Monday, 8 November 2010

Change of seasons in the Bakery

In the majority of commercial bakeries the changing of the seasons goes pretty much unnoticed as far as the baking is concerned. However, in ours things are a little different. Sustainability is at the very heart of our bakery, and we were determined from the start to find a sustainable alternative to the banks of provers and coolers which are used in most bakeries to control the rising of the dough.

In the spring the change to the hot weather brought some challenges to us, and we began to think about low-tech cooling methods by which we could control the rise of the dough overnight. However, a tiny line in Alan Scott and Daniel Wing's The Bread Builders pointed to another possibility. They mention the practice of traditional French bakers, who used to vary the amount of leaven in the dough depending on the ambient temperature. At once we realised that the dough might hold the answer, we didn't need a low-tech solution, we needed to be in charge of the dough.

Matthew's adaptation of Jeffery Hamelman's DDT calculations provided a critical tool, meaning that the change of season from warmish to cold nights has passed without a hitch. Until fairly recently this kind of skill and knowledge must have been part of every professional baker's trade, but the ubiquity of technical solutions in bakeries of all sizes means these skills have been lost. The discovery that it is perfectly possible to bake without them has been an exciting one for us, and raises the possibility of another exciting prospect - the off-grid bakery.

Of course, this easy transition has not been without its down side. All transitions in the bakery - new oven, new recipes, new flour and (until now) new temperatures - have meant trial loaves. The presence of many half loaves yielded a bounty for our freezer, especially in the form of frozen cubes of bread to add to one of our favourite winter soups - ribollita. I was horrified to find that we were down to our last bag of bread cubes last week. Time to develop and new recipe I think!


  1. I obviously read the same line in Wing and Scott's book - I also now have 'summer' and 'winter' recipes for my overnight sourdough breads, though I haven't switched back to winter yet as I like the extra hour in bed the cold nights give me!

  2. Yes, the early mornings are a lot less appealing in the dark and cold!