The Bread Doctor

artisan bakery in Torrington, Wyoming
September 7, 2014

Let the baking begin….again!

I have loved spending the week learning better how to handle and temper chocolate, how to fill an decorate the molds, and create delicious fillings.  Today was the final day of filling a few chocolates and then we were back on to baking.  Here is a photo of what the chocolates look like when they are all filled in the mold and ready to be closed.  It can be very beautiful at each step if done right.  And what is also beautiful is the array of chocolates that you can create that make the candies look magical.

Gianduja chocolates with their peaks of filling that get tamped down with a finger dusted in cocoa powder

Here is the spread of chocolates for the week.
We used 40# of chocolate to make all of these.

I still have much to learn, but this was a fabulous beginning and enough to unleash my creativity.

We now move on to baking for the next week and I am very excited.  Today we started with apple strudel.  This is a mysterious pastry that I have long been interested in.  You make a dough and then stretch it so thin that you can read a book through it.  You then roll it up around the filling with crumbs and butter separating the layers and bake it.  It is an amazing treat and I am glad to add to my repertoire.  The filling can be apple, cherry, poppy seed, or savory items like mushrooms….yum yum.

Here is the strudel dough all pulled out with the filling on it

The dough is brushed with butter and sprinkled with bread or cake or praline crumbs

 After you have the strudel prepped with the butter and crumbs…you roll it up with the bedsheet that you have been working on.  You use the sheet to lift and roll the strudel because it is so thin and tender.  Once it is rolled up you can leave it straight or turn it into various shapes and freeze it just like that and bake it later.

Round strudel

Coiled strudel

 We baked off one strudel yesterday and here it is, dusted with powdered sugar and out of the oven.  It is very flaky and delicious, and I am ready to try this again.

Slice of Strudel

Apparently my teacher learned to make strudel in college when her Hungarian professor that lived upstairs was having a sleepless night, she would call Marda and say “You vanta make Strudel?”

We had another magic baking moment yesterday as my Marda taught me to make Pita bread.  One of her life’s projects was helping the Chinese government make a pita factory that could produce one million pita breads per day.  The dough is very unique and the magic in the oven comes when you place this dough in, and the entire thing pops up into a flattened ball (then you know that the pocket has been created).  It takes only one minute and then you get them out of the super hot oven in and let them cool and deflate them later as you package.  If you have pita breads that do not inflate, you slice them up and make pita chips out of them.

These were awesome to make as you stand there watching through the oven window encouraging your breads to pop up and do what they are supposed to do.  We had great success yesterday, and I was glad to learn these.  After a good day of baking, I was invited to dinner with Marda and some of her friends here in Bend.  We had a delightful meal at a Peruvian restaurant and I cam home and flopped in bed.  A day of rest tomorrow will be wonderful.  I am still in baking heaven.

September 6, 2014

Confectionary Final Exam

Today we got to finish all the truffles we left partially done yesterday and get their second chocolate coat on and all dressed up for presentation.  It is important that candies are presented in a way that gives you a hint of the contents and it heightens the excitement to eat something beautiful.  So we are going to dress up all 400 truffles as we coat them the traditional second time.  This method is the traditional French method that my teacher has been teaching us.  However, there was one other confection waiting on the docket for today.  My teacher explained that we would also be making pate fruit.  These are wonderful French fruit candies that are made out of pure fruit puree or juice.  Their flavors are very intense and are a real tribute to the fruit that is used  They are only lightly sweet and fairly tangy inside and coated with granulated sugar on the outside.  One could consider them a cross between fruit leather, a gumdrop, and a Sourpatch Kid.  I think that they are one of the most sublime confections ever created, and was very excited to learn the technique.  She began to explain the methods and then told me that I will be making some of these treats, by making a reverse mold in corn starch…like sand mold for candles.  I have to make this impression in lightly packed cornstarch that we will then fill with the hot liquid fruit gels and let them sit for two days to set up and be ready for final treatment.  As I have mentioned before, Marda is a stickler for details and very high quality in the products that we make.  She also love to throw challenges my way which are very fun and teach me much.  So, here is a picture of the raspberry candies cooling in the cornstarch molds….very cool.

