Last Friday was exactly like the picture I had in my mind about baking in winter. Mild, mostly sunny, but with a delicate snowfall off and on throughout the day. Huge snowflakes piling up on my staging table that were easily swept off between loads. It was beautiful and relaxing – completely unlike the bitter cold, windy mess we have outside today.
We’re not baking this Friday, or for the next few weeks, as I’m off to San Francisco for some serious training at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Serious in that I fully expect a hard three weeks spent investigating each part of the baking process in detail, from the basic ingredients through mixing, fermentation, shaping and baking. I won’t be surprised if every part of our current technique is broken down, modified and rebuilt. It will be worth it if, when I get home, I can improve our existing varieties and bring you some new recipes too. I’ve got my chef’s jacket and check pants packed and ready to go!
My time at SFBI is actually three separate courses:
- Artisan I is focused on the basics of bread making and will form the foundation for the other courses. I expect we’ll be making as much bread in the first five days as we’ve made at Orange Boot since October.
- Artisan II is all about wild yeast breads aka sourdough. Our wild yeast loaves haven’t scaled up as well as I’d like compared to the small batches we’ve made over the past 5-7 years, so I’m eager to get some good theory and practical experience working with large batches of wild yeast dough. And if you’re going to learn about sourdough, San Francisco is the place to do it!
- The third week is focussed on whole grains and specialty flours. We’ve had several requests for whole grain breads along with lower gluten flours like spelt. Here’s a chance to get skilled in this new and exciting area of artisan baking.
As an aside, have you noticed how whole grains are ‘new’ and the current hot topic of nutrition? That’s one of the ironies of what we’re doing at Orange Boot Bakery — taking ‘old’ ingredients and techniques to make better bread. When you’re not making 50,000 loaves per day you can focus on flavour and nutrition which means going back to the way bread was made over 100 years ago.
My evenings will be spent making some changes to our website and email lists along with sending you the odd update from the field. Don’t worry, I won’t plug up your inbox, but if anything especially interesting goes on I’ll let you know. I’ll be describing things in more detail on my personal blog.
On the weekends I’m hoping to head up to the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco to see the bakeries I’ve only read about. Places like Artisan Breads, owned by world champion baker Craig Ponsford, Della Fattoria, who use two huge Alan Scott ovens just like ours, and Schat’s Courthouse Bakery in Ukiah, whose owner wrote the best book on running a bakery that I’ve ever seen. There are 6-10 others I want to see too. I’m taking the camera and laptop so hopefully there will be some nice pictures to share with you.
I’ll be back in Regina on the Feb 23rd, hopefully with big burly shoulders and a head full of new ideas. If everything works out I hope to get back baking in time for all your Leap Year parties on the 29th!
Mark, Cindy, Ben and Robyn
skype: Mark Dyck