Meet the bread chefs at Starter Bread

Every monday i hang out in a sleepy street in west burnside to open the world’s ugliest treasure chest, a plastic trash can hidden behind a metal door. Wait inside: bread wrapped in brown paper and labeled by hand. It’s heavy enough to inspire a few Iron moves on site. But banish all preconceived ideas. Starter Bread inspires the kind of deep thoughts usually reserved for Texas grills or retiring basketball players. Can’t wait to take it home.

Texture is the star. The exterior is a force field of bronze and crunch. It contrasts starkly with the interior, which brushes against the wet edge of hot cereal and custard. Despite the density – there are enough nutrients here to form a biosphere – it is surprisingly light and elastic. I have never encountered anything like it. “Fun to chew!” as my friend Peter says. Even Kim Boyce, owner of the bakery and pioneer of cereal flour, is in love. “It’s weird and wonderful,” she said after tearing down a loaf of bread called Barley. “Knock-down, the best bread I have ever had.”

You know what I mean?

Like many things in Portland, finding it requires whale-like sonar. Starter Bread uses a weekly “Baker’s Choice” subscription model, communicating with customers by email. A $ 40 month-long pledge gets you weekly bread, a secret pickup site (or porch delivery, if you live nearby), and an email newsletter that speaks, beautifully and proudly, about small farmers. and cutting-edge research laboratories. behind.

The project lives on in the minds and home cooking (under license) of couple Matt Kedzie and Zena Walas. Each week, they slide down the rabbit hole in the Northwestern grain shed, attaching themselves to one or two varieties at a time. Whether it’s red or rye, the bean of the moment is the planet around which all decisions orbit. The end goal: to fight for local food through the prism of a sourdough porridge named after the obsession of the week. Durum. Maize Kasha. Etc.

Each loaf considers its subject in multiple forms. They give it to their starter until, they say, the starter “foams in the mouth”. They crack him. They toast less than an inch of his life. They soak it overnight and mix it with porridge – the secret sauce here. Sometimes it sprouted until “he thinks it’s a plant.” The rest is hand-ground into flour, and everything is turned into a bright, funky sourdough porridge bread, all the better toasted. What is the most surprising? Starter Bread achieves this amazing texture with a floor oven from Lowe’s. It tastes like life. Calling this whole grain bread is like saying Moby dick concerns whales. We’re not talking about simple choices of flour. Starter Bread aims to find the full expression of a kernel, possibly unshelled barley, of the geek breeders behind Oregon State University’s Barleyworld project. Recently, Kedzie and Walas were among the first bakers in Oregon to use Salish Blue, a perennial wheat almost unknown to Washington’s BreadLab.

“It’s very simple bread,” Kedzie insists. “In our current world, what we are doing is surely radical: stocking up on basic foods in the community, transforming them with our hands, sharing them with our neighbors. This is how we ate before McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Monsanto aimed to feed the world with large-scale agriculture, robots, and Roundup.

It turns out that Starter Bread is part of something bigger. Portland’s next food frontier is here. Local grains are the new microroasto beans, supported by a growing subsoil of local philosophers who ‘fight the flour’. Their ranks include the pop-up La Reinita bakery and the Sunday Bread Project pop-up at Scottie’s Pizza Parlor, two shows for one woman. At the People’s Farmers Market, Wandering Seeds Bakery rethinks economic justice by donating or trading what you can (if any) of “pearl barley bread, fermented and toasted” breads.

Something good is coming out of this dark period. Bread is back, baby, and healthy baking has never been so intriguing. I’m so into it.


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