Paris Baking Trip Blog, 2012


I went searching for a specific photo to show someone a couple of days ago and realized I had not transferred the series of blog entries I had written from our class trip to Paris taken while I attended the Baking course at VIU. These entries, from around March of 2012, are a re-blogging of the posts I did for the VIU website which has revamped its pages and the blog has been lost somewhere (there are still links but they don’t go anywhere). 

I therefore offer it here, again (with some minor editing for data corrections and a few typos) in order to both have my own version on this blog and hopefully, share the amazing experience and maybe inspire someone out there to consider baking as a serious hobby or profession.

Please enjoy and feel free to comment, even though this is actually a rather old series of blog posts.

Note: TONS of photos; they all can be seen larger (as most pics on the site) if you click on them.

Paris Blog: Intro

Continue reading “Paris Baking Trip Blog, 2012”

What is Artisan Bread? asks Zak the Baker

A nifty, hopefully inspirational video post today.

Zak The Baker Wynwood Bakery & Cafe is located in Miami, Fla. The video shows owner Zak preparing numerous artisan breads for a day’s sales which include not just the café but wholesale to a dozen or more outlets and local shops.

He also does numerous Farmers Markets throughout the week. I’m betting there is quite a good sized (and unseen) crew that works here as well.

It’s a somewhat low tech operations from the looks of it. In the video, he has an old Blodgett oven that he pumps steam in from a sprayer, uses metal garbage cans as flour storage, seems to be mixing his doughs by hand, etc.. Well, you’ll see when you watch the video. Photos on the website seem to indicate he’s upped the quality of the equipment a bit in the 2+ years since it was shot.

This lets us know that even though he may have started low tech, he’s since been able to up the game. Which is very good to know.

What is Artisan Bread? from Matt Degreff on Vimeo.

So… What is artisan bread?

Slow built and well fermented, basic formulas that generally contain just flour, water, salt and yeast – in this case, sourdough starter. It’s natural, it’s traditional. It’s real. And damn, if it doesn’t taste good too.

Working at Riso

It’s been a long while since I posted actual baking pics so here’s a set I snapped of a recent Saturday morning bake at Riso where I work.


A typical work day looks something like this:

Most days, I produce about 20 sourdough loaves, 16 country white loaves, 10 seeded whole wheat, 3 egg breads, 6 cinnamon pull-aparts, sometimes a “bread of the day”, and whatever deserts are needed. These include a crazy yummy chocolate-orange gluten free cake (yes, “yummy” and “gluten-free” can co-exists), cheesecakes, carrot cake, Nanaimo bars, cookies, tarts and occasional puff pastries.

My days start at around 3:30 – 4 a.m. and go through to 12 or 1 p.m. The routine is usually to take the doughs prepped the day before out of the cooler and bake the sourdough loaves in the pizza forno that is still hot from last night. Once the sourdoughs are done and on the displays, I use one of the four Berne brot doughs I also pulled from the cooler to make the cinnamon pull-aparts. These are then proofed with the regular Berne loaves and baked in the ol’ Doyon convection oven.

While those are getting baked, I start up the country (yeasted) dough to make the bread for the front as well as for service. With these under way, I start up the seeded whole wheat, also yeasted breads. By then the country loaves are in the convection and baking while the whole wheat is proofing.

About this time I mix up the required pizza dough, then ball them up. When they are panned, the whole wheat is ready to bake. Soon all the bread is done and out on the front display. I can then turn to any deserts that are running low. This may be pecan pie, carrot or chocolate orange cake, cookies, bars, etc. along with the attendant buttercream, pastry cream, tart shells, lemon curd, ganache, roasted nuts and so forth as well as any catering special orders. Oh, and let’s not forget the dishes; always clean up after yourself!

By the time this is done, I can now start making the sourdough for the next day. and, while it is proofing, get the poolishes set up for tomorrow’s country bread. With the sourdoughs bulk proofed, scaled and shaped, they go into the back fridge for their overnight stay, along with the Berne brots needed for the next day.

A final sweep and wipe down and that’s a typical 8 to 9 hour day.

Video: Bread and the Baker

Here’s a short preview of a project currently looking for some crowd funding.

I’ll let their own description explain:

Mike Zakowski, Baker Extraordinaire“This experimental documentary will explore the craft of baking what it takes to produce a high quality loaf of bread.  It will also focus into the world of competitive baking and the process of what it takes to sustain an olympic mindset.  As a part of the 2012 U.S. Baking Team, local craftsman baker, Mike Zakowski [the bejkr] competed in the Coupe Du Monde De La Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking).  Now in an individual effort, Mike is headed to compete in the Masters de la Boulangerie representing USA in the bread category in Paris, France 2014.  The story will be told through the use of innovative film technique and the documentation of the burgeoning localized slow food movement in Northern California.  In contrast, it will focus on the fast paced competitive baking scene worldwide.”

Here’s a promo video for the project:

If you would like to help out with a small (or large!) contribution to see this film developed, hop over to the Bread and The Baker’s Indogogo page and drop a few bucks, pounds or euros towards it. As little as $5 will help them out (and you’ll get a nifty bread sticker!)

The crowdfunding effort runs Aug 8 to Oct 7, 2013.