This blog title feels like a Smoove B column, but I still think it applies.
For the past several months, I’ve been driving by a building that used to be a Barbecues Galore. No more. It shut down and now the building is for rent. But it should not have ever been a barbecue shop. Each time I pass it I notice another detail. First I saw the travertine marble cladding on the entire building. That’s not cheap. Then I saw the gold-painted and very detailed cornice. Then the huge tile mosaics over the entry and side doors. This must’ve been a synagogue, or some kind of temple. Finally this weekend I decided to take a closer look. Sure enough, the building is beautiful. I’ll have to take a few pics and post them there. What’s left of the barbecue place is a bunch of wall shelves (with the lights still on!) and the cashier station. There’s another entire suite in the back that is unfinished, with high ceilings around 15’, and at least 1500 SF. Peering in through the windows, an image came to me: Aurora Bakery. A brick oven in the center, a bar in the middle, low couches, music playing, the smells of fresh bread and pastry, coffee, and hot sandwiches drifting through the air. A place to sit and read, get a drink, enjoy some good bread, and socialize. It would basically be a semi-open kitchen where people could see their bread being made, the kind of kitchen you want to hang out in during a dinner party.
Now, I should be clear. I have a career that I love, that I’ve worked hard for, and an education that I’ll be paying off until I’m (even more) grey. But looking in through this window, I saw my retirement, a way to have a small place where I could really make a go with bread, and create an environment for people to come and enjoy themselves. Coffee shops are becoming ubiquitous, cigar bars are so 1990s, and Starbucks is now charging for internet access. I think the neighborhood bakery can become the new hangout spot. Good thing I’ll have a few years to plan this out. It’ll probably take that long to figure out how to get someone else to pay for it. That’s the only way to go. Fund your big projects with OPM: other people’s money.
This weekend I experimented with bread. First I made the Heavenly sandwich bread a bit more healthy with the introduction of some white whole wheat. As far as I know, King Arthur is the only one who makes this stuff, and it is supposed to have the taste of white with the health benefits of whole wheat. My wife will have to be the final judge, since this is her bread, so I’ve been told in an icy voice. Which is why I made another loaf of Irish soda bread, but this time from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. After reading about the chemical reactions with baking soda and powder, I decided on this new recipe. Man oh man what a difference! It came out with a beautiful crust that tastes and feels like flaky pie crust. The old recipe included an egg, which made the bread more crumbly and cottony, where the new recipe is eggless and the bread far superior. Irish soda bread 2.0 will now be on the Aurora menu.
I am continuing my quest for my custom rustic bread recipe. This version uses a sponge of my own ratio and ferment time. I’m going for the Peter Rheinhart technique for the crust, but with my sponge and recipe. If I can get the savory and holey texture I want with a crisp and pizza-like crust, I may be on to something.
Finally, I’m thinking about taking my bread education to the next level. More on that later in the week after I make some inquiries. Smoove out.