“What kind of bread do you make?” he asked.
I don’t know how to answer this question. What’s the elevator pitch for what I do? I make the kind of bread that helps me stay sane? Something, something, sourdough and naturally leavened?
More often then not, I make the same few types of bread. Sesame seed because Chris likes it. Seedy rye guys in Pullman pans because I love how soulful they turn out with such minimal work. Brown rice or a porridge loaf when I get my act together and plan a few days ahead. The same goes for any bread experiments that come out of Tartine No. 3 and whatever ingredients I had the good sense to buy ahead of time. Or on the occasion I have crowds to please, it’s toasted walnut or black pepper Parmesan.
I like to think that I’m wildly diverse, well-read, frequently milling new grains in my ever-broadening quest to eat and learn. Not yet. I also keep too much knowledge in my head and don’t document my bakes beyond Instagram. A good product comes out of my over more often than not, but I blame my execution a few techniques, not necessarily mastery or knowledge. Within the narrow swath of my home-baking experience (mostly four books, a few San Francisco Baking Institute classes, and many more unread books), there’s about seven or eight years of repetition.
The question is especially difficult to answer when it comes from a baker I respect. He is Earl of Earl’s Bread and went from his home oven to a stand at a farmer’s market he helped start to baking bagels out of the ovens at All Good Pizza. I had just met him, as we were both at the preview of the new Butchertown Gourmet, a bread bakery and wine tasting room, started by Xan of Fox and Lion Bread. (It was my first time meeting her in person, despite being connected on social media and by different people. These two bread-trepeneurs have inspired me as I consider getting my cottage license and making my bread (aka, DOUGHTOWN into a legitimate business.
I haven’t yet figure out my bread point of view. What do I want to offer into the world? Do I need a signature or a take? Does it have to be planned out? Can it keep being all over the place like it was at my old office (who are still begging me to drop bread off there)?
Maybe not planned out, but a little organization could help. I could commit to baking a certain number of loaves on Sundays. I could pre-plan the bakes and send out a newsletter on Wednesdays to announce what’s coming. Depending on who wants what, those that aren’t going to be picked up at my house would be dropped off during the wee hours on Monday. I should probably be a little more formal in the size of my loaves (pre-bake), maybe even scale them back from their current size.
So what’s stopping me? Reading more books won’t get me there; it would only serve to expand my repertoire. (I’d have to plan some experimental loaves into the weekly bakes to arrive a tried and true formulas for production.) Staging or having work experience in a bakery won’t be directly applicable to what I’m already doing at home, other than making me more efficient. (It would be fun to work around other bakers.) There are no classes, whether a workshop or a full-on program that’s going to get this little venture going. (Until I have enough of a following, I don’t need more practice in a professional kitchen.)
As Glinda tells Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power….”