Made with Bill and Donna Pfeiffer’s raspberries

The rest of the pate fruit will be made in molds dusted with cornstarch or in sheets and then cut into squares later.  We will not be finishing them for several days.  However, we also made Meyer Lemon pate fruit and here it is cooling in a pan and in some molds.  I am very excited to see these come out…more on this next week.

The main event of the day was to finish the truffles and here they are.

French Mint dipped in dark chocolate
Mexican Chocolate truffle (cinnamon and cayenne)

Pistachio White Chocolate (absolutely incredible if you like pistachio)

French Mint Praline candy bars

So we get to the afternoon and my teacher says…”Well we have time for one more, is there a flavor you want to try?”  So as the last special problem on the final exam test, we put together a Gianduja chocolate.  This is a special mixture of milk and white chocolate with hazelnut that is very popular in Italy.  It is a flavor that I am particularly fond of and I think it could be very popular.  So we mixed up a batch of filling, and then molded the chocolates in a special mold with a transfer sheet design and it will likely be featured at the bakery in Torrington eventually.  It is heavenly if you like hazelnuts.  It is hard to pick a favorite, but I think this is close. 

So today felt a little bit like a final exam.  I am pleased with all I have learned about the art of confections and chocolate this week.  Tomorrow we are back to baking, but these lessons from this class will be lifelong.  Thanks Marda.

September 5, 2014

A Truffle Teaser….Detention followed by Redemption

Well today, the lesson was all on truffles.  Those beautiful little chocolate confections that were originally designed to look like truffle fungi that are found wild and are dark black in color.  These culinary delights were traditionally foraged for in the woods by pigs.  In order to mimic the appearance of the truffle, the filling was traditionally dense and made of chocolate combined with cream.  There is a very specific technique to making truffles that keeps the filling smooth on the tongue without any grit or unmelted chocolate.  The truffles are then rolled in chocolate in the palm of your hand…..twice.  We did not finish today, but will have to finish in the morning.  This hand-rolling technique is a bit tricky because you want to evenly coat the truffle without a huge amount of extra chocolate and you want there to be enough to have a definite shell of chocolate on the truffle as well.  After the first coating sets up, you dip them again and decorate.  If the truffle filling is particularly soft, then you can pipe it into a bed of cocoa powder and let it harden up and then roll it in cocoa to help get that round shape without making a mess with the sticky filling.

Mexican Chocolate truffle filling rolled in cocoa and waiting to be dipped.
Truffles on trays…some still waiting for dipping (two more trays not pictured)


We made three kind of truffle fillings in all: French Mint, Mexican Chocolate, and Pistachio White Chocolate.  They are delicious, but learning does not come without a price.  The first batch of mint truffles that we made earlier this week had a bit of grain to the filling that you could feel on the tongue (many reasons for this to happen) and the chocolate shell was so thin that it was almost non-existent.  So the chocolate student had to redo his work and we melted them all down and strained the filling so we could start over.  Yes….all over (detention).  That is they way you get good at chocolates.  The French Mint truffles were remade and formed and dipped from some other truffle filling we had waiting and the re-melted truffles were mixed with praline and turned into these gorgeous mint praline candy bars.  You never waste product in a bakery….always find a way to use it.   These are big enough to serve three people and are very decadent. 

Mint Praline candy bars

Redemption came when dipping the truffles a second time and I had at last mastered the technique of the hand rolling and the truffles had the correct amount of chocolate on them.  I go back early in the morning to finish rolling and coating the truffles.  We will then add the decorations and I will get more good photos at that time.  I must say that the filling is incredibly smooth and delicious…Marda knows best.  Stay tuned for more photos of truffles tomorrow.

