Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bakery Life in the Here and Now

A young couple from Dallas popped into the bakery yesterday afternoon. They had been camping in Big Bend National Park, were back in civilization and hungry for fresh bread.

I was making out my list for today, working up the plan for Christmas week in the bakery. They were mesmerized by the mill and slightly confused by my hours, Thursday afternoons, between 4 and 6pm. Crazy, right? I think it is a bit odd, and wonderful. We laughed about all the restaurants in Marfa that are often closed. How tiny communities in this region can be sustainable with mindful, careful hours that allow owners and employees to pick up other jobs on the side.

At times I have dreamed of having a bakery in a real building, with a pretty window and glass cabinet to display my wares. I have even looked at a place a time or two. So tempting! But the business woman/mom in me kept seeing other small businesses crater, unable to sustain the costs of building maintenance, employees, insurance and more.

The other day I took my mom on some errands. We remembered the dream. Now she is here, I have this vision of a building, great big chalkboard, vats of soup, trays of frittata, loaves of bread lined up, plenty of crazy good muffins and croissant. My mom's paintings on the wall, as this would be gallery/bakery. A nice fantasy, as small is working so well for me now. I get to work at home three days a week. The kids come home to warm, cozy fresh bread and cookies. May not be much else to eat, but there is always good toast! I can stumble out of bed right here, no driving.

The costs of running a business connected to my home are so much more manageable.

Even so, there are dreams. This winter's dream is the addition of croissant to the menu. Sourdough has been an astonishing success. Except for my fails, as I learn to drive the new vehicle! I let the starter die once. And another time I used the whole vat and forgot to save some for future batches. But it has been fun doing something old and new. Freshly milled spelt sourdough is the coolest, my customers appreciate it, the kids love it.


I want to make the best spelt croissant in the region.

I have been researching for some time, and most bakers of croissant, the from scratch ones, not the ones buying the dough prelaminated from Ben E Keith, say that it is an unsustainable product to offer to their customers. Way too labor intensive. The ones who managed to keep it up in their businesses invested in a dough sheeter. You know, the thing Meryl Streep uses when she and Steve Martin make croissant in her bakery after a crazy party in the movie It's Complicated? Which, by the way, is hilarious, and left me laughing out loud a few years back.

I have been waiting for winter and cold to experiment with the process. Butter has to be stone cold. Not easy to do in a steaming hot bakery. In West Texas.

So. Maybe I should send a letter to Santa? Not for a building to maintain, but maybe a smallish sheeter? Actually, I occasionally check out craigslist, typically things become available about the time I need them.

In the meantime, I am enjoying some new things today. Along with the gingerbread people, I am making one of Philip's favorites, nuss eckern, nut corners, a german cookie made for us by our friend, Chris, an English teacher who lived in the same town as our family back in Tokuyama, Japan. Haven't made that cookie in years. Will let you know how it goes! And a spelt toffee date cake.

The sun is rising, the coffee is hot. And here I am, day two of challenge. The smell of molassesy sucanat and roasted hazelnuts perfumes my air, chickens peck outside the bakery door into the backyard, hoping I will find some scraps of stale bread or crumbs to share with them this morning. I probably will. The early morning light catches in the translucent seed pods of the cardinal vine that threatens to overwhelm the grapevine arbor. It is so pretty, like suspended drops of glistening ice.

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