Talk:Open Bread

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Here is the on-going discussion of the Open Bread project. Use the plus sign next to the edit tab/button to add a comment. You need to be logged in to do it, but that is a breeze.

Copenhagen bread expert found

Jakob Bondesen is a bread-baking professional cook, who also is interested in the project. I (Olle) talked with him yesterday (June 27, 2005), and he was attracted to the idea of helping out.

"Why don't people learn to bake at home, instead?" was his first reaction, though.

I could only answer that with a reference to the regular human consumerist weakness, or with the positive aspects of division of labour. Neither of which were really successful, in the light of his: "Think of all the ovens out there, in people's homes. Why buy an industrial-strength oven on top of that?"

Lunchtime Discussion

My colleagues Johnny, Dan, Steven and Nate had a long, wide-ranging discussion about the "open bread idea" today during lunch at the Formosa Tea House.

Some points raised:

  • There was considerable skepticism about the idea: how is this different (and any better) than the "normal" way of starting a business? from a cooperative baker?
  • What is the value of doing something "out in the open" and what does that mean?
  • Who's going to actually bake the bread?
  • Are we looking for a bakery or simply bread -- in other words, have we specified the engine, and not the destination.
  • Echoing Olle's earlier comment, Dan wondered whether the collected ovens of the community couldn't be put to work.
  • Nate raised concerns about whether the application of open source to the "real world" will survive the transition to "products" that the incremental cost of isn't zero.

We'll continue to talk.

Notes from a Copenhagen dinner-table

This is Olle from Copenhagen, noting what Guglielmo and Kirsten were saying of bread when I asked how bread was made in Italy, in the old days.

1. Flour. The qual of the flour is paramount. Using processed flour is... out of the question, according to local Copenhagen experts. "It is impossible to get to any good level of home-baked bread using the same flour as the factory bakeries. You need to import."

2. What is the bread history of PEI? What resources has this fishing community used in the past to make bread? If the culture of baking good bread has never reached PEI - perhaps due to the fact that the people settling the land a couple of hundred years ago came from mountainous regions of Europe, where there were no real bread culture - Open Bread needs to find a cultural analog in another part of the world, and use its bread culture. Off the top of my head: Japan, eastern part of India, Arab countries.

3. What kind of customers does Open Bread in Charlottetown want? I am thinking of coops as primary targets for larger customers.

4. Pro vs. DIY. In Italy - a super-urban culture forged during 2.000 years - all bread is made by professionals, even in the smallest villages. The rest of the Mediterranean is largely supplied with amateur-baked bread. The pros have real ovens, which create bread of a different level of quality; another world. The bread baked by the pros in Italy was built to last, but the bread made by the family in the rest of the Med was made to be fresh. Important distinction. What kind of bread is interesting to buy in Charlottetown, and what kinds of customers are interesting to Open Bread?

5. Ethnic bread. When Open Bread is a brand name that can be used as an umbrella, get more people in the ring. Ethnic differences make for different ways of using flour: people from Iran and Iraq make different bread from Danes and Finns. With globalization, we - the people - need to find ways to make it viable for people of all cultures to market their cultures' bread. Using the Open Bread as an umbrella label could be a way. (Perhaps sub-labels like "Open Bread Euphrat and Tigris" could work. Or, "Open Bread Kalevala". I am getting silly.) In Copenhagen, I heard anecdotal evidence of a family that ran a cottage industry bakery in their home kitchen.

What's actually the goal?

Are you interested in just getting a better quality loaf than the ubiquitous cotton bread we see here in most of North America? Or are you looking more for an artisan approach?

Making bread that's as good or better than what's at <insert local supermarket here> is not that difficult. A bag of King Arthur Flour (or the moral equivalent), and a stand mixer and you're well on your way.

What I recommend is that anyone interested take a look at a good comprehensive book The Bread Bible and try some of the recipes. I recommend that one because it is quite rigorous and precise: she weighs her ingredients, as professionals do, rather than hoping her readers know how to use a measuring cup properly.

Do you have a recipe/instruction area here? If so, I'll contribute some I use. I make all the bread we eat here (a white wheat sandwich loaf, naan bread for Indian dishes, and some simple crusty peasant loaves for Italian meals) and can provide some starting points.

Also, what cultural traditions are you interested in? As noted in earlier postings, the breads of the Mediterranean differ from those of Scandinavian: what are the cultural memes you want to see preserved?

Nautical bread practice

Starter dough, a kind of yeast culture for making bread, was hard currency on the high seas, and still is, in some places of the world.

It as the first thing sailors traded between ships: yoghurt culture and starter dough.

I got this from Sean, a neighbour, whose friend has sailed the seas of China.