On Thursday mornings, if I am coming into work at just the right time and the wind is blowing in the right direction, I can sometimes smell our cinnamon bread from up to a block away. Cinnamon bread is baked fresh every Thursday and Saturday at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.
Customers who buy the bread on Thursdays are often folks who might pick up a loaf at the start of their work day or folks who are heading out for a long weekend. Several customers have told me that they buy a few loaves, freeze them and then pop them into the oven as needed…
The Saturday crowd, on the other hand, often include folks who have had a bit of a sleep-in and are popping in to pick up a bag of George Howell coffee and a warm loaf. There are also those who like to buy for Sunday consumption – some do a reheat but some, I am told, also use the bread to make French toast!
As one of the assistant bakers in the shop, I am usually the person who makes the cinnamon bread on Saturdays. It is the first thing on my Saturday “to do” list and, as a rule, I like to start making it no later than 6am in order to have it out of the oven at 10am.
In the winter, this is a little bit trickier as the cold weather inhibits yeast activity. The dough is mixed by 6:30am and I drag the big mixer bowl over to the ovens in order to give the yeast a warmer environment in which to do its thing. In contrast, during the summertime, I just leave the bowl by the mixer and even before 8am (when I usually start shaping the dough), it sometimes seems as though the dough is ready to climb out of the bowl!
Shaping the dough – when I weigh it out, cut it into strips for braiding and coat it with cinnamon – is probably my favorite step in the bread-making process. Just before it gets coated, the dough is silky smooth and beautiful to handle.
After it has been shaped and put into baking tins, the loaves are put in our proofer for their final rise. A proofer is rather like a closet with both humidity and temperature controls. Warmer and moister than average room temperature and humidity, it provides an optimal environment for the yeast to continue doing its thing.
Once the dough has proofed, the loaves are put in the oven… If all is going smoothly, the bread is ready at 10am!