This past weekend we had our first big test in artisan bread baking! Kimmy and I volunteered as home cooks for this year’s Farm 2 Fork Festival in Saranac Lake.
Farm 2 Fork is a local food and educational event that is all about serving up the harvest in cool and tasty ways using local farms produce and products.
There were 11 stations set up serving tapas-sized portions of dishes like cold cucumber soup, smoked bacon, purple potato chips, frittata, beets salad and of course, focaccia.[See the full menu]
Focaccia: The Party Piece
For the festival we volunteered to make something that has always received rave reviews from our family & friends: Focaccia.
We learned to make this in Italy at the Artisan Bread School. If you would like to try this at home, here’s an easy focaccia recipe.
Farm 2 Fork was expecting about 300+ attendees. So we made a total of ten (10) focaccias in half-sheet pans. We rarely do a plain focaccia. We make dimples and insert something delectable like garlic or even grapes for a dessert version.
Focaccia for 300+ People
For the ten breads, we did 4 garlic, 3 rosemary, and 3 tomato basil. I am usually able to fit 6 dimples across and 6 or 7 rows down the pan. We wanted everyone to get a piece of the harvest, so this meant we could do 36 servings per pan. With 10 trays, that gave us 360 (or thereabouts) servings for the festival.
Needless to say we were out of bread in less than two hours. Luckily the other stations by then were also out of food. By the end, I think Farm 2 Fork sold something like 350 tickets – so I was glad we didn’t run out until the very end.
The Adirondack Education Center at BOCES offered their kitchen for all the volunteers to “chef it up” in. We used their commercial convection oven which not only had room to spare for our 10 sheet pans, it cooked them fairly quickly.
Juniper Hill Farms in Wadhams kindly provided us our produce:[list icon=”check”]
- Sun Gold Tomatoes
We received rosemary from the Brill Farmstead. Our flour was 100% organic and locally milled from Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, NY.
A sign of good things to come
Doing the Farm 2 Fork Festival was a really good test of our skills. Everyone loved the focaccia – which was awesome! We were happy with how it came out despite working a new kitchen and using an oven we’ve never used before. And yes, some convection ovens DO have hot spots!
The flavor and texture was still very good. Maybe a touch more Maldon’s sea salt flakes perhaps? We did get a very good rise out of the dough. Almost 4 inches high on some slices. The crumb (the inside) and structure was light and airy, as you can see below.
Artisan Bread – Coming Next Spring
Baking for this many people was a first for us and great practice for the future when we get our own breadery up and running at the farm next Spring.
When we have a wood-fired masonry oven, this will add another bit of complexity to the baking schedule: oven-firing time. Everything needs to be in sync (relatively) when you’re baking bread. Having a wood-fired oven hot enough to bake in at precisely the right time the dough is ready is like a “dance I’ve only just begun to learn.”
The temperature and the humidity among other variables need to be taken into account as well. Overall it is the dough that is in control.
Like farmers, bakers are facilitators and nurturers in their craft. They give the dough what she wants when she wants it and otherwise let her do her thing!