Ah, the only thing better than the smell of fresh baked bread, is the first bite of warm bread directly from the oven topped with melted excellent butter. We recently had the opportunity via Yelp to visit Hartford Baking Company at their factory to learn how they make their bread, specifically, their sourdough bread. Their factory is located at 125 Old Iron Ore Road (Rear Building) in Bloomfield, CT.
The Harford Baking Company has a retail store at 625 New Park Avenue (Unit G of the New Park Commons), West Hartford, CT 06110
Originally, they started baking their bread at the cafe at 625 New Park Avenue in West Hartford, CT but soon ran out of room. thus they moved the bread baking to a new location. They still bake their pastries and such at the cafe on a daily basis.
Scott, the owner of Hartford Baking Company, walked us through the process of making scratch made artisan sourdough bread using fresh, quality ingredients. They use local sources for their ingredients as much as possible.
Sourdough: “a bread product made by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeasts. In comparison with breads made quickly with cultivated yeast, it usually has a mildly sour taste because of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.”
Because sourdough bread has a long fermentation period, Scott had previously made the dough, so it would be ready for us to turn into loafs of unbaked bread during our visit. Scott explained to us the process of creating a sourdough “starter” and how they develop theirs through experimentation until they discovered the depth of flavor and texture they were seeking. Because their bread is baked fresh every night to meet their orders, they always have starters going. Some starters take as little as three hours to develop the flavor they desire, whereas others take upwards of 20 hours to develop.
“Quite different from what you might find in your supermarket bakery, artisan breads represent the true time-honored craft of bread baking. “Artisan” implies made by hand, which is the method we use for all of our bread and pastries. Shaping loaves by hand is a more gentle process and does not overwork the dough as a machine would, yielding large, irregular holes (the essence of artisan bread).”
“Most of our breads contain only four or five ingredients: unbleached wheat flour, double-purified water, sea salt, and either instant yeast or our own homemade sourdough starter. It is this simplicity that makes bread such a universal and versatile food.”
We made three different types of loafs: baguettes, boules, and a loaf like type that was stuffed with pieces of chocolate. Each loaf was baked to a good brown with a crispy crust yielding to a soft and slightly tangy center. Scott allowed a few loafs to bake longer resulting in the crust taking on a darker color yielding more caramelization of the sugars added more flavor.
Scoring of the bread prior to baking, especially these “hearth style breads” (breads cooked directly on the oven surface, not in a loaf pan) prevents the bread from bursting at weak spots created during the hand-forming of the loaf when baked. Scoring is achieved by using a “lame”, French for “blade”. Scoring can also be performed using a straight razor or serrated knife, depending upon the desired effects. Baguettes are typically scored with parallel lines somewhat along the length of the bread. The round loafs or boules are be scored just about anyway one desires to give an unique look.
As Scott walked us through the process, his passion and knowledge was ready apparent. The session was both educational and rewarding, as we all went home with several loafs of freshly made sourdough bread. Scott informed us that this bread was great to freeze. He said to wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil prior to freezing it. Once you are ready to use it: thoroughly thaw the bread, then warm it in a 375 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Doing that would made the bread seem like it just came out of the oven.