Baking at La Victoria.
The Sour Flour baking process is an extensive one, spanning over 7 hours. It takes 7 hours to transform flour, water, and salt into a symphony of flavors and aromas known as the Sour Flour loaf. The process starts at 7:30A.M. The starter from the night before is inspected to assure it has reached an appropriate activity level and the thermometer makes its first readings of the room, flour, and starter. The day’s bread pars are written on the big white board and according to our previous calculations, the flour, water, salt, and starter are all weighed out and transferred to the 120 quart mixing bowl. Sounds of the dough hook clanking against the bowl, squishing the dough, and emulsifying each component fill the quiet bakeshop. After mix is complete and our dough has reached the desired consistency, all 80+ Kilos are portioned into large plastic bins so that they can rest. Slowly peers arrive at the bakeshop, some to bake, some to smoke fine meats, and some to mix sweet cookie doughs. The shared kitchen area is an “open-table” for people to make friends while fine tuning skills at their respected craft. About the same time the kitchen is filled with all of its daily inhabitants the Sour Flour dough has had proper rest and folds, and is eager to make its way to the shaping table. Two employees spread out across the table and Mis en Place all required tools to begin shaping. By this point in time there is music belting out from the massive boom box adhered above a doorway, typically traditional Mexican tunes. To shape, we form bread into tight balls typically taking 20-30 minutes; when completed we go back to the first piece of dough we pre-shaped and apply the final shape to it. When our loaves have all been final shaped they are given some time to relax, they take in their final breaths before their imminent, gruesome future. The loafs are transferred onto parchment lined boards, than two incisions are made in each, their tight layer of skin bursts open at the cut revealing a soft, open interior. The sliced loaves are transferred into a 500 degree oven just before being moisturized with a shower of water, when all loaves have made their way into the inferno the oven gate is closed and the bread is forced to withstand the heat. Time is up on the bread when their bursting cuts begin to turn brown and their tight skin has achieved a dark amber tone. Emissions of sour, earthy, and umami scents fill the bakeshop as peers stop work to inspect what their nostrils are sensing. When all of the bread has made it onto the rolling rack and rests aside the door leading to the Mission, a sigh of relief is exulted by the baker. Same as the room filled with aroma, the baker is filled satisfaction and relief as a day’s hard work comes to a rewarding end. Dinner and rest are needed to complete the day and prepare for the adventure that is tomorrow.