. This is one example where I feel technology facilitates better quality, and so I choose to abandon the romance of the wood fired brick oven.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "I don't care. Where's the bread?" That's reasonable. Unfortunately you're going to have to be patient, the bread's a few months out. The space I'm leasing needs a lot of work before I can get started. I need to put in a grease trap and practically rewire the whole joint to accommodate the oven. Then I have to wait until the oven actually gets here (from Italy). Nothing's going to be happening until late September at the earliest. Sit tight and have faith, dear reader.