Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The bakery

nine or so years ago I worked at a rustic breads bakery. Now, any job within spitting distance of a restaurant or food is right up my alley (isn't that imagery just plain gross: Spitting! around food!). I just know what to do in a restaurant, I'm comfortable there. Yada, yada, back to the bakery: the coolest girl (she was 27) owned the place because she had had a whim that she wanted to be a baker. I loved that. A whim. So, at that point in life I only had front of house experience and was intrigued by baking. Not even the hours scared me.

Mel, the owner, met me at the front door on my first day. She was late and I loved that. As she was explaining the procedure she announced that in her bakery you measure with feeling not arbitrary units. Though she had a scale to weigh she made me feel everything: the grain of the flour, the coarseness of salt, a pound of butter, the slippery, sticky-wet dough. She made me taste the raw dough to correct the seasoning. Every batch is slightly different, unique; like a snowflake you mistake for all snowflakes but upon closer inspection is only similar in composition and name. She believed that understanding the individual ingredients made a better product. That theory made sense to me and I embraced it fully. I was good at baking; I am good at baking. It makes sense to me.

I still feel my recipes and "eyeball" the measurements, I know what the proportions resemble in the mixing bowl; how salty the wet dough tastes when sucked on.

I fell in love that morning: the predawn gray, coffee, conversation, and sticky hands shaping loaves.


Lisa said...

Ohhh. I want to go to THAT bakery. Sounds so amazing.

Kit said...

I love the sound of that bakery- reminds me of two novels called By Bread Alone - one set in San Francisco and the other in England. Both had that love of bread embedded into them.
I wish I baked like that, by feel. I'm still an inveterate weigher outer, even though I have done it a million times already.