If you're the sort of person who keeps baker's hours and has already been up, with the mad green parrots, feeding your sourdough starter and measuring out rye and whole wheat flours in coffeespoons, you might want to know about some area bread-baking happenings. Because in L.A. recently there's been a surge of activity on the DIY baking front, with local millers and bakers organizing communal bread bakes. This is a great old-school activity, in which you bring your unbaked loaves and have somebody with a GIANT oven bake them off for you. Ta-da. No hot stove in your kitchen – and some like-minded people with whom you can break bread.
The most immediate event is this afternoon, Feb. 26, from 4-6 p.m. at the Altadena farmers market. (Editor's note: To clarify, there will NOT be a community bake today, but there WILL be demos.) Go for the happy community, and to watch the demos from local bakers, including Joseph Shuldiner of the Institute of Domestic Technology, who will be demo-ing his no-knead bread recipe, Debra R. Cohen, and Erik Knutsen and Karen Hirsch, from the LA Bread Bakers Collective, who will be doing a rye bread and a wild yeast wheat bread.
Bakers who can't make today's event might want to mark their calendars for two other community DIY bread bakes, one at the Altadena market on March 5 and another at Grist & Toll in Pasadena on March 9.
Both events will feature the enormous contraption that is M.O.M.O., or Michael O'Malley's Mobile Oven. M.O.M.O. was at the previous communal bake held at Grist & Toll's “urban flour mill” on Sunday, Feb. 9, where a large group of local bakers brought their breads.
The Altadena March 5 bake will be held from 3-6 p.m., at the farmers market location at 600 West Palm Street. The next Grist & Toll bake will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., as was the last one. Grist & Toll's bake will again feature Laurie Dill's Your Local Hive pop-up, which in February had some pretty awesome jams and coffees and other local products – many of which paired particularly well with the warm bread that was coming out of the oven.
Keep in mind that the scheduling of a communal bake can be variable, as it takes time to set up the oven, get it to the right temperature, and to organize and load all the breads into the fire. So if you're running around right now trying to get some dough into manageable shape in time for later today, calm down. Remember that it's a lot easier to deal with under-proofed bread (wait) than it is over-proofed bread (go home, or befriend your neighbor). So be patient and factor that into your bread times – patience being the operative word for baking projects anyway.
Some other things to consider at communal bakes: Often big bakes can be confusing, and it's extremely helpful to mark your loaves to identify them. In the past, when many people baked their bread in communal ovens, bakers would slash or score distinguishing marks into the loaves immediately before baking. Your own X, as it were. Or consider grabbing a quick photo of the thing as it goes into the oven, since often the people manning the ovens will be slashing the breads for you. Also remember to grab your bannetons or pans as they're removed from the breads, and consider marking the stuff before you arrive, kind of as you would a piece of luggage at LAX.
Bring a cup of coffee. Buy some butter and jam to go with your warm bread. Make some new friends, who may or may not make better boules than you do.
All the communal bakes are open to the public and are free.