How It Started
First I want to thank you all so much for those who have supported us, especially from the beginning when our first winter market was cancelled due to the pandemic.
For those who don’t know, earlier this year Stephen reached out to the Winter Farmers Market at the Domes asking about selling his breads there (what it all takes, if there was licensing, restrictions on home bakers, etc.) it wasn’t until beginning of March did he hear back from them asking to sell at the last few winter markets.
Stephen has been baking for about 8 years, but this was going to be his first time really selling his breads. We were so excited, especially knowing that not everyone can get into the winter market, we knew how lucky we were. We thought this was finally his way to get his name and breads out there. He planned for over a week and baked like mad that weekend before the market. He worked so hard to bake as many breads as he could for a home baker in a small home kitchen, with a normal kitchen oven, no mixer or anything, all done by hand. While I (His wife, Christine) was planning his display and what else would be needed besides breads (packaging, card reader, bags, table, baskets, etc.) He was able to make about 60 loaves of breads right before the market, we were ready to sell!
Unfortunately, the Thursday evening before, the pandemic hit, and everything including the markets were cancelled. All this bread and no place to sell them. We do not have a store front, and haven’t even built a customer base yet, we weren’t sure what to do. We were hoping this winter market would be the start of slowly building our bakery, but then it was cancelled. In all honesty we felt a little defeated, not sure what to do with all this bread.
However I did not want to give up, so I took a chance and posted on Facebook groups, specifically the Bay View Town Hall group since we both grew up there, still live near by and love Bay View, looking for people to purchase our breads. I wasn’t sure if people would be interested, I figured we might as well try and at least sell a few loaves of bread. Little did I know we would completely take off.
We had over 100 comments, over 50 messages and people sharing our post, selling out of all our breads in just an hour, and even having orders for more. Essentially, we went a little viral! A columnist for the Journal Sentinel saw the post, reached out and wrote an article about us. Once the article was published, we had back orders for up to 3 weeks, yet people were more than happy to wait that long!
Since then we have been in several markets this season, on the news and local newspapers. If it wasn’t for the community helping us in our time of need, we would not be where we are today. Which is one of the reasons why we choose the Bay View Community Center to donate our Neighbor Loaves breads.
Again, we are just a small, home bakery, that Stephen and I (his wife Christine) run by ourselves. This is now Stephen’s full time job and he does all the baking himself, so everything you see baked on our site, social media and markets, are all done by him, with the exception of my bread flowers and cupcakes!
I help with everything else (Writing and sending newsletters, cleaning our home, running the website, social media, cleaning, packaging, managing markets, CLEANING, charities, answering emails and messages, SO MUCH CLEANING, etc.) While maintaining my day job and teaching paint classes at the Farmhouse Paint & Sip now and then.
Even buying one loaf of bread, or just a croissant or cookie, or even just by signing up for our newsletter and sharing our posts on social media, if it wasn’t for you, we would not have come as far as we have, especially during these trying times. Thank you.
We will continue working hard, and making our dream of opening a small bakery come true. We are not sure when it will happen, whether it’s a year or several years from now, we will keep high hopes for our future, and with your help it is possible! There may be hard times, (like now during a pandemic) but we will not give up, because every single smile we give is worth it! Again, thank you all so much for your support!
The Process of Bread
Making bread has always been a process. It isn’t something that can be done in 30 minutes or even in an hour, when the goal is to allow the bread to ferment over the period of at least a day to develop a depth of flavor.
When you attempt to speed up the process all you get is underwhelming and bland bread. Bread relies on the baker to be patient and accepting of the environment that the dough is rising in. The dough will rise once and then it will be shaped and will rise a second time before it gets put into a piping hot oven. Each rise requires hours of patience, if the dough doesn’t rise long enough the end result will be flat and dense.
I started making bread to learn the process and to be able to make my own bread. At the beginning I didn’t understand what was all required to end up the loaves of bread people see in books and in bakeries. Breads that are sold at most bakeries and grocery stores have commercial yeast in them to help speed up the process and to make all the bread consistent in look and rise. It also will have the least amount of flavor because of the quick rise times. Naturally Fermented Bread(Sourdough) uses a Sourdough Starter which is wild yeast that gathered when flour and water is mixed and allows to sit out to ferment. It takes upwards of 3 weeks to have an active starter to be strong enough to allow a loaf of bread to rise. Wild Yeast also requires a lot of time to rise. It doesn’t move as fast as commercial yeast but it develops way more flavor and it lasts longer before mold forms and ruins the bread.
All the bread I make is with my Sourdough Starter that I have been using for over 5 years. I get my Wheat from Local Farms like Anarchy Acres, Janie’s Mill and Meadowlark Organics. Sometimes I will purchase already stone milled flour from them, other times I will purchase wheat berries, which I then mill myself to get the flour for the breads and baked goods. Flour that is milled at a local farm or at home will always be more healthy than the flour that is sold in stores. All that is removed is some of the bran of the wheat berry to help facilitate the bread to rise without being dense.
It has taken a lot of practice to have good consistent results but it is always worth it in the end. Every time a new batch of dough is started, the end result will always be a surprise. The goal is to be able to make something that others will enjoy and then all the time spent will never be disappointing.