Everything I know about bread making I learned from Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA) members, so I have been excited to host my own open house since opening DeRego’s Bread on Main Street in Starkville, MS just over a year ago. Of course, many of my big plans needed to be scaled down as the date loomed. There are never enough hours in the day of a bread baker!
On a typical Saturday, we sell everything we can bake at the Starkville Community Market and come back the shop finished for the day at 10:30, so our challenge was to figure out how to have enough on the shelves for all of the people we had invited to spend the rest of the afternoon with us. I wanted to fill the shelves with every kind of bread I have ever made, but the timing just was not working out. Then I realized that are not coming to see finished bread, they are coming to see how it is done! The answer was to just fill up the retarder with bread and pastries ready for the oven and invite who ever is in the bakery to come on back and watch it happen!
I planned to keep the format of the day loose and be ready for whatever was to come. I created presentations about Whole Grains and Natural Leavening, and I had enough baguette dough for a couple of hands-on demos.
By the time we had unpacked from the market, the bakery was filled with visitors. I introduced everyone to my oven and my mixer. When I announced that I was about to shape the baguettes and anyone who wanted could jump right in and join me, suddenly they all lined up around my bench. I cherish my solitary time spent at the bench early each morning shaping bread. I often imagined do a demo or teaching a class and wondered if it would feel uncomfortable, like an invasion of my space. But it did not. The room was filled with laughter and excitement. I warned them that this was very difficult dough to work with especially on such a hot day and that this was some pretty advanced shaping they were jumping right into, but they all managed some decent baguettes!
I announced that the dough would need about an hour to proof, expecting the crowd to disperse and perhaps I could demo the oven loading to the next group, but nobody left. They all stayed and listened to my presentation. The hour flew by and they watched as I loaded the oven. By that time, more people had arrived and I went through the whole thing another time!
We had about 30-40 people participate and they were all much more engaged than I expected. Everyone seemed to have a great time and learn a good deal about bread making. Many of them told me they are looking forward to more demos and classes. I am, too. Just as soon as I can find some more hours in the day!