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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wood firing bakery.

"Would you like to visit a bakery?" Mike asked us one afternoon.
"Of course we would like to visit a bakery!". Someone whose hobby is baking would never pass on such an opportunity.

We drove 5 miles north from "Maple Moon farm" to Mike and Amanda's friends. They have just finished building a bakery. It is located on their property, right next to the house that they live in completely off grid. They are tucked away in the woods with a narrow dirt road leading to their homestead, and now a business place.

The bakery is set up as a commercial bread making facility. Selling is not permitted on the premises. That's why the plan is to bring all their baked products, breads and pastries, to farmer's markets and local food coops. For now, Charles and his wife has been trying out a few recipes, making a few adjustments along the way, and really getting the hang of it.

We were not fortunate enough to be able to see the baking operation in action. I guess the family had decided to go for a week long vacation before plunging full speed into artisan bread making business.

"Laughing Tree Firing Oven Bakery" is the 3rd firing oven in Oceana county in Michigan, out of total 40 across the US.

We had the pleasure of tasting the bread and found it to be phenomenal.
"My baking doesn't come even close to this bread", I had to humbly admit.
"No, it doesn't", Mirek's confirmation was more than I could handle. I don't think of myself as a master baker, by no means, and was very happy to find another source of inspiration.

The firing oven baking approach adds a unique flavor to breads. From a window I could see piles of scrap wood that Charles had bought from or traded with a local saw mill. They do need a lot of wood! The fire is made in the middle of the oven. It burns for a few hours, letting the temperature of the oven rise to about 900-1000 degrees F. Then the hot ashes are all scooped out. The oven's temperature drops to 400-500 degrees overnight, and the oven is ready to receive bread loaves. Because of the time and labor intensity of oven preparation, they bake bread 3 times a week.

Besides a unique flavor and texture, extra added ingredients make the loaves of these breads double special. Among a few varieties are the breads with raisins, pecans, olives, cheese, to name a few. Because of the quality of bread the price tag is another story. The loafs are sold for between $5.00-$10.00.

"I don't think we'd be able to afford this bread even though it is absolutely irresistible. We'd have to keep it as a special treat!" I said, acknowledging that we'd have to stick with my baking.

"That's why I am very happy with the arrangement we have with the owners of the bakery. We love their bread, too. And I am happy to do their laundry in exchange for our weekly supply of bread ", Amanda explained. "It's one less thing that I have to do, plus we like to find ways to barter with our friends and neighbors".

When we were living for Wisconsin Amanda gave us a loaf of bread with some homemade strawberry and mulberry jam. That was our breakfast and lunch while crossing lake Michigan on a car ferry.

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