September 4, 2014

Don’t Lose Your Temper

Chocolate is like love or any other relationship.  If you want it to work out….don’t lose your temper.  We all understand what that means with our loved ones, but it has just as much importance when working with chocolate.  I have spent the last few days learning how to respect the tempering process of chocolate.  One has to be patient to decorate, fill and seal the molds, and I have to work very diligently to make sure that the chocolate is in perfect temper.  This is the moment when all of the fats in the chocolate are ready to crystallize all at once and create that beautiful shine that you see on a piece of good chocolate.  Proper temper creates strength to the chocolate, that perfect snap when you bite through the outside of the chocolate and the lustrous shine.  It is quite a chemistry project.  The chocolate has to be heated up until all the fats are liquid, then cooled down until the cocoa butter is crystallized and then heated up enough just to work it, but not re-melting the cocoa butter.  If chocolate is worked too warm, then you get those awful white streaks and a powdery coating that we have all seen on candy that has sat in a warm place too long, and then been cooled.  It is edible, just not attractive.

We had a great day making tasty fillings and creating beautiful chocolates.  I am grateful that my teacher is encouraging me to be creative with the molds and go beyond just filling them.  I am becoming more confident handling the chocolate, because it used to scare me a bit.  One of my tasks today was also to make praline with almonds and pecans.

This praline was then ground up pretty fine and mixed with chocolate to make the following candy bars that we really did wrap in foil wrappers:)  Like I said, suddenly she comes out with the most beautiful things to make the presentation amazing.

Praline Crunch candy bars

The other new thing today was making chocolate crème centers, which are very soft.  They are a mixture of chocolate, cream and butter with flavoring.  We had a great time creating the design on the mold and filling them.  I am very proud of the flavors that we created for the fillings. They are quite tasty and dynamic.  I am always disappointed when the chocolate is beautiful, but you bite into it and the filling has no real flavor.

Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate crème centers

Rum Dark Chocolate crème center

We also made an additional filling for pistachio white chocolate truffles that we will dip tomorrow.  I have more technique to master for hand-dipping the truffles.  Every day is a great day, and I am much more comfortable with the process and excited to bring this knowledge back to the bakery.

September 3, 2014

Marzipan Magic…is she really Willie Wonka?

This morning, I did not get up and walk along the river, but I am going in the morning.  I was studying for class today and the music for the next GCT production, Plaid Tidings.  Before I knew it, it was time to head to Marda’s Workshop, because I certainly got the golden ticket.  I would gladly be two feet tall and Oompa Loompa orange if it meant that I could live long enough to glean all of the experience that my teacher has. She really is a modern-day Willie Wonka in the magical sense.  Just when you think that you know what is going on, she pulls some outrageous stuff out of her closet and the candy-making just became spellbinding.  I am thrilled every day.

The first order of business today was to create mint caramels…the last of the nirvana from yesterday, and possibly one of the best.  We combined her caramel with mint white chocolate to create a wonderful filling for these beauties.  The initial white-green luster paint is painted on the mold before the chocolate goes in and is hidden until the big reveal when the chocolates are turned out. The photo does not really do it justice, but it is cool.  Of course, using the leaf mold is a great touch.  The flavor is not overpowering, but very smooth and the caramel just takes it all to another level.

Mint Caramels

After we decided how to make the mint chocolates up we headed into marzipan bases and French truffles. The first thing we did was make a marzipan chocolate that appears to be a maritime hat that Napoleon might wear…so its name is Chapeau Napoleon.  It is a layer of marzipan wrapped around an Amarena cherry (preserved sour cherry from Italy).  These are very tasty and easy to make.

Yes…that is 24 K gold dust brushed on the top….perfectly edible.
Chapeau Napoleon

Then we turned the Marzipan into a raspberry filling, that contained two kinds of raspberry essence (super-concentrated fruit) and freeze-dried raspberries.  These were double-dipped in white chocolate tinted pink and have a very intense raspberry flavor.  We also made dark chocolate mint truffles and they were not ready for photography as we finished them at the end of the day.  I have learned that a good chocolate tempering machine is a must to make the chocolates turn out well, and I have learned many good techniques from her in just a short time….more to come.  Here is a snapshot of the marzipan raspberry truffles.

Just before the white chocolate hardens, the chocolates are rolled in pink luster dust.
 This is a colored dust that has crushed pearls in it to add shine…totally amazing and magical.

Needless to say, my jaw was on the floor when we rolled the truffles around in pink fairy dust and they were shiny.  This effect is better appreciated in person, or by a better photographer.  We are doing a bit more marzipan tomorrow, but then headed to cream centers.  I am looking forward with great anticipation.  I am scheming about all of the ways these techniques and products may find their way into the bakery.  I will be the best Oompa Loompa that I can be.

