Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tree-Top Baking...A New Direction For 2015

After eight amazing years selling at the Bayview Farmers Market, Tree-Top Baking will be taking a new direction in 2015. We’ll continue baking delicious breads, pastries and cakes — but we will no longer be at the market every week.

Why this change? Well, it’s the result of careful thought over many months....and a realization that life is shorter than any of us wants it to be. As some of you may know, Larry turned 72 this past Summer. And part of this milestone has been a reflection of the past and a look ahead.

When we started Tree-Top 2007 we did so because we loved to bake and we wanted an active retirement hobby. We’ve been lucky things have worked out well, but, (un)fortunately this “hobby” has turned into a more-than-full-time job for both of us.

It all began in 2005 when Larry attended a baking seminar sponsored by the Bread Bakers Guild of America at the San Francisco Baking Institute. He came back to Whidbey with half a dozen loaves of bread and the inspiration to resume his long interrupted baking career. We experimented in our home kitchen, but it soon became clear there wasn’t enough room to bake and live in the same space. We explored options, constructed a “baking studio” not far from the house and “Tree-Top Baking” was born.

To get the kind of results we wanted (crispy crusts on bread and flaky layers on croissants) we opted for professional equipment which gave us the capacity to bake more than two loaves of bread at a time. In 2007, we started selling at the Bayview Farmers Market. We brought five kinds of bread and cinnamon rolls. Flash forward to 2014 and we closed the season bringing 994 of 49 different items. That week, we worked a total of 72 hours (including a 22-hour Friday-Saturday shift.)

We love baking but it’s consumed our lives for a long time. Now it’s time for something else. While we still enjoy good health, we have decided to take more time off — and that means adjusting how we operate.

This change for the business (and a new chapter in our lives) may come as a surprise to some but it won’t to those who know the schedule we have kept (and the hours we’ve worked) to bring fresh baked goods to the market every week the past eight years.

What’s ahead? Truthfully, we don’t know. We will be doing more traveling. We hope to spend more time with families in Iowa and California. We will have time to pay attention to our neglected yard and garden. We’ll have time to enjoy weekends with friends. We may do occasional “pop-up” bake sales. We may offer classes. And we will be open to new baking projects when our schedule allows.
We’re announcing our decision now to answer the questions we always get at the end of the year (Are you tired of baking? Are you going to be at the market next year?)....and to give customers an chance to “get their Tree-Top” for three more weeks. While it might be easier for us to withhold this news until after the markets were over, taking the “easy” way out would have deprived us of the chance to say thank you to all the great people we’ve met — and served — the years.

If you’d like to keep up with what we’re planning, make sure you’re signed up for our emails. (Go to the first page of our website and fill out the “Join Our Email List”.)

Thanks for your’s been appreciated!

Gerry Betz and Larry Lowary


 ...And now the next chapter

Friday, March 28, 2014

L’association Salut Les Co-Pains

When you're invited to work alongside a French baker, you don't waste a moment—you jump at the opportunity. That's what we did when friend and baker Didier asked if we wanted to join him for a day at a small wood-fired baking space in a building owned by the Marie (city) of Montreuil just ouside the Paris City Limits. He and friends form L'association Salut Les Co-Pains, a small group of passionate bakers and want-to-be bakers. It's a unique group because while the French have a strong association with bread, most visit local boulangeries every day (sometimes several times a day). The day was sunny, the "laboratory" was in a brightly lit room in a building next to a great park, and we had a blast mixing, proofing and (finally) baking two kinds of breads in a wood-fired oven.


Whole grain breads (some with dried fruit) were sold to neighbors from friends a make-shift stand near the oven which was next to a busy park.

Young men and women spent hours and hours playing ball (and other games) in the park, getting plenty of exercise away from their computers or keyboards.

View from the baking space to the outside oven...

About the size of Tree-Top Baking, the space is compact and just right for small production.

The oven

Didier loads the oven with wood


and grows

We'll be baking in a couple of hours.

Love those embers

Burning down — waiting for the dome to turn white hot.

Organic Spelt (left) and Rye flours come in 25 kilo bags...a bit heavier than our 22.5 kg (50 pound) bags.

Sourdough starter

scaling water and flours

mixing begins


Coming together

We added dried fruit — mango, apple, cranberry — and walnuts to one dough.

Checking the temperature

Didier (left) and Larry cut veggies for pizza lunch and association member Diana


pizza dough

lots of veggies

into the oven

out of the oven


The meal ended with an apple tart...

Larry scales loaves



The oven's hot enough, ashes are raked out and we're ready to start.

White hot!

Scoring the loaves

Into the oven

Cleaning the baskets


Out of the oven


With cereals

Readying the sales area.

So very French

Waiting on a customer

Neighbors visit and buy