Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Bakery is Born

Welcome to the home of C&C Artisan Breads, a cottage food operation based in Redlands, California.

What's a cottage food operation?  There's a lot of information out there, but in an unusually forward-thinking moment, San Bernardino County government changed the rules last year and put in place a system that permits small home-based operations to produce foods for sale at farmers markets, CSA-style "share" systems, and even through indirect sales through restaurants and grocery stores.

Cottage Food Operation Permits and Applications
There's some simple rules, and the system is designed to protect the consumer by limiting cottage food operations to producing things that won't spoil and have a very low potential to make people sick.  They also limit the quantity of food you can produce for sale as this sort of business, but for the most part, you promise to produce good food in a clean environment, work a few things out with your city, and you're off!  The whole permitting process can actually be completed in a day.  Pretty amazing.

What's C&C?
It's Chris and Cambria.  When she's not teaching, Cam is a diligent dough stretcher.  Now that she's back in school, I've modified the dough schedule so I can do most of the work in the evening.  We're a team in the kitchen, mostly getting in each other's way.

Artisan Breads?
Bread.  The staff of life.  In books about it, bakers wax eloquent and poetic about bread and about its production.  It's a rewarding and meditative process.  I won't waste a lot of copy on it, but I really enjoy baking bread.  So much so that I found myself baking a lot more than we could eat ourselves.  That's when I discovered that sharing bread is even more fun than eating it yourself.  Few things are as universally appreciated as a fresh-baked loaf of bread.

Our Bread
The Country Loaf
We're starting this operation out with a simple model; produce one thing very well and in small quantities.  For the last few years, I've been working toward a particular loaf of what you might call "Rustic" bread.  The Country Loaf.  Basically, it's a high-hydration, naturally fermented ("sourdough," but not sour) boule.  It keeps well, has a crisp crust, and a creamy flavorful crumb.

Since there's only a couple of ingredients, they have to be top notch.  The Country Loaf is made with three varieties of wheat flour, including about 1/3 whole wheat that I mill myself within a couple of days of baking from hard red winter wheat berries grown in Utah.  It makes a difference.  The balance of white flour, artisan bread flour, and whole wheat in this loaf yields the perfect combination of flavor, healthful whole grains, and the light, airy crumb you'd expect of a big hearth bread like this.

The Bread Share
Country Loaf Boule
To help defray some of the costs of baking all this bread, to ensure we have a reliable place to go with all these loaves, and to test the waters of managing a simple "farm share" system, we're baking just four loaves a day, five days a week, selling subscriptions to 20 people for four loaves in a four week period.  While we're still hashing out the details, we're hoping that it's not too complicated. 

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