Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bread baking in Indiana

Another summer weekend, another adventure.

You may remember Eric, from the Cosmic Otters. He’s our accordion player and he and his wife are good friends of ours. Now, they have a third member of the household.

Jamming in the bakery while the bread rises, which is why he is wearing a hairnet.

Wee L. arrived about two months ago, and as Eric and Katie make their living baking and selling bread at their farmers’ market, we thought we’d go down to help with the baking on Friday and selling on Saturday (and, to be honest, to see the baby.)

This is from earlier this spring; for some reason, I didn't take pictures when I was at the market last time.

The Fool and I are pretty respectable home bakers who bust out a couple loaves whenever we need bread. We have a nice sedate gas oven with a temperature dial and a thermostat. We have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. We have a refrigerator if the dough starts to get really crazy and we need to slow it down, because we can always find space for a mixing bowl in there, even if we have to stack a few things.

Eric is a baker in a whole different universe. He makes beautiful sourdough hearth loaves, 50, 60, 70 at a time, bakes them in a wood-fired oven, and does the whole thing in a small kitchen with no air conditioning. (And his pretzels. Oy. The Fool could happily live on these soft pretzels. Eric jokes about starting him a tab whenever we visit.)

Usually, he manages just fine, but this last time was rough. The oven wasn’t at an appropriate baking temperature, and all he could do was wait for the temperature to coast down. The weather was hot and humid, and so the dough was rising fast – too fast. The oven temperature, like a train on an oncoming track in one of those story problems in fifth grade math, was going to intersect with the bread dough at the completely wrong time, and we had nothing to do but reshape the flobbery, quick-rising loaves and try to peel the sticky dough out of the linen-lined rising baskets.

“Ha ha,” I said to him. “Isn’t it fun being on the front lines of the local food revolution?”

He gave me an absolutely filthy look – sweaty, tired, wearing the health-department mandated hairnet - and said nothing. Then he burned some bread because he was helping his wife with wee L.

Everyone I know is having babies, in one case, two at a time, so I decided the smartest thing to do was put the socks on hold and knit Ann Norling’s fruit caps in different colors of Takhi Cotton Classic until I get a good stockpile.

One of the hats stayed with our friends. They keep calling their little baby “Sweetpea,” so it seemed the obvious choice.

Jamie examines baby toes.

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