New Website

Hello faithful followers: this blog is now redundant as all my new posts are going into the “Latest News” section of our new website: http://www.thebreadpeddler.ca

If you followed the blog, you will continue to get an email every time I make a new post on the website. If you WANT to follow the news, you can subscribe to follow on the website. My news posts will also be pushed to FaceBook, so you can keep updated from there as well.

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Calm Before the Storm

The last four days have been a small respite for Tim and I. Starting tomorrow we will be baking and hosting visiting family and friends and baking some more, non-stop for 6 weeks or so! We managed to squeeze in an amazing mountain bike ride up in Yank’s Peak territory yesterday – the memories of that great day will have to hold us over for many long hot hours in front of the oven!

On French Snowshoe Mountain.

On French Snowshoe Mountain.

Look! We found snow!

Look! We found snow!

Back to the bakery: We got 5 lovely new peels all the way from Nova Scotia on Friday. They were made by a craftsman John who brings his wares to the Wolfville Farmer’s Market. My parents were the expeditors, packaging and arranging for shipment all the way west. (Oh, and they paid for them, too – thanks so much!) The peels are maple (how exotic) and the handles are ash – they should last forever! During our inaugural pizza night in Wells last Wednesday (which went very well, by the way) we completely destroyed the makeshift plywood pizza peel we were using – by the end of the evening it was a charred ruin! That is not surprising when the oven is maintained at about 700°F, and the peel is going in and out countless times to place, turn, and remove the pizzas. I am very excited to start using the new peels tomorrow.

Lovely new peels.

This week’s events:

Tuesday July 22: The Bread Peddler in Wells 4 to 8 pm – bread sales, fresh from the oven!

Wednesday July 23: Green Tree Health and Wellness, Reid Street, Quesnel – bread delivery at 9 am, as soon as the store opens. Get there soon, before it all sells out!

Wednesday July 23: The Bread Peddler in Wells 4 to 8 pm – Pizza Night!

Saturday July 26: Quesnel Farmer’s Market 8:30 am to 1 pm – bread sales

Sunday July 27: Wells Farmer’s Market 9 am to 1 pm – bread sales

We are launching our new website later in a day or two: www.thebreadpeddler.ca. This blog will now be hosted on the website, under the “LATEST NEWS” heading. All you loyal blog followers should still get an email notification when there is new news.

And, even though I said I never would, I have started a FaceBook page, so go on, all you FaceBookers, do your thing: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bread-Peddler/531498966973309

Linda and her new Bread Peddler apron. They are selling like hotcakes!

Linda and her new Bread Peddler apron. They are selling like hotcakes!

Busy busy.

Busy busy: Tim and I settle into our roles during the first pizza night – he at the oven, me stretching dough.

Our first pizza customers on our first pizza night - neighbours from down the road!

Our first pizza customers on our first pizza night – neighbours from down the road!

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In the Dough!

Yesterday was the first EVER Wells Farmer’s Market in Wells. We nearly sold out of our bread – over 80 loaves sold! – and there were jams, pickles, preserves, pancakes with huckleberry compote, coffee, garlic scapes, mini rhubarb cakes, smoothies, lemonade and all sorts of things! There was even a lamb to feed and pet. She did a great job pruning the grass around the gazebo. It was fun and it felt good to earn some money for the first time in a little while. The townsfolk of Wells came out in good numbers to support the market. I’m sure it will grow into a great market. Next markets are July 27, August 10 and 24, and September 7 and 21. Congratulations to everyone involved in the Wells Community Association – the organizers of the market.

We have had 3 firings of the oven so far, and each time we are getting more heat of the oven. This morning the oven is still reading just over 300°F, and there hasn’t been a fire in there for nearly 48 hours.

A hot bed of coals inside the oven - I think we are getting the hang of this firing thing.

A hot bed of coals inside the oven – I think we are getting the hang of this firing thing.

Holey Hannah Bread, take II, and our friend Catherine in the background watching the proceedings.

Holey Hannah Bread, take II, and our friend Catherine in the background watching the proceedings.

Grainy Day Bread, cooling.

Grainy Day Bread, cooling.

