Related post: Noah Elbers’ Maple-Oatmeal Bread
As we were driving home after a visit to Noah’s bakery in New Hampshire, I was thinking that if I could have another life and start all over again and be a professional baker, then I would want to start my career at Orchard Hill Breadworks. Not only is it located deep in the woods of New Hampshire which are gorgeous year-round and especially in the fall when we were there (sorry I can’t show you more pictures than the ones I took from the car as it rained all the time we were there)…
…Dave Cody (who used to work with kids with behavorial problems)…
…and Brendan Smith (who started as a home baker when he was working in a consulting firm specializing in renewable energy)…
…as well as Ben Ewing who was replacing Kurt on a temporary basis and who, by trade, is a forester. All three love biking (as does Noah) and I have the feeling that they have no problem finding something to talk about as they work. Dave and Brendan live a mile away on the same road as the bakery. They bike to work most of the time. Every house along the road has a wood stove and they say the air smells delicious as they ride by. They clearly love it here and Noah enjoys the interaction with his employees. A small detail (which I found it endearing): Noah’s family has a flock of 50 laying hens and whenever these hens lay, his bakers get free eggs. Now that has nothing to do with baking but it certainly fosters a feeling of belonging…
Dave, Brendan and Ben – soon joined by Noah – were shaping the 6-grain bread when I showed up in early morning. As can be seen from the video below, the bakery is a regular beehive:
- Noah doesn’t preshape, ever. He has done a lot of side by side comparison and failed to establish that it made a difference
- All his doughs are pretty well hydrated but not superwet (at least 70% for most white doughs and closer to 85% for the whole-wheat), so that they relax quickly
- Although most of the white flour he uses (hard red winter wheat) comes from Quebec’s La Milanaise, Noah mixes all his preferments with Kansas Heartland Mill flour which, in his experience, seems to have a better tolerance for long fermentation. He regularly uses a blend of 70% Milanaise and 30% Heartland.
- For the whole wheat, he uses exclusively La Milanaise flour
- He fires up the oven while mixing the bread (which means that the oven isn’t fired every day). When baking, by the time the oven floor is completely loaded with bread, the first loaves are finished and fresh loaves are immediately put in their place. The oven is never less than 80% full.
- The ceiling of the oven is much higher than in most deck ovens. Due to the high volume of very humid air (coming from the baking loaves), there is no need to add steam
- Noah uses poolish (together with levain) to give the dough an extra boost whenever it contains a lot of sweetener or milk
Postal Grunt says
My wife and I visited Orchard Hill Breadworks on 4 OCT 2011. Despite the rain and rather rough roads, we found the visit to be more than worthwhile. The breads were just as good as you described.
In particular, the French bread batard demonstrated just how much more practice I need in my own baking. The crust simply shattered into small pieces as I cut the loaf. The crumb was still quite moist, even in the late afternoon after we had returned to my parents' house. For a simple bread, it was impressive in all ways. The maple oatmeal bread made wonderful toast the next morning.
The cookies that were available that day were excellent as well. The cranberry oatmeal cookie is on my soon to be baked list.
My wife and I look forward to stopping at the bakery next year when we return to visit New England again.
Hello Postal Grunt! So glad you stopped by the bakery and enjoyed the bread and cookies. Orchard Hill Breadworks definitely deserve to be bookmarked as a must-stop destination when visiting New England…