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Confessions of a Would-Be Baker

Feeding the multitudes

I don’t consider myself a professional baker by any means. I’ve never studied a baking program, never worked in a bakery. I’ve learned a few tricks from books, watched a few videos like everyone else. And I’ve learned a bit by doing. Making larger quantities of bread than just a couple of loaves at a time.

I’m more of a serious home baker. I still mix my doughs mostly by hand. I still struggle with consistent results. I look at more experienced bakers who turn out hundreds of loaves by themselves, instead of a few dozen like me.

Yet I manage to sell my bread and make a small living from it. But that does not make me professional.

The physical toll of mixing dough

It’s hard work. I feel the physical toll at the end of a day of dough mixing and still facing an early morning shift with Mildrith, the wood-fired oven. Math was never a strong suit of mine. Yet, I spend up to an hour each baking day, working out hydration percentages, calculating how much extra sourdough levain I need to make. I’ve had to learn Baker’s Math. Yes, that’s “a thing.”

Managing supplies, placing orders, taking orders — all of that is part of a professional baker’s life, yes, but I’m a long way from being a professional baker.

I take particular pride in being self-taught. It’s all fuelled by a passion for bread and baking that still pulses through me. The magic of mixing flour, water, and salt, feeling it come alive in my hands, taking on a life of its own. Pulling lofty, chestnut brown loaves out of the oven, the gorgeous aroma, and the great flavour of freshly baked loaves. And the generous compliments of customers, who clutch their bread close to their stomachs and smile!

A professional baker might be less charmed by these pleasures. Perhaps there is a point where a hardened baker takes more joy in devising a baking schedule that results in a 15 percent increase in bread output. Or introducing a new piece of equipment that produces more uniformly shaped buns.

The would-be baker

The pleasure of a fine loaf

I can appreciate those kinds of rewards. But every baker I’ve met or read about is driven by the end result: the pleasure people take in a loaf or cake made from their own toil and ingenuity. The crust colour of a baguette translates to flavour and texture. The loftiness of a country loaf suggests a soft, pillowy crumb. There is something magic in the craft of baking. I’d venture to say all bakers, professional or otherwise, are turned on by it.

From time to time, I crave a baker-mentor. Someone to turn me in a new direction, show me how to achieve a 15 percent increase in bread production, or suggest how to incorporate pastry into the Happy Monk repertoire.

I get inspired about growing wheat here on Pender (where would I ever start?), milling more grain for better flavour (very time consuming and technical) or even starting a full-blown bakery.

I’ve been warned away from all of these ambitions by bakers and friends who know me too well. “It’s too much work just being a baker, David,” one baker friend told me. “Plus, I don’t want to have to come to Pender every time your mill needs to be dressed.”

A worthy mentor

Knows me too well.

Jennifer is my real mentor. She sits patiently, quietly (for the most part) as I rattle off my ambitions, plans to take over the world. Turn it into bread paradise, feed the multitudes with a handful of grain.

But I’m coming around to the belief that my real ambition is simplicity. That I need nothing more than to produce a few beautiful loaves for sustenance and pleasure. The kind of bread that you can hold against your belly, and that makes you smile.


Happy Monk Tidings - May 18, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Olive Bread; UPDATE: Canal Bridge project postponed; Assume normal delivery schedule; BLOG: The Breadman's Quest for the Stanley Cup - [See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - May 18, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Olive Bread; UPDATE: Canal Bridge project postponed; Assume normal delivery schedule; BLOG: The Breadman's Quest for the Stanley Cup - [See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - May 11, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Rye-Spelt Sourdough; Blog: Road/Bridge Closure: Be Here Now - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - May 11, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Rye-Spelt Sourdough; Blog: Road/Bridge Closure: Be Here Now - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - May 4, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Polenta and Rosemary Bread ☀︎ Blog: An Artisan Bread Manifesto ☀︎ [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - May 4, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Polenta and Rosemary Bread ☀︎ Blog: An Artisan Bread Manifesto ☀︎ [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt Honey Sourdough; Blog: A Podcast for Pender Island [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt Honey Sourdough; Blog: A Podcast for Pender Island [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 20, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye ; Blog: Walking with My Father [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 20, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye ; Blog: Walking with My Father [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Hot Cross Buns; Blog: Who's to Blame for the Hot Cross Buns Song? [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Hot Cross Buns; Blog: Who's to Blame for the Hot Cross Buns Song? [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 6, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole-Wheat Flax Bread; Blog: The Baker's Arms [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 6, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole-Wheat Flax Bread; Blog: The Baker's Arms [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 30, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Oat Porridge Bread; Blog: Thanne Longen Folk ...; We're Donating to Ukraine! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 30, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Oat Porridge Bread; Blog: Thanne Longen Folk ...; We're Donating to Ukraine! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: Wheat Connections to Ukraine [ See LinkTree in Bio ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: Wheat Connections to Ukraine [ See LinkTree in Bio ] ...

