The Biking Baker

Hey, guess who came to do a microbakery course last week? It was Ben the Biker!
Which raises an interesting philosophical question. How do you run a course for someone who’s a better baker than you are? Well, he wanted to know how to set up and run a microbakery not how to make bread. But of course the two are not mutually exclusive.

Guest bakers take part in my weekly bake – not as big as it was anymore but still around 34K of dough which is plenty to give you the experience of baking for sale. They get the opportunity to scale up one of their own breads for sale to the customers. Ben went for a Butternut Squash and Onion Bread and, Ben being Ben, he was still designing it and making changes on mixing day. It came out absolutely fantastic – the onion flavour really came through, enhanced by a mix of fresh rosemary and sage. But we mixed 30 large loaves and to achieve that flavour we had to prep and roast 30 large onions and 8 squash. We had every large container we could find pressed into service and both ovens running for most of the day, plus we had to fit in roast chicken and baked veg for Ben’s lunch, plus just when I thought we had finished I discovered we had only done half of the onions.

Then, that’s a lesson in itself. Baking for sale is about being practical and getting the best results for the least effort – or at least finding a balance between input and output. Not sure if Ben agrees with that but then if he sets up his own microbakery it will be very different to mine which is one of the beauties of individuals following their own instincts and interests.

It was a fascinating couple of days – I’m still thinking about it. For instance, the flours in the mix were: Strong White 66%, Wholemeal Wheat 12%, Spelt 12%, Wholemeal Rye 5%, Barley 5% (so many flours I missed barley off the labels). I’m going to have to ask him if that combination was crucial to the final loaf – my instinct is always to simplify. Plus, we had two mixes of about 14K each – a formula like this has to be adjusted on the day because the moisture in the squash and the onion is impossible to predict. But I think I scandalised him by looking at the mix and lobbing in another shovel of flour (about 500g) into each. I have to decide how wet a dough I want to look at 6.00 a.m.

Ben said he would have worked with it. He would have too.

Fabulous bread, Ben.

Categories: Uncategorized

4 thoughts on “The Biking Baker

  1. Thank you Mick for making it an enjoyable and worthwhile couple of days and to Sue for the delicious meals. I’m not thinking of starting a bakery at the present time but I’m happy to have some very helpful information which I could at least use if only wishing to scale up the current output of bread for any particular reason and it was also a good excuse to come and visit you! The system you’ve developed is really innovative and shows what you can do with limited space and budget. I thought I’d use 5 different flours in the butternut and onion bread not to make you think how clever I was at blending different flours but rather just to try to get a bit of extra flavour in there! I would say I’m a different as opposed to better baker than you: we all find our own style. I agree I can make things more complicated than they perhaps need to be but I like to play around with formulas which I realise you couldn’t do so much when doing it commercially. Of the other breads we baked from your own formulas I especially liked the wholemeal, rye loaf, brioche and demi baguettes (and thanks for the shaping tips). Somehow I managed to cycle back with them!

  2. Hey, never mind the facade of it being an official course Ben’s attending, next time you organise a ‘breadhead’ reunion, give the rest of us a shout! And let the dough allllllllll hang out… 🙂

  3. Thank you Ben for your kind comments – I got a lot out of the two days too.

    Marcus – more than happy if you want to pay twice. I asked Gert, my commercial gig, what bread he wanted this week. He’s cooking grouse and said he’d like some more of Ben’s Butternut Squash and Onion. I said sod off – too much effort. Then I foolishly offered your Red Onion and Wheat Beer and so spent a lot of time again prepping onions! But I was a good boy – I had the dough on the bench throughout fermentation and folded every hour. Came out beautiful.

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