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Sour Bakery

from barm to table

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First batch of mini pies, peach I think

Moving to North Carolina was a BIG move. We left our California Coastal home (2016, June/July), where we had resided off and on for 35 years, drove our car and two cats as well as a few belongings and our optimism and fear, and travelled through 2,777 miles of the United States. Tucked away in a controlled temperature bag was Stella, my barm since 2009, started in Seattle Washington, raised in Santa Cruz, and fed in 8 different states. Moving here-leaving behind teaching, our families and friends, and all we had ever really known-we hoped to find soil to take root in, and time to make dreams a reality.

Immediately I began baking, trying to fill my apartment with the scent of fresh bread and spices, and fill the environment with happy little yeasty friends to create a new layer of complexity to Stella. Each place we fed her gave her a new variation of yeast and bacterium, all cousins to the same general family. Stella was becoming as diverse and unique as our own story.

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English Muffins, take 1

It took me over a month to find a job, which was crazy. Since living on my own I have always: worked and gone to school; worked two jobs; worked two jobs and taken online classes. I have NEVER NOT WORKED FOR 30 DAYS. I was baking all sorts of new things, all wild yeast leavened: English muffins, ciabatta, cinnamon rolls (sweet and savory), muffins, brownies, cookies, so on and so forth. I started Sour Bakery’s Instagram, Facebook, and WordPress.

 

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First attempt at Cinnamon rolls, but with apples and pecans.

Then I was employed and baking took a back seat. In our relationship, my partner and I have always strived to be egalitarian, so having been unable to contribute to the bills had been getting under my skin. Still, I baked on my weekends (the first time EVER where I had Saturday and Sunday off every week).

Thanksgiving came, our first with our East Coast Family, and I brought bread to share (of course), but with a tinge of apprehension in my heart. What if they didn’t like?!? We had been sharing our breads with Knowles’ Coworkers and mine, and they had “liked” it and found it to be “good”, but this was new family. The

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Next try at Cinnamon Rolls

bread disappeared so fast and so thoroughly that it seemed I had forgotten to bring any! Not only were they super stoked, several entrepreneurial family members sat with me and we talked about how to get the dream out of my head and into a version of reality to start from. I was given homework to work on until Christmas.

The brief time between these holidays was filled with work, bread making, business plan development, researching Farmers Markets, and being generally terrified of choosing this path. Christmas came and again we travelled to Virginia to see our East Coast family. We brought bread and caught up with each other. I mentioned my progress on the  business plan.  I was encouraged to seek out businesses that might be interested in breads or pastries. We returned home to North Carolina, rang in the New Year and reflected on our first 6 months.

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side view of dough being weighed out for pre shaping
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It is 1:14 in the morning on the 24th of April. I am playing the waiting game. Waiting for my dough to be ready to shape into the loaves I will bake tomorrow. Waiting for the dish machine to finish its cycle so I can do the next load. Waiting to feel like I am really “a baker” who makes “great sourdough breads”. Every time I come to The Cookery (the commercial kitchen where I rent space) I learn something new, or do something not smart. This is my fourth time here. Lets take a quick minute to go over what I have learned through each mistake (some silly, some super terrible).

First time at The Cookery was on Sunday the 1st of April. My first ever market was to be on the following Tuesday. I was super nervous and jittery. The first day went okay. I made the bread, it looked pretty good. But I tried to do all 100 loaves AT THE SAME TIME.  I mixed all the dough in two sets in the hobart (mistake 1). I tried to separate it into the individual styles of bread before doing the add ins, but the dough was poorly mixed, due to overloading the hobart so I spent hours (literally) trying to repair the damage. It all worked out, but I had some dough autolysing for way too long, so I damaged the structure when it was time to mix it. I got it done. when it came time to divide each loaf from the mass I did it ALL AT ONCE again (mistake 2). my prep tables were over flowing with bread and, again, some of my bread sat too long, developing a crust before it should. Anyway, I got them all in the baskets, and then into the walkin fridge to sit over night (my shelves on the super tippy top, and I am short, so this took forever too). Day one done. A few mistakes, an hour and a half past my time, worried that the bread was going to be garbage. Woo, home to sleep and worry.

