Bagel Monday Weekly Review, 8/30/2010

Review of Prior Bagel Monday Weekly Review

Last week we didn’t have a Bagel Monday Weekly Review, but the week before that we had just started doing them again. Bagel Monday has been a steady routine every week without stop for almost a year now, but the Bagel Monday Weekly Review has not been as disciplined. But I will continue to get back on track as if I see things slipping off.

Reading the Bagel Monday Weekly Review from August 16th, I noticed that I had given good detail about bagel formula and results, as well as where the bagels were going for that day. I had also switched over to paragraph form, instead of the usual item listing. I remember it took me longer than I expected, and got caught up rushing to finish it early. The only Section covered was Bagel Monday, but the idea I had at the time (and at other times), was that perhaps the Bagel Monday Weekly Review should only cover Bagel Monday, and each other section would follow one per day for the week.

But I have not been following that process, so for the time being, I think we should attempt to cover each section if possible. The problem for me has been the overwhelming nature of it, and trying to take it all on myself. We continue to have people volunteering to help out, but actually utilizing that help has been a difficult task.

Nothing in particular was laid out to do in the last Review, but moving forward we will be using this as a document to guide the week.

Bagel Monday

We followed the same 52% hydration for the bagels, which I had remembered liking so much from 2 weeks prior (and I think last week was probably similar, but I’ve got no notes). I also kept the expansion factor at around 10X. But in addition to the regular bagels, we had requests for egg bagels. I had never done egg bagels, but I figured it would be similar. I cracked 6 eggs, weighed them, added the small amount of starter and salt, and then the appropriate amount of flour to get to 52% hydration. However, I realize that what I was considering “hydration” was actually the water from the starter and the total mass of egg (which I was thinking of as liquid); “hydration” is the wrong term here, because it refers to only water.

I also made a regular batch of bagel dough with the same proportions, but water substituted for the egg. The egg dough felt a bit stiffer, as if a comparable hydration might have been 50%. Because I had two stiff doughs to work, I moved back and forth between the dough balls, to let one rest as I kneaded the other. I was probably busy weighing, mixing, resting, and mixing for about half an hour; then I came back about an hour later and did a bit more.

In the morning, the dough had only barely risen, and I was worried that I had underfermented them (meaning I should have used more starter, or had my starter more active), but when I got them onto the bench, they seemed ok. The egg dough was extremely stiff, which made them difficult to seal, but I could forcibly pinch them shut. The regular bagel dough was nice to work with, but I think just slightly on the wet side. I’d lower the hydration to 51% or 51.5% for the next batch.

The egg bagels baked a bit quicker in the oven, and puffed out nicely. They actually exploded their side seems in the oven, and I got a sort of bagel ear (the ear is normally from the slash on top of a loaf). I imagine that they were bigger because of the effectively stiffer dough, which would be stronger. Also, because of the timing of the fermentation, the slower fermenting stiffer dough might have had more kick for the oven.

I gave 2 bagels to my new upstairs neighbor, Elizabeth. Kari, who had heard about Sour Flour through a friend, came and picked up 4 bagels. Then, my good friend Elliott came over to help deliver some bagels to 331 Cortland. He is signing on to be our first expert Bagel Courier. We need people to help deliver bagels by walking, skating, biking, taking MUNI, and or taking BART. I actually prefer the walking part, and think things should go slow. I froze the rest of the bagels, and gave 4 to Drew, our Head Taster.

I really love Bagel Monday, and am trying to fully embrace this routine I have setup. The day always passes me by so quickly, and I never feel like I’m able to fully do everything I’ve got planned out, but I will just continue to try. I was also able to do a few loads of laundry, sweep my house and stairs, and go through everything in my physical and virtual inbox.

  • We need to get a consistent supply of cream cheese. This should be made by someone, and regularly.
  • Will be following up with Elliott to get another delivery route for next week. Let me know if you’d like bagels delivered.
  • I suppose for the time being I am back to being Bagel Monday Program Coordinator. I’m still looking for someone to either help out, or take control of this position.

Bread Education
Bread Education is the new focus for Sour Flour. We have a Goal of Training 100 Sour Flour Bakers, and that is also the most feasible method for the continued financing of the Sour Flour operation. Although I still have not figured out exactly how the costs will work, I see lots of potential for how funding for Sour Flour could come through the Bread Education.

We have jumped in to our first workshop in a long time at the Eat Real Festival in Jack London Square. I had sent the first ever message to the Sour Flour Bread Education List letting them know about the workshop, and also as a way to get back into engaging with communication. The workshop revolved around starters, and for about half an hour I spoke on stage about how you can affect a starter, and answered questions from the audience. Then we gave starters to everyone who wanted one, which actually turned out to be probably around 50 people (although I didn’t count). Anh-Thu helped me give out starters, and talk to people about feeding them and what to do with them.

We got 21 people to sign up on our Bread Education List, even though I completely neglected to mention anything about it, or even have the sign-up available during most what was going on. The next day, I summarized what we had talked about, and sent a message out to the new list letting them know about how they could learn more.

More writing will be done to fill out topics that have been started, as well as new topics.

  • Our next Workshop will be at the Underground Market; planning should happen on what we will do for it.
  • We should create a calendar, and fill the events ahead of time.
  • We will be engaging more with the Bread Education List
  • We’d like to encourage people to write on Sour Flour about bread

Communal Oven

The Communal Oven is currently on a bit of hold. We still have potential availability at La Victoria, but at some point we will make further plans for a real Communal Space. One idea I had recently was to build an oven at Chicken John’s place. Oven building is a topic which I will delve into at some point, but I’d like to not spread myself too thin at this point.


Communications have improved recently, but consistency will be the key. I’ve reconnected with a few of the people who I had lost touch with, and know that there are many more that would like to be involved as long as we stay communicating. We should have daily writing at a minimum, and much more is needed beyond that. I will soon be working with Elaine Elinson, who is a Communication Consultant, on another project, and look forward to learning more from her. I like talking in person the most, but am just starting to reconnect with this online platform we’ve got.


Sour Flour is not in the best financial situation at this point. We owe our flour people, Central Milling, as well as some people who have worked at 331 Cortland for us. We will be getting a small amount of money back from our deposit at 331 Cortland, and also have some credit at La Victoria. We are pursuing paid workshops as our primary source of income at this time. The exact model has not been worked out yet, but we will begin with a few different kind of events, and see what seems to work. Somewhere in our general plan is also writing for grants, or fundraising from individuals and foundations. However, because the Bread Education will both raise money, and teach people how to bake, we will be pursuing that for now.


We are now officially done at 331 Cortland. This is a huge relief for me, because it frees up my schedule massively, but its also a nice mental release. We have not been selling bread for over a month, and Cortland did not make sense for us at this point. There was too much for me to deal with on my own, and so much got left undone. Operations have not really had a stable platform for a while, but I will be working on setting up a system that makes sense for this new phase we are in. Bagel Monday Weekly Review is a start, but there is much more work that needs to be done throughout the week. Much of it needs to revolve around actual Bread Education.

Improving Baking Skills

I have not had too much focus on this recently, but I am continuing to bake many days out of my home oven. I hope as I work with more people to teach them, I will learn a lot more myself. I should also look for a good new bread book to read. I will be doing a lot more writing about bread, and in doing so, I will be thinking a lot more about the theoretical side of bread production.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *