Written for the inaugural issue of The Pawling Record, April 2017. Link to original article is currently unavailable.
Flour, water, salt, and wild yeast are all Cynthia Kinahan needs to bake the perfect bread – no pun intended.
Since its recent expansion to the store on 10 East Main Street, the already widely-popular micro-bakery has surged in renown. On Saturdays from 9:30am to noon, shoppers wander in to smell the sweet aroma of freshly baked sourdough. They try the buttery, fluffy brioche or a slice of nutty sesame bread and fall in love with the taste of home-made artisanal bread.
Kinahan has always loved to cook. But when working at a manufacturing plant, she was overwhelmed by the atmosphere and increasing industrialization of food.
Surprisingly, Kinahan had never baked bread before opening the store; her venture into bread-baking started as a coincidence. “I don’t know if there was a precise moment or catalyst,” Kinahan says. “I just remember feeling restless at my old job and took pottery classes at Montgomery Pottery as a way to clear my mind.”
One night, when pottery was canceled, Kinahan decided to make bread. “It was the worst bread ever!” she claims, laughing.
Kinahan did not let that stop her. Puzzled by the complexity of something seemingly simple, she continued baking bread nearly daily until she had memorized the recipe, determined to get it perfect.
Weeks passed by. Yet it was only when she ditched the recipe that she really started to succeed. “It was only then that I began to really feel the dough,” she says. After self-teaching herself, Kinahan perfected her skills by apprenticing with “the grand master of sourdough” in Vermont.
Kinahan’s bread only contains flour, water, salt, and wild yeast. There are no preservatives, unlike store bought bread, nor is there extra sodium, sugar, or conditioners. This results in a richer, healthier, tastier bread. But while the ingredients seem simple, Kinahan describes an incredible process that the yeast undergo to create loaves.
“Wild yeast is found naturally in the air – it’s the cloudy film we see on grapes, for example. When placed in water, these organisms will symbiotically work together to ferment the grains, creating carbon dioxide that causes bread to rise.”
Among customers, the most popular breads are the Country loaf and the White loaf. Fruit loaves and olive loaves are also popular among the “diehard fans.” But Kinahan’s personal favorites are the Flaxseed or Oat Porridge loaves.
“The Flaxseed is such a hard sell,” she says, “But once people give it a chance, they love it and will ask for it only.”
Kinahan recommends eating bread with cultured butter, which has live bacteria cultures in it, and honey.
There really is nothing better than home-made artisan bread, hand-crafted with love and care. The rise of businesses like Pawling Bread bring us one step closer to rekindling a healthier relationship with food in our society. As Kinahan puts it, “bread nourishes the body and also the mind; it can evoke memories, feelings of comfort, warmth… it can even inspire words. Best of all, it can bring people back to the dinner table again.”