Our first customers, 8:55 am Sunday at the first Wells Farmer's Market. Jeff and Margaret bought one of each kind of bread! I hope they have hungry friends.

Our first customers, 8:55 am Sunday at the first Wells Farmer’s Market. Jeff and Margaret bought one of each kind of bread! I hope they have hungry friends.

Bread on display at the market.

Bread on display at the market.

More bread on display.

More bread on display.

Two proud and relieved Bread Peddlers.

Two proud and relieved Bread Peddlers.

Tim proudly displays his "Employee of the Month" T-shirt. I don't know where he gets the idea that HE is Employee of the Month, surely it must be ME.

Tim proudly displays his “Employee of the Month” T-shirt. I don’t know where he gets the idea that HE is Employee of the Month, surely it must be ME.

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Trial by Fire

We’re so close now we can taste it! Er, and taste it we did! Yesterday I made a modified Pain au Levain (aka Holey Hannah), 65% Rye (Ryed On!), Multigrain (Grainy Day), and Spelt bread (Speedy Bread), AND THEN WE BAKED THEM IN THE BRICK OVEN. Wow. Our friend Christine was there to document the inaugural baking (photos below), and then later Margaret and Emily just “happened by” and got to do some tasting. The oven never reached the temperatures we wanted it to, so some of the bread didn’t cook so well. I guess that means the next time we fire the oven it will be pretty damn hot as we burn barrow-loads of firewood to over-compensate for the low temps last night. We get a lot of comments about our choice of firewood: beetle-killed, super dry pine, as opposed to birch, the only real hardwood in the area. The birch doesn’t grow right in Wells, however, and neither does Douglas Fir which would also be a more BTU-rich firewood. We would need to go 50-80 kms west for birch, and about the same east for Douglas Fir. I know it IS possible to get the oven up to the proper temperatures by burning pine, this is what the folks at Red Rooster Artisan Bakery in Prince George use as firewood. We will just have to learn how to fire the oven properly over the next few weeks or so. I really don’t think cutting down live birch trees in Quesnel and then trucking them all the way to Wells is really the kind of thing we want to get into – one of the nice things about having a wood-fired bakery is that we are not burning any fossil fuels to produce the bread. Except for gas and chain oil for the chainsaw. And until the climate changes enough that we can grow grains in Wells, we’ll be burning gas to drive to Quesnel to pick up supplies. And, there’s the lighter fluid in the lighter to start the fires, and…

So, this is the first few days of this week, curing the concrete and insulating the oven.

Tim lighting the first fire.

Tim lighting the first small concrete-curing fire.

The first small fire in the oven to aid in curing the concrete cladding.

The first small fire in the oven, blazing away, helping to dry everything out properly before we put insulation over the oven body. The scratch coat of stucco is done as well, and needs to cure before the smooth coat(s) go on.

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Tim welding the frame which will encase the oven’s insulation. Is there anything that guy cannot do?

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The oven getting its insulating jackets put on: first a couple layers of ceramic fibre blanket and then rock wool insulation.

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The insulation complete – now there is just the work to encase the insulation in cement backer board.

And while the concrete was curing we were busy making things we will need before we go into production.

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Making bread pans that are custom-sized to go in the oven. These multi-loaf pans are expensive to buy, and this was yet another great idea I learned from Roman and Monika at Red Rooster Bakery. We got a great deal on aluminium at Princess Auto – they were so confused about the way Tim says the word they only charged us for one piece!

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Various oven tools Tim has fashioned out of bits and pieces. From left to right: a brass-bristle brush to clean the hearth, a scraper to remove the ashes, and a ring in which to put a damp towel to wipe the hearth before the bread goes in. All these things have very long handles, of course.

Now the real test: actually making food that should be somewhat edible. We had to have some pizza with the first bake day, it just wouldn’t have been right not to.

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What are we doing in there? Tim is holding the door open for me because I am using a very short-handled pizza peel – our new peels are on their way from a wood craftsman in Nova Scotia, via my parents!

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The first spoils from the oven! Nice shirt, Tim.

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Tasting the spoils. So far, Tim hasn’t keeled over, so I guess everything is OK.

Next the bread goes in.

