Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bloopers...What's a Blooper?

Bloopers, or rejects, are an inevitable part of our baking process. We bake with fresh ingredients, and as we have come to realize, cows have good and bad days, so do laying hens. Fresh ingredients are never exactly the same and are an interesting variable in the baking process. And then there is tapioca starch. Made from a tuber, it has different properties depending on the rain cycle of the season in which it is grown. Like many other flours, including gluten free ones, tapioca also behaves differently depending on the weather outside. Our manufacturing facility is in Vermont. Need I say more? But this is what artisan baking, as opposed to industrialized baking, is all about.

We could more precisely control our ingredients by using powdered milk, boxed or powdered eggs, and cheese chock full of natamycin, a questionable anti-fungicide, and milk protein concentrates. We also could employ all sorts of dough conditioners and stablizers to make the dough behave. We don’t. All of these stabilized ingredients would make our products a lot cheaper, to both us and consumers. But, we are committed to baking honest products using the freshest possible ingredients. It is not only about taste, but it is also about doing the “right” thing. We care deeply about the animals and people behind our ingredients.

What does all of this have to do with bloopers? Well, we have a lot of them. Instead of scooping them up and filling landfills with our rejects, we donate them to local food banks and shelters. On a typical week, we donate over 200 pounds of bread, that go to all sorts of people, not just gluten intolerant ones. We’re proud of the nutritional quality of our products and glad to add them to the diets of those less unfortunate.

What constitutes a blooper? It just doesn’t meet our quality standards. Among other things, it can be too artisan (read: ugly) or it can rise too much or too little. We entertain ourselves with all sorts of names for the bloopers like “volcanoes,” “puffers,” “baked potatoes,” and “tennis balls.” And of course, some of the bloopers end up in the home kitchens of our staff, including us. Volcanoes (aka known as rolls) are, in fact, great for stuffing with tons of veggies and humus—ugly, but oh so utilitarian.

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