4am Saturday morning is when I start the biggest bake of the week. Now, I know compared with bakers who work through the night, 4am might sound reasonable to some, but I have tried baking through the night a few times, and it''s a killer. Plus I am nearer to 50 than I am to 40, so 4am it is.
The day starts with mixing four doughs. But prior to that, it's on with the coffee machine! The ovens go on as soon as I get in, and then once they are up to temperature, in go the sourdough loaves, which have been mixed on Thursday, left in the fridge overnight, shaped on Friday, fridged overnight, and now, beautifully proved, they are ready to slide onto the peel, slash, steam and bake for 35 minutes or so, to allow the caramelisation of the crust which gives that distinctive chew to the sourdough. Our starter is four years old, it's a mix of rye flour and water, and I feed it (yes, it's like keeping a pet) regularly.
So, having mixed the Bara Havard and Bara Gwyn doughs, and put them into our big grey tubs to bulk prove, it's onto mixing and shaping the Bara Felinwr (seeded wholemeal) and malted granary loaves. All our loaves are proved in proving baskets or bannetones, which help keep them in shape as they grow. After the beautifully bronzed sourdough comes out, it's in with the malted granary, then the wholemeal. I am on a roll now (no pun intended). The Bara Havard has doubled in size, so I lift that great bulk of dough onto the table, cut it, fold it a couple of times (helps structure), then finally shape it and put it to prove for a second time. By now, my cooling rack is looking rather full, so I have to put some of the loaves into crates ready for Christina to arrive and bag up for our Bread Club customers. Last dough of the day to be shaped is the Bara Gwyn, which makes our 'specials' - cheddar and red onion, cheddar and sunblushed tomatoes, or a favourite, chilli, cheddar and black onion seeds. It's also used to make our lovely white floury baps. It's getting towards time for the staff to arrive now, so having been grateful for the company of the world service and radio 4, until now, I actually have someone to chat with as we work. My working day concludes with a grand clean up, scrubbing the lovely wooden table from which we derived the name for the cafe, brushing the flour dust away, and mopping the floor. Time for another coffee and into the kitchen to see if any help is needed there.
Footnote: We appeared in the Telgraph on Saturday 30th January as one of Britain's 20 Best Bakeries. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/britains-best-bakeries