September 2, 2014

Caramel Nirvana

I got up this morning and went for a walk along the Deschutes River here in Bend, and the view was amazing.  It was cool and crisp and the weather felt positively like fall.  I then went home, and got ready and fixed a little breakfast in my little chalet.  I then hopped in the truck and loaded all my trappings up to the International School of Baking.  It has only been one year since I have been here, but so much has happened with the progress of the bakery at home, and the decision to open a store downtown in Torrington.  It has been a wild train ride, and today was no different.  I have literally stepped off the train into Chocolate Wonderland.  While the rest of the world was celebrating Labor Day, I was working diligently with my teacher and her assistant to create caramel fillings that would be worthy of attention.

The whole day was spent on these fillings and learning to properly fill molds with chocolate and then filling and sealing them.  Marda’s first instruction to me was that I was responsible for the choice of the mold for the chocolates and how we decorated them.  We also made a caramel base which we then divided into portions and each portions was flavored and made into a filling for a molded chocolate.  It was a great education.  We had tried working with molds at home before, but did not have the right tempering equipment.  There was also some technique differences that made these chocolates turn out amazingly well.  I still have much to learn as the photos will reveal.  Chocolate is unforgiving and must be handled correctly.  My molding technique will get better, and my design work is just beginning.  But the fillings, and the tempering of the chocolate were sublime.  The chocolates all had a perfect snap when you bit into them and I have never tasted such intensely flavored caramels before.

These  chocolates are filled with hazelnut caramel which was a mixture of finely ground hazelnut butter with the caramel we made in the beginning.  The chocolate mold was dusted with gold powder before filling and has tiny ridges along the mold…it is a very art deco-looking chocolate, though the photo does not do it justice.  They are absolutely delicious and a definite addition to my menu.

These little beauties are filled with chocolate caramel.  This was made by melting chocolate and stirring it into the caramel.  The mold was decorated with a transfer sheet that is put into the mold ahead of time with a removable back piece.  The transfer decorations are cocoa butter and transfer right onto the melted chocolate.  Very cool and beautiful.  It looks like the chocolate has velvet wallpaper on it.

These are blood orange caramels which I painted with tinted cocoa butter.  I liked the array of colors, but my painting techinique needs some work.  The caramel was made by again mixing the base caramel with blood orange paste.  These are excellent and I was so excited to make them. 
I felt like I had reached a new level of understanding and appreciation about chocolates and caramel and the flavors were Nirvana!

September 1, 2014

The Sky is the Limit


Today was my second pilgrimage to the mecca of baking and pastry in Bend, OR.  I left Boise this morning and was greeted by a mass launch of hot air balloons during a celebration of the Spirit of Boise, ID.  The timing of the event with the weather is so precise, that if there is any significant wind, then the launch will be cancelled.  Today, however, was a good day and the balloons were flying.  The plan was for about 50 to go up simultaneously, and then they land in parks and parking lots across the city.  I was in awe, and it appeared that they sky was the limit.

I start class tomorrow and the second phase of my pastry and baking education.  I am looking forward to learning as many different techniques and products as possible, so that the possibilities will be endless as to the things we can create and offer at The Bread Doctor.  I am thrilled to be back in Bend to study with Marda, and meet up with friends.  Bill and Donna Pfeiffer have graciously offered for me to stay in their guest quarters while I am studying with Marda.  Their home is beautiful and is situated on Mirror Pond in Bend.

We had a wonderful dinner tonight with the Pfeiffer’s, their grandson and Marda.  We had a great time catching up and the meal was delicious and the company was delightful.   Marda brought chocolate volcanoes (sorry no picture…we ate them all) for dessert.  Speaking of chocolate, the first week of class is devoted entirely to chocolates both molded and hand-shaped.  This will be great and will feature many delightful flavors that I plan to bring home for to Torrington.

The next two weeks have been made that much more wonderful as I enjoy the beautiful quarter provided by Bill and Donna..  I am truly blessed.


Well, tomorrow begins a new chapter and the sky is the limit!

