Cleaning out my cupboards of tiny bags of flour, this loaf worked out to 60% Whole Wheat, 25% Amaranth, and 15% Millet. I used a standard 75% hydration.
I missed a couple of folds in the early bulk fermentation. Whether it was that, or the type of flour used, or if my sourdough is a bit old, I don't know: at any rate the end result was a slightly denser loaf. That seems to be what my wife prefers anyway. She cracked into the loaf and took a picture of the crumb before I was awake one morning (I had been up until 0200 the night before, baking).
However, now she complains that the loaf is too sour for her taste. So it probably was the sourdough mixture being a bit too old.
When to bake?
Let's talk for a moment about when I bake. Mostly, due to my job, I bake at ad hoc times. Sometimes it is late at night, sometimes it is in the middle of the day, depending on whether I'm working nightshift or dayshift. Our province recently installed "smart meters" into homes so that Ontario Hydro could penalize people who use hydro during peak times. If I bake late at night, the cost of electricity to bake my bread will be about 6.2 cents per Kilowatt Hour; but if I bake in the middle of the day, that same bread will cost me 10.8 cents/kWh (winter rates, which we are now following).
|These are the times I should bake my bread: after 7 at night, or before 7 in the morning.|
The stated goals are to have affordable electricity for all -- especially for industry which will put people to work. If people are working, they pay taxes, and if they are not working, they drain taxes. So the object of the smart meters is to get people out of their homes during peak times and into their workplace. Woe to ye, if you work at home. Woe to ye wee little ones if your mom is a stay-at-home type, or if she has a little daycare going at home to try to keep a roof over your head.
The other reason our homes are being penalized is also due to a government initiative. I actually credit the government with some foresight and the realization that burning fossil fuels for energy generation is not going to last forever. It is currently still the most affordable way to generate fuel, but it is not the most efficient and it is increasingly less and less politically correct. I've read dozens of books on peak oil, and it makes no sense to continuously depend on a dwindling resource. We have to diversify our energy source. The Ontario government footed the bill to get us started on wind and solar energy. They have said to producers of green energy: "we will pay you premium prices for clean energy." Wind and Solar companies leapt at the chance, and signed contracts that will give them tons of (our) money for the next few decades.
We are in a transitional time. We have lots of people who are used to paying cheap prices for a fuel that will run out or that is destroying the earth's climate. These are the people who complain loudly at higher electrical prices, and the same people who say that windmills are not studied enough and there should be a moratorium on their use until all the studies are in. I've heard the arguments against wind generation, and to me, none of them are compelling. Sure, they are an eyesore, sure they interfere with migratory birds, sure they cause vertigo, headaches and maybe worse. But compare all that with the true effects of the use of the burning of fossil fuels, and factor in the true costs of using coal and oil -- asthma, allergies, cancers, the destruction of the atmosphere, global warming -- and you immediately see that wind is the better alternative.
Ontario is in a rather enviable position in regards to its energy. We overproduce it now. We don't have the brown-outs that are quite regularly experienced in, say, Michigan, our neighbour to the west. And when we overproduce, being neighbourly, we like to share our energy with them. But get this: it costs us money to send them energy. So the provincial government has started asking the wind farms to stop their giant turbines if it gets too windy. We don't require that much power, so why should we generate it at such vast sums?
Backyard Woodfire Brick Oven?
So what does all this mean with regards to me and my bread? My wife is alarmed that the cost of my bread baking is prohibitive. It is too expensive. She wants me to bake at non-peak hours, if I must bake. It would be cheaper to buy a loaf of wonder bread. Well, sure it would (unless you factor in the true costs of eating crap that is transported long distances, which are asthma, allergies, cancers etc….).
She would like to see me build a wood-fire oven in our back yard. I'm not so sure that's the best idea. It certainly would save money, but probably not in our lifetime, as the cost of making the oven and the cost of wood to fuel it would have to be factored into the cost of each piece of bread I make. (Of course, we have been known to do things that are prohibitively expensive just because we want to do them and we are continuously laughed at by friends and neighbours for it -- example, our 6 suburban chickens, which live the life of Riley in their expensive handmade chicken hut, eating their expensive organic grains and regularly ripping into our lawn and garden when they escape. We often get teased about our $5000 eggs.)
And there is also the carbon footprint of such an oven. These ovens have been used for thousands of years, but you can't call them "green energy". They burn carbon. Directly into the atmosphere. At one time in the early history of our nation, just about every farmhouse had a bread oven. In Canada, we never really got to the stage where people banded together in villages and shared a communal oven, like they did in Europe, simply because there was so much land, so few people to begin with. By the time there were villages, the rules changed with the advent of electricity and gasoline-powered transportation.
If I fired up a backyard oven for just my own two loaves of bread, and maybe the occasional pizza, it just wouldn't make cost or environmental sense. These ovens stay baking hot for a long, long time.
If I made such an oven in my backyard, I think that I would have to offer its services to others in the community who would use it. I was thinking the local food bank, or perhaps the women's shelter; or even the nearby retirement community. There might be one or two people there who'd be interested in fresh home-made wood-fire baked bread. I have no problem with sharing as long as its not going to cost me extra. That means, it's okay as long as they bring their own dough. And as long as I don't have to do all the baking myself. Is this actually going to happen though? Probably not. Realistically speaking, most people are too busy to make their own bread, or to take their dough to a community oven. Probably what will happen is, I will end up giving away any bread that I bake in such an oven, and people will tease me about my $1000 loaves, like they tease me about my chickens.
Still, it might be fun to meet with one or two like-minded local bread experimenters.
The True Cost of Bread
All of this curiosity about how much energy it takes to bake bread, and where such energy comes from, has made me wonder about the true cost of bread that I make, and what it costs to just buy some.
I have long been fascinated with an amazing resource I found while browsing German bread websites.
Arndt Willeke has been teaching apprentice bakers in Lower Saxony for a couple of generations now. He has put together an incredible package of inter-related exel spreadsheets that he calls "Sauerprofi" (or "Sour Professional"). Frankly, I was surfing for German Bread recipes and found a whole lot more with this package. This freely downloadable resource teaches not only recipes and baking techniques, but also how to incorporate the use of computers into the baking workplace, and easily calculate costs of making loaves for customers in a production bakery. It is all in German, of course, and it is designed to fit the German sourdough methodology, but it is a huge resource that I have barely scratched the surface of. Herr Willeke has been very generous with this resource, and it is "jetzt gratis!". Take a look at it, I guarantee you've never seen the like anywhere in English.
Stellen Sie sich der Realität!
Führen Sie Ihre Bäckerei wie ein Profi!
- Arndt Willeke
(Face the reality!
Run your bakery like a pro!)
I start looking at these spreadsheets and I begin to wonder: do I really want to face the reality? Do I really want to run my (home) bakery like a pro?
Well, no. Actually I don't. I don't want to know that my loaves that I'm eating are impractical. I know they are impractical. That is the point, dammit! I can't get this kind of bread anywhere because it would be impossible for a bakery to make it, it is too costly for them, and there are too few people around who demand it. I begin to see why not. I begin to see the economic pressures on bakers, on us all. Survival is going to be tough for all of us. The odds are never in our favour. I say go for it anyway.
Notes to Myself
- Bake when you can, and damn the consequences of whether you are spending 4 1/2 cents a Kilawatt hour more for your bread, or 10 1/2 cents. In the long run, your health and your sanity will be better for it.
- Have fun. Admit it, bread baking is your hobby, and it is fun.
- Never face the reality. Always face the dream.
- Run your home bakery like an amateur.