Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Baked!

This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to take a tour of Farm to Market Bread's new downtown bakery. This is exciting to me, firstly because my wife and I love the product and love downtown businesses. Secondly because, being an engineer and having worked in/on a few food plants in my day, I am known to nerd out when it comes to processes and industrial machinery.

Farm to Market Bread has taken over the old Hereford House event space in The Crossroads district. Not the original restaurant (that the owner was just convicted of burning down), but the second one (that also used to be a Paddy O' Quigley's, across from The Cashew). My wife and I smell the delicious bread baking every time we are jogging down Main Street. We had always wondered if they had a shop inside the bakery that sells the bread, and they sadly do not... yet, but it is in the works. They hope to have a bread shop and event space open in front of the bakery soon.

Buns in the oven.
(for Blanc Burgers)
Now to the bakery: It is exactly that, a bakery. Going into the tour, I had expected something much more mechanical, much more automated, much more of a factory setting. But I was wrong, it is very much a bakery, where the bread is made by people that know about the science of making bread and love making it. This is not a Wonder Bread bakery (too soon?).

The bread making process at FTM is almost a 24/7 operation. FTM bakes and delivers fresh bread to local grocery stores and restaurants 7 days a week. That means you have people coming in at 3 AM to start mixing dough, then you have activities going on throughout the day (shaping, proofing, baking, packaging, etc). Then to make sure that grocery stores and restaurants get the freshest bread, drivers show up at about 2 AM the next day to take the bread to it's final destination.

Dough in the new proofer.
Don't get me wrong, there are some awesome advancements in the new bakery that any bakery would love to have. For example: They have a huge new dough proofer (warm humidity) and dough retarder (cool humidity) that are both twice as large as those in the previous bakery. Proofing is a very important part of the bread making process. Not enough time in the proofer, the bread will not rise to the desired height. Too much time in the proofer, and your bread will go flat.

The bakery's HVAC system is made up of a canvas-like ductwork that blows cooling air upward, instead of downward (which would dry out the dough). <-- I told you that I was about to nerd out!

The breads: FTM bakery has the most amazing breads! As I told you, my wife and I love their breads, even before being invited in for a tour. They have both oven baked breads and hearth baked breads. We love the Wheat bread and Grains Galore for sandwiches. The hearth baked Sourdough is incredible! <--Try it with the Rachael Ray tuna melt that I posted about a few months ago.

These are a few of
my favorite things
We were given an awesome tip during our tour. If you have a problem eating a whole loaf of FTM before it goes bad (as it is made with no preservatives - it will not last forever - unlike Twinkies, too soon again?) then put it in an air tight ziplock and stick it in the freezer. This will keep your FTM bread fresh until you are ready to enjoy it.

They even have a couple holiday offerings - that if you have yet to pick up something to take to that Christmas potluck, I have the perfect offering for you - Stollen and Panettone. Stollen and Panettone are both traditional Christmas breads, from Germany and Italy, respectively. Both are a sort of fruit cake-breads, made with sweet candied fruits, and are just fantastic (just like every other bread from FTM).

If you have not yet enjoyed a loaf of FTM bread, do yourself a favour and go pick one up. If you already love FTM, I hope you enjoyed the pics!

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