It is 1:14 in the morning on the 24th of April. I am playing the waiting game. Waiting for my dough to be ready to shape into the loaves I will bake tomorrow. Waiting for the dish machine to finish its cycle so I can do the next load. Waiting to feel like I am really “a baker” who makes “great sourdough breads”. Every time I come to The Cookery (the commercial kitchen where I rent space) I learn something new, or do something not smart. This is my fourth time here. Lets take a quick minute to go over what I have learned through each mistake (some silly, some super terrible).
First time at The Cookery was on Sunday the 1st of April. My first ever market was to be on the following Tuesday. I was super nervous and jittery. The first day went okay. I made the bread, it looked pretty good. But I tried to do all 100 loaves AT THE SAME TIME. I mixed all the dough in two sets in the hobart (mistake 1). I tried to separate it into the individual styles of bread before doing the add ins, but the dough was poorly mixed, due to overloading the hobart so I spent hours (literally) trying to repair the damage. It all worked out, but I had some dough autolysing for way too long, so I damaged the structure when it was time to mix it. I got it done. when it came time to divide each loaf from the mass I did it ALL AT ONCE again (mistake 2). my prep tables were over flowing with bread and, again, some of my bread sat too long, developing a crust before it should. Anyway, I got them all in the baskets, and then into the walkin fridge to sit over night (my shelves on the super tippy top, and I am short, so this took forever too). Day one done. A few mistakes, an hour and a half past my time, worried that the bread was going to be garbage. Woo, home to sleep and worry.
Day 2, Monday night, started out well. I timed the bread well, so there would be plenty of time between bake-offs and for the bread to cool before putting them in the tubs. I did great! I was done and ready to start cleaning up 4 hours early! So I leisurely started cleaning up. The bags I brought for the baskets were too small, so they were a pain. But I got the baskets in the bags, took one round to the car, returned to get the rest, back to the car and…. Locked myself out of The Cookery. The doors look behind you and you use a key fob to get in. I had left the fob on the table where the baskets had been. It was 2:40am at this time. No one was due at The Cookery until 6am. I didn’t have my car keys, phone, jacket, brain (apparently), but at least the car was open and I had my laptop. So, after trying to jimmy the door, repeatedly, and seeing if I could somehow McGuiver the door (no, no I could not. But the tool I made was pretty cool) I decided to listen to a book on my laptop and wait for rescue, at 6 (it was 3 by now). At least I was done, the oven was off, and my bread was definitely cool enough to box up.
That was my first experience. Luckily the first farmers’ market went really well, so I tried my hand at production again. My second time I didn’t bring enough dusting flour, and forgot the spatula to help get the cheesy loaves off the sheet pans. My third time I forgot the rolling pin to roll out my spiral rolls, and a thermometer to test the temp on my breads. Luckily, there is a store less than a five minute walk away.
I am now on the bake-off day of my fourth session at The Cookery. I have not forgotten anything, yet. I have improved my process and been able to reduce the amount of hours that I have to rent the space, which is saving me money. My loaves are still not perfect, in fact I think the Garlic Cheddar I am about to bake-off may not be my finest loaves. But, when I don’t hate this it is very fun and beautiful and full of joy.