Day 2, Monday night, started out well. I timed the bread well, so there would be plenty of time between bake-offs and for the bread to cool before putting them in the tubs. I did great! I was done and ready to start cleaning up 4 hours early! So I leisurely started cleaning up. The bags I brought for the baskets were too small, so they were a pain. But I got the baskets in the bags, took one round to the car, returned to get the rest, back to the car and…. Locked myself out of The Cookery. The doors look behind you and you use a key fob to get in. I had left the fob on the table where the baskets had been. It was 2:40am at this time. No one was due at The Cookery until 6am. I didn’t have my car keys, phone, jacket, brain (apparently), but at least the car was open and I had my laptop. So, after trying to jimmy the door, repeatedly, and seeing if I could somehow McGuiver the door (no, no I could not. But the tool I made was pretty cool) I decided to listen to a book on my laptop and wait for rescue, at 6 (it was 3 by now). At least I was done, the oven was off, and my bread was definitely cool enough to box up.

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Picture taken later to show where I spent my time waiting.

That was my first experience. Luckily the first farmers’ market went really well, so I tried my hand at production again. My second time I didn’t bring enough dusting flour, and forgot the spatula to help get the cheesy loaves off the sheet pans. My third time I forgot the rolling pin to roll out my spiral rolls, and a thermometer to test the temp on my breads. Luckily, there is a store less than a five minute walk away.

I am now on the bake-off day of my fourth session at The Cookery. I have not forgotten anything, yet. I have improved my process and been able to reduce the amount of hours that I have to rent the space, which is saving me money. My loaves are still not perfect, in fact I think the Garlic Cheddar I am about to bake-off may not be my finest loaves. But, when I don’t hate this it is very fun and beautiful and full of joy.

I recently had some bananas that were perfect for banana bread. But, I did not want to make banana bread. I LOVE to experiment! It is why I want to open my own bakery: so I have control of what I make and when I can try new things.

In recent posts, I wrote about a wild yeast cinnamon roll recipe that I was experimenting on. So, I decided to stuff that dough with mashed bananas, chocolate, nuts, and peanut butter.

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This is what it looked like before the roll: I wanted to try two different types. Half was chocolate, peanut butter and banana, the other half was banana and walnut. Rolling these was a bit messy. I realized that if I was going to have so much yummy gooeyness I need to leave more empty space for the goo to expand on.

Once I had it rolled I really thought it was not going to work, so much so that I did not bother taking pictures. I shoved the pan into the fridge overnight, filled with barely rolled, explodingly gooey rolls and thought, well- experimenting is half the fun. They will probably taste good…

This morning I got up and started taking my loaves out for bake-off. After the third round of removing a few baskets at a time I remembered the rolls. Cringing slightly, I took the pan from the fridge and inspected the mess. There was so much liquid I thought that baking them was going to be a mistake. But, I chose to bake them anyway. No one would have to know if they were terrible.

I am so glad that I baked them off! They are absolutely delicious and I am getting ready to make some more tomorrow, with a few tweaks.

For me, baking is all about imagining something that might taste great, and applying that idea to your existing knowledge. Sometimes, it will flop, but sometimes it will be absolutely delicious!

 

This was so exciting to create! I found the font years ago and find it rather whimsical and quirky: like myself.

I have been asked: why the Unicorn, what does it have to do with bread? My initial answer has been: because I am a Unicorn! But, in all seriousness I find that food, in general, but specifically wild yeast breads, is pure magic. Being able to go to the grocery store and get anything you want (naturally made or purely manufactured), at any time of year, has removed the magic of food from most people’s lives. I think I will write a whole post on this next!

Not only did I get cards, but I also got postcards with my offerings on the back:

Coming soon will be my Kickstarter to help get these beautiful loaves into as many hands as I can! I’ll keep you posted!

