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Visiting a Wood Fired Bread Oven in Potsdam

Earlier this year, I had heard about a wood fired bread oven at the Carriage House Bakery, part of the Potsdam Food Co-op. Recently I called up the head baker, Chris Affre, to see if I could check out their wood fired bread oven. He quickly welcomed us with open arms. We met with Chris and picked his brain on Alan Scott-style oven designs, baking breads for the co-op and many questions on the bakery itself.

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The man and his oven.

The oven has been fired nearly everyday since it’s inception in the Fall of 2001. Baking breads and other treats for its main customer, the Potsdam Food Co-op right next door, has over the years been a challenging learning experience. Having never had formal training in baking himself, Chris and his team manage to keep the co-op well stocked by churning out a nice range of breads and pastries from the 4′ x 6′ wood fired bread oven.

I continue to be amazed how cool and laid-back baker folks are.
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Much like the vibe of the Kneading Conference tribe, Chris is no different. He is super friendly, gave us “loaves” of advice and even offered to share some of his signature sourdough starter with us. I continue to be somewhat amazed how cool and laid-back baker folks are.

The Bakery

The Carriage House Bakery itself is not that big of a space but fits their needs nicely. With this size, over time Chris has struck a nice working efficiency. For example: using two 30 quart Hobart mixers side by side, they are able to mix up small amounts of different doughs simultaneously – versus having say one 60 quart mixer where only one recipe can be mixed at a time. Because baked breads are bagged and then walked across the parking lot the to the Co-op, they can keep their baking numbers small and this allows for a fresher, still-warm-in-the-bag product for co-op members & customers alike.

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Smart Recycling

Wood fired bread ovens can consume a lot of wood. To make this both ecological and economical, Chris is able to source leftover wood slabs from a local sawmill. He gets these delivered and he’s able to make good use of otherwise unwanted off-cuts from the local lumber mill.

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A load this size will last the bakery about 3-4 months.

Baguette on the Raquette

We thanked Chris immensely for his time and giving us such a grand tour. Our next stop was to walk next door and buy some bread to take home. We picked up some warm baguettes, a whole grain batard and an asiago loaf. All three were excellent & thoroughly enjoyed.

Here’s one example: with the baguette sliced into little rounds, smear on some cream cheese and a little spoon of pepper jelly (we picked one up at the Potsdam Farmers Market) and you have the perfect picnic snack. If you’re ever in Potsdam, please check out the Carriage House Bakery and Potsdam Food Co-op. And lastly if you need a place for your own picnic, very close by is Ives Park on the banks of the Raquette River. A scenic location to enjoy local food on a sunny day.