Monday, June 22, 2015

Baking Bread

This past weekend Mark and I made a couple loaves of bread. While I was sitting in a corner rocking back and forth wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life after the Bakery shut down, he was reading the book 52 Loaves by William Alexander.  He'd been pestering me playfully for a week, saying he wanted to bake a loaf of bread. Finally, on Saturday, after several trips to the store for different kinds of flour, I put a packet of yeast into a cup of warm water and we made some bread.

I followed the recipe on the back of the bag of flour.  Bob's Red Mill Honey Whole Wheat.  I don't have a mixer so we took turns kneading the dough with our hands.  I snapped at him - "You're doing it wrong." Nobody I ever tried to teach to make bread ever accused me of being a good teacher - my failings there still sting.  But he is gentle, and patient, and reminded me that this was supposed to be fun. I showed him again how to fold the lump of dough, press it with the heel of hand, turn a quarter turn, fold and press and turn again and on and on. I felt myself falling into the familiar trance, the physical rhythm lighting up some part of my brain that had gone dark the day I read on Facebook that my Bakery was closed.  I could feel it in my arms - the strength was still there.

The sky was dark with thunderstorms when we started,  I had no idea what time it was.  The bread didn't go into the oven till almost nine pm.  That was ok because I've kinda gotten accustomed to staying up later during the last couple of weeks.  He scratched our initials into the round loaf with a not quite sharp knife.  It didn't come out perfect, of course.  But it made my house smell good, and it tasted pretty good. The crust was weak because I don't have terra cotta tiles or a steam injector. There was a yeasty flavor that the Bakery's artisan loaves loose during their long proofing process.  The crumb was too tight, because kneading it by hand forced me to use more flour, throwing off the hydration.  I explained these imperfections to him, told him what we would do the next time we tried this recipe, how we could make it better. He made it into toast and smeared butter on it with a fork.  I ate it like a prayer, the lynchpin in a magic spell that I've been hanging for the last 13 years of my life. I'm an Artisan Baker, and I am going to keep on baking bread.

Danny, Tyler and I had been mumbling grumpily to ourselves for months, maybe years, about how great the Bakery could be if only... things could be different.  People have asked us "What happened to New Day?" and you know, I can't tell that story.  Life is hard. Shit Happens.  There is a sign on the front door of the shop that you can go and read just like I did.  It sucks.

We decided to become business partners, the three of us, so we could keep doing what we love.    With a lot of help from our friends, we are going to reopen soon as Phoenix Bakery.  Danny set up a GoFundMe page, and already we have enough money to buy our Quickbooks system.  That is the biggest, scariest part of this for me.  I am confident that we can make great products - we have been doing that for years.  I am confident that our customers will buy them.  This software promises to help us take care of the rest of the stuff.  We couldn't have even considered this without the help, advice and friendship of the team that built The Daily Kneads in the first place. So we are going to do this, and it is going to be an amazing adventure!

In the meantime, I am gearing up to move back to Edgehill House.  That's a whole other poignant story. This summer is going to be one of labor and sweat, and it's going to be great.

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