I am a human who dreads mistakes. Like most humans I suspect. But my dread, of such a mundane and common place thing, has inhibited so much in my life. While growing up I stayed silent, or stayed home, for fear of making some social faux pas that I perceived would ruin any and all possibilities. As a young adult I did not pursue things that interested me because I was afraid of making a mistake: choosing the wrong career, the wrong school, the wrong adventure. Wrong, to me, meant mistake.

Still, I am not sure. I love to experiment. I love to bake. But what if it is all a mistake? What if this is wrong? What if, what if, what if… Say anything enough times and it will stop making sense.

Mistake 1: studying psychology. But, it led to so much beauty: Residential counselor job where I learned so much about myself, the resilience of the human spirit, and met some of the most beautiful humans I will ever know. Also, was able to live in Santa Cruz, and meet my future husband.

Mistake 2: Studying the Pastry Arts. But, it led to so much growth: living in San Francisco and Seattle and now Durham (a brand new coast). I uncovered my passion for bread. I discovered that I am brave, capable, and lovely in my own quirky way.

Mistake 3: Choosing to pursue bread-Sour Bakery specifically. But, when I am not being overly critical, it brings me so much joy: Experimenting, eating, and sharing.

I think that mistakes are the things we do that we are not sure about, that something in us guides us towards. Mistakes may just be the first step to a truth.IMG_7448

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I am so lucky that I have been able to work on my art more, now that I only have one job. My repertoire has expanded and I would like to create a list that exists outside of myself, for any to see, so that it exists beyond me and makes what I am doing more real. My loaves are not always as big, not always as tasty, and not always as beautifully open as I would like them to be. I am not always as patient nor as confident in myself as I should be after all these years. But there is hope. There is always hope.

Here are the loaves that I sell:

vegan

classic sour, roasted onion garlic potato and herb, sundried tomato and garlic, salted rosemary, olive garlic and pepper, seeded

cheesy

caprese, garlic cheddar, jalapeño cheddar, chipotle cheddar, habanero cheddar, artichoke parmesan and garlic

meat

bacon apple gouda

sweet

raspberry and white chocolate, cinnamon and raisin, dark chocolate cherry and pecan

I am always experimenting, it is one of the greatest joys in baking! Not only do I make these phenomenal loaves, I also make cinnamon rolls, crackers, biscuits, and sweets. All with a wild yeast starter!

These turned out absolutely delicious, and absolutely HUGE! I experimented with extra sweet potato and no buttermilk, leading to a tender and sweet roll. White chocolate and milk chocolate created a decedent treat. I need to recreate them soon!

Making loaves of wild yeast sourdough is fun, delicious, and time consuming. Sometimes I envy people who choose to use commercial yeast. Their bread can be finished within one day, and eaten that evening! Yet, I don’t really envy them. Bread made from commercial yeast lacks the beauty and intricate dealings that are required when using a living part of the kitchen environment. Wild yeast requires just the right temperature, handling, nutrients, and time.

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In looking for items that require less than three days to be enjoyed I happened upon a recipe for Sourdough English Muffins! What a fun dough. Of course, it still took two days, but it was such a different process. I didn’t let the dough rest enough after the second roll so I got some interesting sizes. They are delicious, sour, and full of all the delightful pockets that make english muffins great for jam, or eggs and bacon. I think I will sell them in four packs for $6. Of course, I need to work some more on the shaping and cooking. I don’t have a griddle so thats fun.

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My loaves have always been about a pound and a half, before I add in extra tasty bits. I decided that, maybe, they were too big. So I’ve reduced my loaves to about a pound and a quarter. I haven’t reduced my initial dough recipe yet, so I had a bit of extra. The other day I made a roll; today I tried a mini baguette. I notice that people seem to buy baguettes more than a loaf when I snoop on other bread makers. So, I might start making souguettes (sourdough baguettes). It was fun forming a different loaf, but I will need to work on form and mess with the proofing time.

I don’t always eat all the bread; I don’t know enough people here yet to hand it out, but I so love creating it, watching it, messing with it, and seeing how my creations turn out.

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