Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Night Oven Bakery

A favorite book in the Rawlyk/Côté household is In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. The bakers work hard, all night long, so that delicious cakes will be ready and waiting when people wake up in the morning.

Bryn Rawlyk hopes that people will be able to make the connection between the food and where it came from when they visit his bakery.

Standing at the front counter of The Night Oven Bakery, customers will see the millstones that have ground the grain and the wood-fired oven where the bread has been baked.

The Baker
When Bryn moved away from home, he didn’t know how to cook. He was conducting a long-distance relationship with Beth Côté, soon to be his wife, and she would email him recipes. From a rudimentary start (sloppy joes, three times a week) he progressed to working in various restaurants and bakeries across Canada.

Bryn was living in Montreal when he discovered wood-fired ovens. “I got excited about taking grains and making bread with the least amount of fancy techniques,” Bryn says. “It’s partially my math training. It’s simple but complex with so many variables.”

Bryn began making more and more bread and says that his three sons make excellent critics as they are very straightforward. If they don’t like something, they say so.

Whenever Bryn travels, he visits the local bakeries, arriving early before they open to chat with the baker and observe things are done. In 2012, Bryn spent two weeks helping his friend Cliff Leir at Fol Epi Bakery, an organic bakery with a wood-fired oven in Victoria, BC.

Bryn and Beth attended Terra Madre, a biennial, international gathering of artisan food producers, in 2012 as Slow Food Saskatoon delegates. The opportunity to meet so many food producers with so many hand-crafted products was an eye opener for Bryn and gave him the determination to start his own bakery.

The Equipment
Bryn enjoys working with his hands, so he decided to do as much of the construction of the bakery as possible himself. “If I’m going to do something long term, I should have some intimacy, some connection with it,” he says. “I’ll be able to answer any question because I did it all myself.”

Every stone in the wood-fired oven was lifted into place by Bryn. He designed the 1500-pound millstones based on the designs of the millstones that were brought to North America in the early 1900s. The stones were then manufactured and shipped from Europe. Bryn also has a smaller stone mill that he’ll use until the flour grind is perfected.

There are three basic types of wood ovens. A pizza oven has a high dome and the fire is inside the dome, producing a high heat for a short period of time.

Some bakers (e.g. Wild Fire Bakery in Victoria) use a black oven. They make a fire inside the chamber, then sweep it out and load in the bread.

Bryn chose to build a white oven. The fire is in a separate chamber underneath the oven, which has a low dome and lots of mass so that it radiates a slow, low heat. The oven has three chimneys with dampeners so that Bryn can adjust the temperature. If he wants to bake more bread, he adds more wood.

There is also an electric convection oven that will be used to bake the croissants and pastries. Some of Bryn’s equipment, such as the bread-making table, is handmade. Other equipment is recycled. There are tables from Caffe Sola and a large Toledo scale scavenged from the old Express Bakery on 33rd Street.

Some of the equipment was sourced internationally. The peels (paddles with 8-foot long handles for lifting the bread in and out of the oven) are from San Francisco, while the proofing baskets (made out of waste wood pulp) are from Germany.

The bakery is very much a family endeavour. Beth used a blow torch and wet broom to give a shou-sugi-ban finish to the cedar panelling in the seating area. The beams are from Bryn’s father’s acreage, and family and friends worked hard on various construction projects.

The Best Quality Ingredients
Bryn firmly believes that the best quality food relies on the best quality ingredients. Bryn will be using organic grains sourced locally, because he is convinced that organic tastes better. Loiselle Family Farm near Vonda will provide heritage Red Fife wheat while Daybreak Mill will supply ancient grains, such as einkorn and kamut.

Bryn plans to offer baguettes, whole wheat and rye loaves that taste good so even kids can enjoy them. The sourdough starter is one that Bryn has maintained for several years, and he says it’s very much the product of its surroundings – Saskatoon air, water and flour produce a Saskatoon sourdough.

The neighbourhood sees a lot of traffic with 500 students a week taking lessons at the Saskatoon Academy of Music around the corner and lots of traffic to and from the City Yards. “We hope to become the neighbourhood bakery, with people dropping by as part of their daily routine.”

Off to one side is seating for 15. The bakery will start small with coffee and pastries and build up over time.

Bryn hopes to start baking bread by the end of January and to be open to the public in February.

The Night Oven Bakery
629B 1st Avenue North
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