I meant to keep writing during my winter bakery tour. I did write, some—notes, recipes, lists—I just didn't write with the focus or direction to send out the weekly newsletter. Time moves differently without the routines of work and home to mark its passage. A day of travel can hold a week’s worth of noticing, the way a moment of surprise or danger can jerk you out of the half-sleep of habit and into full, startling wakefulness. And yet, even as time stretched to accommodate the density of sensations—new landscapes, new smells, new foods, new conversations and ideas—I found myelf unmoored from the calendar. Saturdays came and went, unnoticed. My laptop, a clunky old Toshiba that no longer holds a charge, sat unopened at the bottom of my bag.
I set out on this trip in search of inspiration and ideas and found them. I visited bakers happy with the freedom and efficiency of their cottage businesses, and others grateful for the impact their bustling, 24-hour operations allowed them as employers, producers, and buyers. I met bakers who worked through the night to deliver product hot from the oven, and others who never woke before five, choosing to sell bread the next day for the sake of their sanity and sleep. I visited wholesale bakeries, market bakeries, retail bakeries, and bakeries that combined all three. I met bakers who milled their own flour and others who purchased from nearby farmer-millers or from a regional mill, bakers with wood-fired ovens and others working with huge, gas deck ovens, radical, whole-grain evangelizers and practical businesswomen who appreciated the approachability and ease of white flour. Sometimes I stayed out of the way, watching and sidestepping workers, sometimes I was right in the thick of production, revising recipes, mixing, shaping, and loading the oven. I ate so much bread and butter I had to let out my belt.
Home again after visiting so many diverse baking businesses, I find that though I’m still thoroughly daunted by the prospect of building a retail bakery, I'm feeling more resigned to my ignorance than paralyzed by it. What I don’t yet know—and my unknowing is vast and deep—I can learn. Hopefully.
The Spring Bread Subscription starts next Wednesday and runs through the end of May. The Baker’s Choice is made up of breads I tasted or talked about on this bakery tour, from dense, seedy ryes to a tender, wholemeal brioche. Sign up for the whole nine weeks, or just order bread (at a slightly higher price) one week at a time.
For those who are curious about rye baking and science, I’ve posted the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of Up Rye Zines on the website (free) and in the webstore ($5.50). It’s a thoroughly nerdy project that I’m very excited about, and not only because researching rye bread makes for an excellent distraction from financial projections, loan applications, and hunting for commercial real estate.
The market season starts up again next weekend! Hopefully we'll have a Saturday as glorious as this one, but I’ll be there, rain or shine, with a full lineup of breads and pastries.
See you soon.
Owner | Baker