#11  
Old 08-21-2007, 07:33 AM
CanuckJim's Avatar
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Location: Prince Albert, Ontario, Canada
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Default Re: Mass produced sourdough

Drake, JW, James,

First off, thanks Drake, JW, for the kind words. It's humbling and inspiring at the same time. Makes me want to keep going further into the mysteries of bread baking.

As to the the LaBrea saga, I have a similar story, though on not so grand a scale. There's a bakery here called ACE; they use gas ovens, but years ago their bread was very good indeed (no sourdoughs, just straight or preferment), and they were all the rave among Toronto foodies. Then they expanded and expanded and mechanized and mechanized, entering the dangerous realm of French-designed baguette dividers, conveyor belts (the baguette now have traction marks on the bottom), and the quality nose dived. It's passable bread, but nowhere near where it was. I'm sure that the difference is the mechanization and lack of hand work. They're also now using proofer/retarders to slow down or speed up production. This is a factor as well. You can't rush great bread--ever.

Both LaBrea and ACE stumbled into the pitfall of large success, the economies of scale and the benefits of technology--to the detriment of the bread. It must be very, very tempting.

It's true that hand made bread is very difficult to produce on a large scale. Many of my customers understand that my production is limited by time, the size of my oven and the number of qualified hands involved.

However, they do produce levain breads on a fairly large scale in France. This is done with several quite sizable WFOs and many skilled hands in shifts (Poilaine, I think, has something like seven sites in and around Paris). Eventually, I'll have to go to an 8x10 WFO, maybe more than one, then hire and train staff. Where the money will come from is more a mystery than lactobacillus right now. Unlike pizza, the margin on good bread is pretty slender, even though I sell it as a premium product.

Having said all that, I guess the point is that you can't mechanize or rush hearth bread. If I did, I'd deserve the comments written in this thread: pale, uninspired, no crackle, passable but not great.

Jim
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  #12  
Old 08-21-2007, 02:54 PM
james's Avatar
Brick Oven Merchant
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Pebble Beach, CA
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Default Re: Mass produced sourdough

Jim,

You should sell shares in Mary G's, and everyone can own a small % of your bakery. That way you raise your capital to finance your larger oven, refrigeration, etc., and pay a dividend every year.

I've seen micro brew pubs do this.

I'd bite.
James
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