I like things organized.
I'm all about lists and schedules - I'm totally into this whole bullet journal thing -, I'm a sucker for neatly labeled jars and I really, really, really need things to have a place of their own. A logical, practical place.
My kitchen does not live up to these standards. (Not my kitchen in the photograph, obviously.)
Living in a rental, I have to deal with limited counter space, a lack of drawers and low cupboards that are far too deep to ever be deemed practical. To get to my cake tins, I have to sit on the floor, take out a few stacks of bowls and reach way into the back of the cupboard. To find the right pie tin, I have to juggle a towering heap of pans and plates. And it wouldn't be the first time that I drop a jar of almonds in search for the walnuts.
I know I have nothing to complain about. Our kitchen isn't small by any standard, nor is it ill-equipped. It just isn't that practical. But I found some inspiration to finally make the best of it. Not from the pretty photographs of rows and rows of mason jars on blogs and Pinterest boards (well, from those, too), but from this week's baking class.
We all expected the company visit to be a visit to an industrial bakery, but we couldn't have been more wrong. No giant, impersonal bread factories here; just a smart and passionate local baker. Or, rather, a baker/miller, because this guy mills his own flour. Some 30 years ago, he bought a defective small-scale industrial flour mill and installed it at the back of his bakery. (Don't be fooled by the term small-scale...it still takes up a lot of space. Check the old school illustration above, courtesy of Bonte Ateliers, for reference. It's the one in color.) It sounded like it hadn't been an easy job to fix and calibrate it, but today all his bread and pastries are made with his own flour. Pretty amazing, right?
And then there was the bakery itself... Light, large and spotless. I was totally amazed at how clean it was. It seemed like such a joy to work there. Everything had its place, there was enough counter space and it all just seemed so logical. Also, there were all kinds of quirky, but totally handy machines. How about a crane that lifts huge bowls filled with 20-30kg of dough and tips them over at the end, dropping the dough into a cutting machine? Or a glass cabinet with little baskets that constantly move around, transporting balls of dough from one side to the other in just the right amount of time. It felt a little like being in a 1950s laboratory... in a good way.
The pastry division was just as clean, but of course there was only one guy working there at the moment. Still, it was so organized. The work surface was empty and spotless, rings and baking tins were in easy reach and neatly labeled boxes with smaller objects and additional ingredients filled a single shelving unit. That just seems so much better than having flour and sugar in the kitchen, nuts in the pantry and chocolate in the cellar. (Although there are good reasons why I keep chocolate in the cellar... like wanting it to last for more than a week.)
It was a lot of fun getting a look into an actual bakery and it really inspired me to be more organized about everything. This guy invested a lot in his bakery, but it's obvious that it has helped him to become better and better at his job. He has done everything he could to organize the work as efficiently as possible and I'm sure this is one of the reasons why he is still so happy doing it after all those years. That, and passion. I can only hope that, thirty years from now, I can say the same.
Oh...and did I mention that we got to taste?
I would also have loved to taste some of his bread, just to know how big of a difference his home-milled flour makes, but I'm sure I'll be visiting his bakery again some time in the near future. I will gladly ride the extra kilometers for those "bokkenpootjes."
First, though, I should really prepare for my exam!