February 26, 2005
That's a Lot of Bread
We had the good fortune to be invited on a field trip to Le Boulanger. That place does it right. It's an hour and fifteen minutes of interesting, engaging presentation on wheat (most grown in India!), flour, yeast, salt, water, and hygiene, culminating with a tour of the headquarters on Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale. We got to go BEHIND the glass windows and see all the machines and workers up close. Fun! The presenter was personable, clear, responsive, and well-practiced. He's a dad, and he peppered his talk with questions to the young audience.
And the smells! Mostly fabulous baking smells, but one 38°F room was horribly stinky - the place where they keep the lactobacillus sanfrancisco for the sourdough...I had to breathe through my mouth in order not to feel sick. Jason, who normally has a hard time with bad smells, loved it, perhaps because he loves sourdough bread (I don't care for it; give me fresh whole wheat any day).
We saw some of the bakers mixing wine into the dough for the walnut-wine bread, and others rolling croissants. They told us any raw butter croissant dough that doesn't work out quite right is sold to pig farmers...no wonder those pigs get so round. Anything cooked that isn't up to the perfect standards is given to needy people who would definitely like to have it anyway. Nothing is thrown away.
I could be wrong, but I think they said this was 500 lbs of bread dough. Maybe some of it was already taken away. The guy cuts it with what looks like a machete, and heaves a comparatively small portion of it (maybe 40 lbs) into the machine behind him, called a rounder, which apportions, weighs and rolls the dough into much smaller balls before they rest for a while.
Before we left, they distributed goodie bags to all the kids, containing a sourdough roll, a cinnamon raisin bagel, and a crispy chocolate chip cookie. They handed out long browned loaves to all the parents. The hats we used to keep our hair on our heads were also to take home. And it was all completely free.
No wonder there's a two year waiting list for this field trip.
February 26, 2005 | Permalink
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