I am a runner. Sometimes I run after work around the lakes, or after my nap along the Mississippi River. My legs are often tired from standing and shuffling around the bakery all morning, but it is a great bodily relief to extend them through a range of movements not afforded by baking. Although I have not in my time run a marathon, I liken work in the bakery to a marathonesque event.
The waking hour of the bakery is the time where we begin to warm up. We clean bread baskets, chop ingredients for our fruit and nut breads, start loading slow baking sourdough breads. As the days' doughs begin to come out of the mixer, we start thinking about the days' pace in conjunction with the movement of the yeast, whether it be fermenting quickly or rather slow.
Our first dough dumped on the shaping table, the gun goes off. We begin to find our pace with the Rustic bread, squaring off each loaf to create some consistency with these free form shapes. By the time the Olive dough is on the table we have a fluid pace.
Our pace rapidly shifts as we transition from our free form breads to baguette. This is when all the shapers converge around the shaping table to lend a hand. Our pace quickens, strides shorten. The long haul, five hundred baguettes. It is often during these hours that one of us hits a wall, temporarily. We lose track of where we are in the race, thought we were farther than we truly are.
As the baguette comes to an end, there is often a short lull, where we need to wait for the sourdoughs to continue to ferment. It's a moment to catch our breath. Maybe we sit on a flour sack with some of our bread, or we play catch-up and clean out buckets to make space for the next task.
We have finished our marathon when the sourdough breads are shaped and put away to ferment overnight. We all shuffle from the warmth of the oven and the beautiful day we've only barely been able to perceive during our days' work to the back, to the flour sacks. We layer up, say adieu until tomorrow, when another marathon is to begin.