The sweltering baker

For the home baker, the summer months provide a unique opportunity to reconnect with their families.

A traditional baker in Poland removes fresh bread from the oven (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A traditional baker in Poland removes fresh bread from the oven
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Is it just my imagination or is it getting hotter every year? Perhaps I have a short memory, but it just seems that, as each year goes by, summer in the Middle East is becoming more and more unbearable. The only thing on anyone’s mind right now is lounging around, glued to the air conditioning, with a long, tall glass of ice tea in one hand and a generous chunk of watermelon in the other. Nobody really feels hungry in this weather and if they do, it certainly isn’t for bread!
For commercial bakers, July and August are “slump” months, as bread sales plummet. Not only do very few people consume large quantities of bread during the summer season, but for the baker himself, to stand in a sweltering room next to the oven baking bread, it is akin to a scene out of Dante’s Inferno.
The intrepid diehards brave enough to endure the waves of heat without and within have no rest – the dough rises at an accelerated rate due to the hot weather and has them running off their feet to try to keep up. It is not surprising that many just call it quits and take an extended vacation.
For the home baker, however, the summer months provide a unique opportunity to reconnect with their families. Kids and grandkids are home from school, the days are long and everyone is thirsting for some stimulation beyond the ubiquitous cellphone, WhatsApp and Facebook.
Baking together can be just that sought-after activity and it doesn’t have to be bread – it could be a cold fruit pie (see my June article), which is more appropriate to the weather and the temperament.
The summer months also provide a welcome lull in our busy schedules that is perfect for experimentation and brushing up on our baking skills without the added pressures of life. The summer holidays come to an abrupt end on August 31 and we are then plunged into the intense few weeks preceding the High Holy Days.
The lazy, hazy days of summer are well suited to exploring new recipes and techniques, and planning new delights to wow our families over the upcoming festival season. To those of us fortunate enough to be spending time abroad, summer also affords a unique opportunity to sample new cuisine from different cultures and expand our baking horizons.
On a personal note, summer provides a welcome opportunity to concentrate on my teaching, as we host numerous groups and families for baking classes throughout July and August. I cherish this as a time to meet new and interesting people from all over the world and to share my baking passion with them.
If you are still engaged in bread baking during the summer, you may switch the repertoire from heavy, zesty breads to light, airy fare; such as French baguettes or Italian ciabatta, the purpose being to lightly fill without weighing down.
Each season signifies different things to different people. For the baker, summer heralds a time of reconnection with other people, a period of exploration and experimentation and a time for planning the upcoming baking year.
Keep cool!
The writer, a master baker originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in Ginot Shomron with his wife and four children. He is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute ( and works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health and nutrition.