a glimpse into my mind last Tuesday: i need to mix in how many pounds of flour to make 70 loaves? wait… 70 loaves, or 75 loaves? what kind of bread? how in the ef do i figure this out again???
i really knew that i’d been on vacation when thoughts like these and the very simple math (we ain’t talkin calculus here peoples) were totally perplexing to me. Wednesday was a challenging day (ended up baking 140 loaves + 80 pocketbreads, which i didnt even realize til they were all in the oven), but Thursday was much smoother, and by Friday morning i was feeling incredibly grateful and pumped up to be back in the saddle, pulling a bunch of perfectly baked loaves out of that wood fired oven at pizzaiolo.
(btw check out this bread honeycomb i made at pizzaiolo! these are the loaves resting before i shape them into their final shape)
so i’m feeling pumped because i’ve been having a lot of hand and arm pain recently, but i picked up some rad tips from baker buddies in vermont, and i’m real optimistic that i’m going to be able to bake even better bread now, without . a lil background…
up until january, my job was primarily done on the computer. while i valued the work (writing teacher’s guides and children’s books) and loved my colleagues (some of the raddest, smartest, creative people i know), i fell out of love with what i was doing. (and holy crap, i’d grown real tired of spending all day staring at a screen, moving my fingers.) i caught the bread bug, and couldn’t stop baking, blah blah blah, fast forward to now, where i’m baking about 300 loaves a week.
needless to say, going from a desk job to a bread baker is a big change in how i spend my days, and what i do with my body. i’ve always been active in my free time, but kneading 200 lbs of dough is a new activity, requiring the use of new muscles. so, when my hand and arm started to ache like a muh fuh a few months ago, i started to wonder, “am i cut out to be a baker?” this was a bit a of a shocker – never had i considered that my body wouldn’t be able to handle baking bread. so i started taking care of this new problem, going to acupuncture, going to a chiropractor, stretching my new muscles. and i started looking at how i was using my body, the muscles i was using and over-working, and what i could change to make things easier on me.
and things became a lot clearer while i was home, visiting other small scale baking operations. all of the sudden it dawned on me – i was still doing some things the way i’d done them when i was a home baker. and shit, i’m not a home baker anymore. specifically, i was mixing and kneading my dough all by hand in 40 lb batches, in a way that was way more difficult than it needed to be. i had this humongous mixer at my disposal at Mission Pie, but i was refusing to use it because i didn’t like the idea of machine mixing, and i thought that i could bake better bread if i did every single step by hand. however, i liked the idea of baking bread without super sore hands and arms a lot more, and i found out that i can get the same quality bread by using the mixer for just the first part of the mixing, then doing the rest of it by hand in even smaller batches than before. (think doing 100 curls with 20 lb dumb bells vs. doing 20 curls with 100 lb dumb bells… which one would you choose?)
sooo, i’ve tweaked my methods just a little bit, and my arms are feeling awesome, and i think the bread this week is going to be the best bread i’ve ever made.
the moral of the story – from time to time step back and look at what you’re doing, get rid of the stuff that no longer makes sense, and adopt new practices that fit the present. it’s easy to keep doing what you’ve always done, but you ain’t never gonna grow with an attitude like that, sucker.
anyway, enough of this emo mumbo jumbo. i’ve discovered some radical secrets of whole wheat bread, and i’m going to pump them out for you come Thursday at Mission Pie. if you know what’s good for you, you’ll come get crunchy with me.