Yeast. Friend or foe?

Week three up on Orchard Hill has come and gone as quickly as the days seem to turn into night around here. If you peer outside the farmhouse window you can see acres of hills covered in snow, ripe for disturbing with snowmobile blades and fat-tire bikes. Rumor has it that Alstead, NH hosts more snowmobile trails than they do people and I’m happy to report that my inner high school teenager has it on good authority that those rumors are true.

A lot has happened in this seemingly sleepy town since I last wrote. Most notably? My complete destruction and devastation of an entire round of Farmhouse White bread. You see, each Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, my hands are responsible for four hours of measuring, cracking, pouring, pulling, and sifting each of the ingredients that are blended together to form the perfectly manicured loaves of artisanal bread we create. Salt, flour, sugar, eggs, olives, raisins, chocolate chips, and… yeast. While measuring doesn’t require a special degree, it does require vast amounts of detailed attention that I’m not always capable of achieving. While the temperature of the bakery, the water, and the dough can all cause a bread to form less quickly than desired, it’s that pesky friend (or foe) of ours… yeast… that is ultimately responsible for the bread coming alive and eating it’s way to fully-proofed glory. Well, I’m sad to report, that my feeble hands mis-measured and resulted in the chickens getting freshly baked Farmhouse White bread that never rose to the occasion. Golden tops and lightly browned edges become a little less mouth-watering when decorating the sides of an edible glob that more closely resembles a flat brick rather than a puffy soft cloud of carefully curated carbohydrates. Deliveries weren’t made. Some orders weren’t fulfilled. But the team here all looked at me with supportive glances and graciously shared their own personal stories of bread loss and devastation. 

Despite losing the battle of the bake that afternoon, Moose and I are still enjoying life here on the farm. Each morning I make my way across the icy parking lot and look up at the star filled sky above. If I’m lucky, the moon will be out in full force, lighting the pathway to the bakery door. On the windier days I’m reminded of my time spent on a tall ship fifteen years ago where, at night, you could look around and see nothing but twinkling lights from horizon to horizon. That short but illuminating walk always makes up my favorite 60 seconds of each and every day.

As I’m writing this note I must admit that I’m slowly spooning gobs of homemade vanilla ice cream into my mouth, alongside my trusty co-intern Zabet. Raw cream from the dairy cows down the road arrive at the bakery's door twice a week and, as such, an immense obligation to concoct various frozen assortments of vanilla and chocolate has risen within me. Thus far, the egg based recipe with mounds of homemade brownies have received the highest numbers of “noms”. But with a little over 8 weeks left here at Orchard Hill I have no doubt that there are still many more combinations to come.

Ashley LucasComment