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Team work: Tim loads the loaves on the peel, then I score them and put them into the oven. Not yet the smoothly oiled machine it will soon become. Notice my head lamp – I “rewired” the light for shining into the oven last week, and now it no longer works. Hmph.

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Measuring the temperature of the loaves to see if they are done. These first loads of bread didn’t brown nor cook well because the oven wan’t hot enough – better luck next time!

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Still a big smile, it is VERY exciting to take bread out of the oven for the first time.

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Ryed On! (65% rye) rising in a proofing basket, just before going into the oven.

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Grainy Day bread – nice score marks, but lacking volume and colour. It will get better, folks.

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Holey Hannah (modified Pain au Levain) broken open just to ensure there really are holes. I was pleased with how this bread turned out. I think/hope it will sell well. Oh yeah, there are holes AND it tastes pretty good, too.

Today we are re-grouping and getting ready to bake for the first big public test: The Wells Farmer’s Market, Sunday July 13, from 9 am to 1 pm at the red-roofed gazebo where the highway crosses the Willow River. Be there to support the inaugural market! The markets will be every second Sunday through July, August and September.

 

 

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Where There’s Smoke……

Since I no longer sleep at night due to anxiety and anticipation and nervousness and worry and stress and all those things, the days seem to be a whorl of tasks – some done, some yet to be done, some never to be done at all, I’m afraid.

Thank goodness for Tim and his constant plodding along. Not that he plods, but you get my meaning – he cheerfully keeps on going and going, day in and day out, dragging me along with him (as long as I keep him fed, that is). I know soon it will be my turn to be the super busy one, throwing bread and pizzas into that oven until I am doing it in my sleep. Ah, sleep…

Yesterday was another milestone day – smoke came out of the bread oven’s chimney! WHAT chimney, you say? Well, the one we installed yesterday. Here are the latest photos, starting with the lovely scene in the grain store – GRAIN, nearly to the ceiling!

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Just about 2000 kg of organic grains and flour just waiting to be converted into yummy bread. SOON!

Tim and his clean feet on the roof, installing the chimney.

Tim and his clean feet on the roof, installing the chimney. Great thing the sun was shining yesterday.

The first little fire - not to warm or dry the oven, just to see if the smoke would actually go up the chimney. AND IT DID! Our friend Margaret was there to witness the marvel.

The first little fire – not to warm or dry the oven, just to see if the smoke would actually go up the chimney. AND IT DID! Our friend Margaret was there to witness the marvel.

Insulating the façade of the oven. Nice outfit, Kate.

Insulating the façade of the oven. Nice outfit, Kate.

The oven façade, in some kind of 1980s metal dress - the stucco mesh. Tim LOVED doing this job.

The oven façade, in some kind of 1980s metal dress – the stucco mesh. Tim LOVED doing this job. There is a small heater inside the oven helping to cure the concrete, hence the cord and the insulation in the doorway.

 

 

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The Final Push

Things are steaming along here, and not just because of the moist mountain weather. Tim and I actually went for a short bike ride yesterday: we had to scramble/carry over all the winter’s downed trees, we got severely eaten by bugs, we were rained and hailed on, and then were nearly hit by lightening. It was a great ride.

The progress in the bakery is so fast I can hardly keep track of what is happening. The concrete cladding is poured and curing as we speak – that all went seamlessly, though carrying buckets of wet concrete to pour into the form was a bit taxing on the arms, to say the least.

Mixing concrete for the oven cladding.

Mixing concrete for the oven cladding.

Tim levelling the concrete on top of the oven.

Tim levelling the concrete on top of the oven.

Spreading the wet concrete over the oven, 6" thick.

Spreading the wet concrete over the oven, 6″ thick.

Tim has been working on the brick work that forms the front façade of the oven. We managed to get some red bricks for 50¢ each – they are not common items out here in western Canada, and the supplier is selling off old stock and not replacing it. They remind me of houses built in the 1970s in Ontario. Very cool.

The start of the façade bricks. When the fire is burning in the oven, this façade will lead the smoke up into the chimney and out of the building. The chimney will be the next project after the brick work is done.

The start of the façade bricks. When the fire is burning in the oven, this façade will lead the smoke up into the chimney and out of the building. The chimney will be the next project after the brick work is done.

