In this article we take a look at the process of turning flour and water, plus a little yeast, into bread - or ekmek as it is called in Turkey. We spent some time at the only bakery in Kalkan town, Kalkan Ekmek Fabrikasi. (The next closest bakery is in Akbel).
Unless they open a chocolate factory in Kalkan, this will undoubtedly go down as the tastiest reporting assignment KTLN has undertaken. I am ashamed to say that a whole loaf of freshly baked bread was eaten during the typing up of this report.
We all need bread
Bread is a staple food all over the world. It has been around in some form or other since neolithic times. In Turkey it is an important part of daily life and virtually every home will have its daily bread. If you eat in a Kalkan lokanta you may find you have an endless supply of bread accompanying your meal.
Traditionally, fresh bread can be found in cabinets outside shops. This is to ensure that everyone has easy access to such an important food item. Moreover, it is culturally acceptable for the poorest people to take their bread without paying for it. However, anyone who can really afford bread, but takes it without paying is regarded with total contempt.
If you want to know the mechanics of how flour, yeast and water turn into bread, take a look at this link: www.howstuffworks.com/bread.htm
Let's look at how the bakers in Kalkan give us our daily bread.
The Night Shift Begins
Just as you are finishing off your evening meal, or contemplating a nightcap in a local bar, three people are getting ready to begin their night shift. At 10pm Erol, Ümit and Yusuf arrive at the bakery to begin the process that will result in thousands of loaves being delivered the following morning.
Erol has been a baker for 8 years, Ümit for 7 years, and Yusuf is a relative newcomer with one and a half years under his belt. They work for Recep Aladaeli, who owns the bakery, as well as the florist shop next door, where his wife also works.
The ingredients are kept in a storage room, adjacent to the area where the dough is mixed. Flour from Antalya is stacked high in 50kg bags. They will use 15 of these tonight. There is also yeast and salt.
The preparation area has a number of machines which when combined, provide an efficient production conveyor belt. In one corner there is a large stainless steel mixing bowl, together with a huge automatic mixer. It's just like the Kenwood Chef you have at home, but about 4 feet high.
Making the dough
Erol puts the ingredients into the bowl, adds some water and starts the mixer. A few minutes later the dough is ready to be placed into a hopper where it is automatically weighed and cut into lumps of the right size.
The portions of dough trundle along into another machine where they are rolled into a large sausage shape - like a mini baguette - tapered at the ends.
They roll down another conveyor belt into the waiting hands of Ümit (right) and Yusuf (left), who swiftly place them on baking trays. Ten pieces of dough go on each tray, and 16 trays make a pallet.
The machine can also turn out other shapes, such as the çiçek loaf, which resembles a flower in shape. The standard shape - similar to a baguette, but shorter and fatter, is by far the most popular bread they produce.
Once the pallet is full it is wheeled into a warm room where the yeast gets to work. The dough is allowed to rise for about one and a half hours, and when the pallets emerge you can see the difference in size.
The next step is to make a cut across the top of the leavened dough. This cut gives the loaf its shape and allows it to rise during baking.
Into the oven
Then into the oven - 15 minutes at 305 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact there are two ovens at this bakery. They are heated by a combination of electricity and gas. They have a standby generator in case the electricity supply goes off: failing to deliver bread in the morning is not an acceptable situation.
There are two things this report cannot convey. One is the fantastic smell of freshly baked bread which is quite intense inside the building, but which can also be detected outside the bakery. The other thing is the heat which overwhelms you when the oven doors are opened. Even at a distance of 10 metres away, the heat makes you take a step backwards. I imagine it's a more pleasurable experience in winter.
Pallet after pallet is wheeled in and out of the oven, and in this one night alone, just over 3,500 loaves were produced - mostly the normal shape, with a few hundred round or çiçek (flower) loaves.
Erol (above) tells me that in the summer they can often bake over 5,000 loaves. On one occasion they made 8,000 loaves! In winter it may be as low as 2,000 to 2,500 loaves.
Selling and distributing
By daybreak, around 5.30am, customers start arriving to get the freshest loaves.
Two vans outside the bakery are loaded up with trays of bread - 35 loaves in each tray. The smallest van takes 12 trays (420 loaves). At 5.55am Recep turns up to drive the small delivery van. The second van will also be on its way shortly. The bakery delivers bread to Akbel, Bezirgan, Yeşilköy, Üzümlü, Sarıbelen and of course Kalkan.
By 6.00am the machinery and floor has been well cleaned, and the night shift starts winding down. By 6.30am there is a steady stream of customers and the stock pile of bread is rapidly diminishing.
Outside, the sky is now quite bright, although the mountain is casting a shadow over the town. The bay is still and calm. It's a beautiful time of day. Soon, Erol, Ümit and Yusuf will be back at their farms, tending to their tomatoes, peppers and olive trees. Hopefully they will catch up on some sleep too.
Meanwhile, you, me and thousands of other people will soon be munching our way through those 3,500 loaves of bread. Well, 3,499 actually, as I have already polished one off.
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