6 Game-Changing Takeaways I've learned as a baker

6 Game-Changing Takeaways I've learned as a baker

A couple days ago, Instagram reminded me of one of our photos from "A year ago today." It was the day that we announced our "SAVE THE DATE" for the Grand Opening of Voyageurs Bakehouse on March 10th, 2020. 

The photos above were posted on our Instagram & Facebook pages on February 12th, 2020.

All I can say is... What a year it has been! 

One year ago on February 7th, 2020, we did the final walk-through and sign off on the construction of the Bakehouse. We took a week to move in and start figuring out how to bake bread in the new bread oven. 

If you've been with us on our journey over the last year, surely you remember the first loaves out of the new oven...

[Read more about these "ugly loaves" in our post titled, "If at first you don't succeed…”]

Seeing those loaves one year later reminds me... 

The journey is the reward.

As we continue this journey as bakers, bread makers, and entrepreneurs, I think it's incredibly important to stop and acknowledge the journey.

The day in and day out of owning a bakery has most certainly taught me to be present. Be. Here. Now. (Otherwise the bread will burn! 😃) 

Everyday we have a chance to improve, to learn something new, to meet new people, to solve problems in different ways. In a world where nothing is guaranteed, living in and appreciating the present can sometimes be the greatest reward of all.

As I reflect more on the last 12 months, here are…

1. No two days are the same when making sourdough

It’s tempting to get upset if I feel like the bread isn't as good as it was the day before, even though the difference is rarely noticeable by others. This is part of the learning journey and working with a naturally fermented product like sourdough. 

2. Recording the temperature of all raw ingredients is essential to making good bread 

The water, flour and levain temperatures are key to ensure that the dough is at the optimal fermentation temperature after mixing. For a long time I only took the temperature of the dough after it had been mixed, but these last 12 months have taught me that the temps need to be taken from the very beginning.

3. The importance of adjusting our dough formulas for the seasons

During these cold months in the Bakehouse, we learned to adjust the amount of levain that is mixed into the bread. The dough was cooling faster in the tubs than it does on a warm summer day, so the extra levain gives it a little more "oomph" on the colder winter days.

4. The amount of time needed to clean is more than expected

There's actually a lot of time given to cleaning the equipment and mixing area during every shift. In any given 8 hour shift, at least 90 minutes - 2 hours is spent cleaning. 

5. The rhythm and dance of baking

We only have one oven that is used to bake every item we produce at the Bakehouse. Time management is key in order to get everything out of the oven at the right time and in the right order. There's a rhythm and dance that I have with the oven every morning, and we're getting to be pretty good dancers. 

6. The reality of the early morning hours of a real baker

During the first 18 months of Voyageurs, we weren't able to begin baking until 1pm at the shared church kitchen where we rented space. It was leisurely (though nights were late, which wasn't ideal for having a new infant at home). I've since learned the reality of a real baker, and greeting the day as early as 3:30am. There's a calm, meditative quality to being the first at the Bakehouse, when it’s just me and the oven. 

We're all traveling on our own journey, carved by the very fibers that make us unique. While baking might not be your jam, you're likely discovering your own little “Aha!” moments along your journey that have gotten you to where you are today. So we’d love to know… 

What are some of the game-changing takeaways you've had in the last 12 months?

Comment below to share what you've been learning. I love knowing that I'm surrounded by like-minded, growth-driven people trying to make every day a little bit better than the one before. 

Thanks for being here, spending your valuable time reading my thoughts. I know you have a choice where you spend your time, and it's an honor that you choose to spend it here. 

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