August 28, 2014

A New Vista


Well, we have been waiting four months to get this piece of artwork up in the big picture window in our kitchen.  My dear friend, Mark Bigelow, has been developing his wonderful talents as a glazier these past years and we asked him as he started his business to make this piece of art for our new remodel.  We are thrilled, and as I hung this up yesterday I realized that we are also headed on a journey into the world of bread and pastry art.  I can only hope that our contribution is as successful as the beautiful spectrum of color we now enjoy every time we work in the kitchen.

Marda Stoliar and yours truly in matching jackets….oops
(I am such a wannabee)

I am excited to head off tomorrow to drop off my daughter at college and then on to school myself in Bend, OR.  I feel much like I am headed off on a Greek quest to the oracle at Delphi.  Marda Stoliar is just about as close to a culinary demi-god as you can get without being punished by the gods for being too perfect.  The standard of excellence that I learn from her is just what I want to incorporate in our bakery in Torrington.  I am there for two weeks for chocolates (including caramels, crème centers, truffles, marzipan, etc), savory pastries (including samosas, empanadas, curry puffs, Chinese pork buns), specialty breads (San Francisco Sourdough, pita, semolina bread), and specialty Holiday items (gingerbread houses and Buche de Noel).  I will be blogging every day to keep my family and friends informed of my progress and share what I am learning.  When I return, I will be meeting with my contractor to finalize the budget for the remodel of the bakery.   Then off to the bank to beg for money to start.  Hopefully we will have the remodel underway by October 1.


I am leaving my practice of clinic medicine and obstetrics in order to make time for this new venture.  I feel a bit sad as I enjoy delivering children and caring for them, and the patients who have trusted me with their most precious possession will always be dear to my heart.  But in order to make time for the bakery, I had to have a schedule that was more predictable.  I will be working in the emergency room part of the week and baking the other part….a career splice.  The bright colors of the glass remind me of the incredibly beautiful experiences in life that I have had so far, but they are also tempting me on towards the wonderful adventures that lie ahead…….my new vista.

July 25, 2014

Free At Last…

Well, the 4th of July came and went, but we did move back into the kitchen in the last week and we were freed from culinary purgatory.  The new space will be a lovely place to bake, cook, entertain, imagine, grow our extended family, and enjoy.  We have finally completed a very big dream of ours.  And though we had to make compromises along the way, as is the case with all remodels, we are very pleased and I breathe a sigh of relief every time I go into the kitchen.  Our contractors, Ridgeline Construction, did a beautiful job and we are thankful to them.  I have finally announced another baking sale for August 13 and 14 (we had already scheduled a family vacation).  The Bread Doctor will be making bagels and Russian Black Bread, adding a cinnamon-raisin bagel to the repertoire.  I did take the opportunity to wake my sourdough up from its three month slumber and you will see it featured prominently in the middle of the island in the photos of our new culinary workshop.  It is growing well and should be ready for baking soon.  I have included a few photos of the finished kitchen for my family who live at a distance and may never see it.  But this will be the site of baking activity until the downtown bakery opens next spring.

Beautiful Cherry woodwork done by Ridgeline Construction.(yes those are all cookbooks….crazy)
Gas oven and range and tile backsplash (done by Paul Pardus)
You can see from the photos, that Lisa and I both love green, and we finally got the gas range we have always dreamed of.  We also had a wonderful contractor that custom built all of the cabinets, the island, bookshelf, dresser, and the window seat.  He and his crew are great.  Another miracle was the way that they were able to build the new roof to complement our prior roofline.  It really is quite nice.

Brick walkway coming soon
As we designed the kitchen, we were attracted to the work of artisans that surround us.  Our friend, Mark Bigelow, designed and constructed several stained-glass panes for various locations in the kitchen.  He started taking classes in glasswork about a dozen years ago and makes beautiful things.  He has his own business now and a Facebook page (Mountain Light Glazier) and was recently showing his work at the arts festival in Jackson, WY while his wife, Claudine, played viola in the Teton Music Festival.  Check out his work, I was astounded.

