How unfortunate for the baker that baker's hours are not banker's hours. Especially in this unstable late-winter period of changing temperatures, a baker cannot reliably make appointments with the rest of society, because his commitments are not at his command.
But there are consolations to cherish in the dark early mornings or the dark late nights. Sometimes when I am vexed at a slow fermentation, and wish I could be asleep, or doubly vexed by a quick one, and wish I had a moment to spare, I remind myself that I occupy a tradition, and a very long one, of bakers who have stayed up later than they like, or gotten up earlier, to tend to their dough so their customers can have bread. And who have hoped those very same customers will forgive a bit of uneven proofing this week. Who was that very first baker, deep in the recesses of time, who forswore sleep one night because the weather had changed and his or her starter was sluggish? And how many bakers before me, musing over their dough at midnight, or worse, have had the same consoling thoughts?
But returning to the here and now: I am going to begin experimenting with fewer loaves of more varieties. This will favor those of you who arrive early, which is not my intent, but I am hoping the result will be favorable to all.
So, this week I hope to have the cranberry-walnut, a plain walnut, the golden-raisin and oat, a cherry-fennel rye, and of course Country French. Will I have time for a few loaves of caraway rye as well? I'll put my money on "yes," but it's iffy.
My venture into knackebrod has sent me on a little diversion into flatbreads, but I have decided these breads are ill-suited to rainy, deserted Etna in February. They need to be eaten quickly, with some kind of topping. Sourdough pitas, to name one popular example, are delicious, but they don't keep well. If there were only a nearby cheese vendor, or a storefront with olives, cucumbers, feta, and tzadiki sauce sold by the ladle-full (and, so long as we are dreaming, why not hummus and grilled onions?), my flatbread dreams could all come true. Alas, there is not.
A shame, too: I've been making some gorgeous Yemeni oval-shaped flatbreads with z'atar and sesame seeds, liberally dressed with organic olive oil. Perhaps when summer comes and there are tomatoes and greens available, I will make them for ad-hoc sandwiches. We'll see.