The brick work is done except  for the arch.

The brick work is done except for the arch.

The wooden form for the façade arch.

The wooden form for the façade arch.

The first row of two arch rows.

The first row of two arch rows. We are keeping a small heater in the oven and some insulation in the doorway in order to expedite the curing of the concrete.

We have some dates firmed up for our first selling opportunities: Sunday July 13 is the first Wells Summer Market, and that will be our debut into the world of making a living by selling great bread and baking! How exciting. I’ll keep you posted about more bread-buying opportunities as they arise.

Most news-worthy of all, I decided yesterday while we were out on our bikes that I really should just capitulate and make a Facebook page for The Bread Peddler. I have been resisting all this time, but as much as I hate to admit it, I think it really is the best way to get the word out, given how many people have bought into the unsocial media craze. (Insert rant here). Now I just have to find someone who is adept at negotiating Facebook’s privacy settings so I don’t get bombarded with cute kitty videos.

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Oven Time

Well, now. What should I say? Tim and I have had a difficult week, and I have been mulling over what details to blog. Should I tell the whole story, tears and lamentations included? Should I gloss over the whole event and pretend it never happened? Should I lie and say we have gone on a holiday for the past week, and have returned reinvigorated and refreshed? I guess you’ll just have to figure out which path I am going down……

In the photo below, this is where we were last Tuesday morning, six days ago. You may notice that I am not smiling; not even with a camera pointed at me, not even thinking that this will be a photo going on to the blog, and that I should be trying to look like I am having fun. I wasn’t having fun, I was STRESSED OUT and WORRIED. I guess I knew something wasn’t right: moments after this photo was taken, the whole oven collapsed. I immediatly burst into tears. Tim said, “Shoot”. Gotta love that British stiff upper lip.

Putting layers of foil over the oven to act as a "slip joint" between the bricks and the concrete cladding. Pretty mickey mouse, we thought, considering how good the rest of the oven design is.

Putting layers of foil over the oven to act as a “slip joint” between the bricks and the concrete cladding. Pretty mickey mouse, we thought, considering how good the rest of the oven design is.

So, we did what mature and strong-willed people would do: we got right down to work cleaning the failed mortar off the bricks and piling them up for the next go-around. I blubbered on and off for the rest of the day, but tried my best to put it all into perspective: no one got hurt, no one was missing any appendages, there was not wet concrete all over my fancy painted floor, and miraculously, Tim and I were still married! It turned out we hadn’t used the refractory mortar correctly, and it didn’t set. Tim was awake the next morning at 4:30 am (isn’t anxiety wonderful, there is so much more time to do stuff?!), so he got up and drove to Prince George to get more mortar. And detailed instructions on how to use it!

Weighing the mortar and water mix exactly to prevent further mishap.

Weighing the mortar and water mix exactly to prevent further mishap.

We are now just barely ahead of where we were last Tuesday – the brickwork is done, the mortar is set (!), the mesh reinforcing is installed, and the wooden forms are in place to hold the concrete cladding which we will pour tomorrow. Today, nineteen-seventies’ rock is heard cranking out of the bakery, and all is well in the world again.

The oven interior.

The oven interior, take two. Better than take one, undoubtedly.

The oven exterior, with mesh reinforcing. Getting ready for the concrete cladding.

The oven exterior, with mesh reinforcing. Getting ready for the concrete cladding.

The oven in her wire cage - reinforcement for the concrete cladding.

Another view of the oven in her wire cage.

The wooden forms ready for us to fill up with concrete tomorrow - from the front.

That’s the last we’ll see of the oven’s exterior brickwork – the wooden forms are in place,  ready to be filled with concrete tomorrow.

Yesterday, as the bricks and mortar dried, the timing was right for us to go for our first paddle of the summer. We went to Ghost Lake with 5 other people for a relaxing and lovely day of paddling, sight-seeing, and cookie-eating! The sun shone and there was next to no wind – fantastic! We saw five bears and one moose on the drive out to the lake.

Ghost Lake

Ghost Lake

Me, paddling.

Me, paddling.

Tim, lounging.

Tim, lounging.

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