Dish cupboard next to the sink

Cabinet over the toaster that holds the toast trimmings (butter, jam, honey, cinnamon sugar, etc…)

This beautiful piece will be hung up in this picture window after the vacation.  It is especially meaningful to Lisa and I because we were both Chemistry majors and this is the colors of the spectrum done in brilliant glasswork.
We are truly blessed and grateful for those who have worked so hard to make life beautiful for us.  I personally have only one thing to say “Thank God Almighty we are free at last!”

June 4, 2014

Going downtown….the rest of the story

Well, there is much to update since January.  I did get my permit from the city of Torrington which allowed me to open an in-home bakery.  This gave me the permission to get some commercial grade equipment at home which started with the double steam-injected oven  from French Canada.  It is the only Cadillac that I will ever own and here is a photo of the beauty.

This has helped me be more efficient with baking times and produce more product the last few months.  I was able to bake 48 dozen bagels in one day and then the next week make 64 dozen caramel cinnamon rolls over two days.  The oven is a blessing and will be a permanent part of the bakery for years to come.  It heats up quickly and has a built in fan to circulate the air for even baking.  I had to stop baking right after Easter, because that is when the wall of my kitchen was knocked down and we are progressing with the addition at home.  But I was able to sneak in an entire two days of baking with my sister, Jarene, in addition to the bagels and cinnamon rolls.  Here are some snapshots of the breads we made those two days.

I have been going through baking withdrawl for six weeks, but I am hoping to be baking again by the 4th of July.  They are actually installing cabinets today and the fabricator is here to make the template for the countertops.  I had an ingenioius friend of mine come and tear into the sheeter and learn all about how it works and he was able to get it running just beautifully.  I have a couple of parts to replace, but that will  be fine and then I will be able to begin test baking Croissants and Danish Pastries.  This will be very exciting, albeit challenging in the summer months.  During my time off from baking, I naturally have had many hours to plan the future of The Bread Doctor, LLC.

After a few months of baking, I had the growing realization that it would not be wise to build an entire commercial kitchen in my garage.  As the bakery business grew, I could see myself getting too big for the garage very quickly, and then having to move out.  This would leave me with a garage that was unfit for any vehicles to park and a large waste of money and time spent in repurposing the space.  (These realizations will seem obvious to any clear-thinking observer, but I was a man obsessed with a dream.)  Having accepted this realization, I knew that I had to explore other options.  I say this in a rhetorical sense, because I had no other obvious options at the time.

At the beginning of April, I headed downtown for theatre business and I happened upon a “For Sale” sign in the window of an old building right on Main Street.  It had large picture windows that jutted out to the sidewalk, wooden floors and a high-vaulted ceiling.  My pulse quickened and I called Lisa to come down and look with me.  Of course, this became the beginning of the Cinderella story.  After negotiating an offer and some repairs with the owner, the building became the property of The Bread Doctor, LLC.   Here is a photo of the front and the sign.

So…..the building purchase has led to a cascade of events.  I immediately have begun planning a renovation timeline and a timeline at work to allow me to be free to open the bakery down town in the spring of 2015.  I will be baking again at home in July and keeping the business going there until I am ready to move to Main Street.  I hired my baking teacher, Marda Stoliar, to come to Torrington over Memorial weekend to design the bakery.  That was a wonderful couple of days and was very exciting.  Here we are in the empty building sitting at the drawings trying to figure out how to use all of the space.

It has been a thrilling adventure the last few weeks, but I am very excited and feel that things are working out well.  There have been many meetings already with the plumber, electrician, city building inspector, HVAC specialist and discussions about the walk-in refrigeration and freezer needs.  The contractor working on our home has agreed to remodel the bakery, which is a blessing, and  I am learning a very large amount about the process of remodeling, and business planning. 

I will be attending school for two weeks in September and again next April to learn more about a few of the items I want to feature in the bakery and to learn to decorate wedding and special occasion cakes.  I will be working only in the Emergency Room starting on January 1 and will be leaving my clinic practice on October 1, 2014.  The eventual plan for the bakery is for me to work the emergency room on Monday and Tuesday each week and have the bakery open Thurs, Friday and Saturday.  There is much to do and I will be working and baking my brains out for the next year to get this all ready, but it will be exciting.   And that….is the rest of the story.