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These corn kernels are headed to the mill to make cornmeal for Anadama Bread this week. It’s a bread with origins on the east coast, but that shouldn’t stop us west coasters from enjoying it, too, godanadamit! This is organic field corn from @fieldstoneorganics of Armstrong, B.C. … and the hard red whole wheat from Metchosin, B.C. make this Happy Monk take on Anadama a bona fide west coast phenomenon! Just sayin’!
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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

These corn kernels are headed to the mill to make cornmeal for Anadama Bread this week. It’s a bread with origins on the east coast, but that shouldn’t stop us west coasters from enjoying it, too, godanadamit! This is organic field corn from @fieldstoneorganics of Armstrong, B.C. … and the hard red whole wheat from Metchosin, B.C. make this Happy Monk take on Anadama a bona fide west coast phenomenon! Just sayin’!
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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 9, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; Blog: Salvador Dali and the Art of Bread - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 9, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; Blog: Salvador Dali and the Art of Bread - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough; Blog: Have Your Been Shriven? [ See Link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough; Blog: Have Your Been Shriven? [ See Link in Profile ] ...

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Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven. 
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven.
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
...

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Happy Monk Tidings - February 23, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (Rugbrød); Blog: The Burned Loaf: And Offering and a Blessing - [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - February 23, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (Rugbrød); Blog: The Burned Loaf: And Offering and a Blessing - [ See link in profile ] ...

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It just needed a few more minutes. That was three hours ago. Saved my best for last!  #showusyourfuckedloaves

It just needed a few more minutes. That was three hours ago. Saved my best for last! #showusyourfuckedloaves ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - February 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Sourdough Sandwich Loaf; Blog: Festival of Fornacalia - All hail, Fornax! Goddess of the Ovens! [ See link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - February 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Sourdough Sandwich Loaf; Blog: Festival of Fornacalia - All hail, Fornax! Goddess of the Ovens! [ See link in Profile ] ...

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John-boy’s got his arms loaded with a bunch of Happy Monk bread, one of his favourite states of being. He’s generous to a fault, though, and spread the loaves around his close circle of friends. That’s m’boy!

John-boy’s got his arms loaded with a bunch of Happy Monk bread, one of his favourite states of being. He’s generous to a fault, though, and spread the loaves around his close circle of friends. That’s m’boy! ...

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The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though!

The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though! ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - February 9, 2022 🍞 - It's great to be back! Baker's Choice: Durum-Sesame Sourdough; Blog: To Sleep or Not to Sleep [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - February 9, 2022 🍞 - It's great to be back! Baker's Choice: Durum-Sesame Sourdough; Blog: To Sleep or Not to Sleep [ See link in profile ] ...

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6 thoughts on “Confessions of a Would-Be Baker

  1. I consider you a craftsman, David, and your sourdough loaves already perfection. I suspect that accolades won’t prevent you from striving for it, anyway. I’m cheering you on.

    1. Entrepreneur-artisans like you are a national treasure. Wish you 15% more pride. Keep your quill sharp!

      1. So great to hear from you, Linda! Thanks for the cheery message … and love to Bob!

    2. Davy, thank you for your kind words!

  2. You are a true artist David. Included in self taught passions are some of the finest artisans in the world and you are among them. We on Pender, are so very fortunate to have you here baking the most wonderful and delicious bread. Thank you for your hard work and for providing us all with such a gift.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Anne!

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