Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the burgeoning community of bread bakers in our midst, baking naturally leavened sourdough. Ours is a critical-mass moment. For some, a hobby took off during quarantine as they saw a need. Others are more established. None (save one) have storefronts; they practice the pick-up and drop-it-at-your-doorstep game.
In the last year (and months, even), a crescendo has expressed itself in a movement using freshly milled grains and tapping even more into the local grain-growing community. These new bakers’ loaves speak of both ambition and comfort, their wild-wrangled-yeast breads closing the circle from sowing to harvest to milling to crafting a loaf of daily bread. It’s also a supportive community, as tight-knit as their crumb is airy and chewy. They’ve held bake sales recently for Bakers Against Racism. Done virtual talks about flour paths and the local grain revolution. Like starters, they’re bubbling and seething with the possibility of education, becoming ever more creative and innovative, so you can have beautiful, burnished loaves every day you’d like and support local a economy and foodways.
So take a tour of our rising tide of levain makers.
Known for her signature elaborate leafy scoring, Stephanie Leichtle-Chalklen is known equally for her weekly flavors, like black and white sesame; walnut lavender lemon; cherry-rooibos-cacao nib; or savory garlic rosemary—in addition to a classic organic country loaf. Now, she’s added a bubbly-topped whole wheat focaccia and assorted weekly pastries that also incorporate sourdough. (A rustic galette might lay fresh strawberries over pastry cream.) And for now, her twice-weekly porch pick-ups, involving loaves lowered by basket, are legendary. Preorder for weekly pickups.
Oak Cliff Bread
A newcomer to the Oak Cliff wild yeast-wrangling scene, Tyler Rooney comes at it from work at Macellaio, fertile training ground where he was elbow-deep with David Uygur and resident baker Matt Ramirez. Now, since COVID-19 closures, he’s turned a serious hobby into a porch pick-up and delivery business. His country loaf has a tangy-sweet aroma and a crumb so springy and moist, it’s practically pneumatic. His secret weapon is freshly-milled flour, in this case, yecora rojo wheat from Barton Springs Mill. (He’s using Justin Holt’s mill at Salaryman, where the same milled grain undergirds ramen noodles.) In the chewy-crumbed works: weekly rotations with Castelvetrano olive or seeded loaves and croissants. Follow Rooney on Instagram at Oak Cliff Bread.
Department of Bread
J.P. Hossley co-owns the home furnishing store Neighborhood and started the levain gig, like many, by giving away loaves. If you were at recent pop-ups at DoubleWide, perhaps you devoured his jalapeño-cheese sourdough. Devotees love his toasted sesame. If you frequented the Oddfellows mini market in Bishop Arts, his were the cranberry loaves. Those are all coming back soon on Instagram. (He’s since stopped selling at Oddfellows, as he’s had to focus on reopening Neighborhood.) Follow Hossley on Instagram.
La Casita Bakeshop
The sweets bakery that functions as a non-storefront mostly—with Saturday only pickup of decadent, fanciful croissants and other pastries—just brought in a new (and three-year coveted) bread oven for crafting country sandwich loaves and focaccia infused with rosemary and garlic olive oil. As a golden plus, massive croissant loaves take the house specialty of laminated dough and turn it the loaf-sized, buttery, flaky-and-shattering crusted stuff that dreams are made of. Preorder on the La Casita website.
Uma Iyer’s Tartalicious, a home-delivery pastry operation, came out of hiatus to raise funds for Heard That Foundation with Bread For All, baking loaves—not tiny tarts—with (almost) conjured out-of-thin-air offerings of fluffy Hokkaido milk bread or shokupan, a Japanese milk bread that’s light as air and pillow-soft; tomato and rosemary-studded focaccia; or soft blimps of ciabatta. As a natural extension, she recently launched BreadEx, a doorstep delivery program—for you. It was only a matter of time. Find BreadEx on the Tartalicious website.
Dallas & Plano
Girl with Flour
Erika Radtke, a barre instructor who has a way with dough, is endlessly creative in her experimental, fanciful flings with freshly milled heirloom grains (einkorn, farro piccolo, et al.), squid-ink tints, and variations like a golden saffron-curry-semolina sourdough with dukkah spices. She’s done a “milk and honey” loaf with malted barley and mesquite flours (adding sweetness) and nubs of cooked steel cut oats and toasted buckwheat groats for bulk. She’s working on pan de cristal, a finicky high-hydration loaf with a gaping, open crumb; and she’s got buttery braided challah. Recently, Ladtke’s partnered with Profound Foods, so you can snag her loaves there as well for weekly pickup. Follow Ladtke on Instagram.
Dallas & McKinney
Bresnan Bread and Pastry
We love Bresnan for the way their banneton baskets consistently turn out the most beautiful, darkly crusted boules of olive and walnut with thyme and lemon zest or seeded multigrain or golden raisin fennel. The crumb is custardy and the blistered crust crunchy—and the pastries (koign amann and chocolate or almond croissants) extraordinary. Reservation-only Friday pickup at Brown Bag Provisions; bread also available at Local Yocal in McKinney.
Denton-based Catie Cohen’s niche is harnessing spent brewers’ grain, a biproduct of beer-making, and she’s making loaves with 50 percent fresh-milled grains. Look to her for striking flavors like cardamom and dates; kale and feta and coriander; and bee bread with honey and turmeric that takes on golden hues. She’s a master of inclusions, whether savory or sweet. And her connection with local Latte Da Dairy means whipped goat cheese spreads and nut butters, like spiced almond butter, tahini butter, hazelnut butter. Those who want decadence can also turn to chocolate cherry cashew or coffee rye chocolate sourdough, chocolate orange sandwich bread, and bagels. Preorder on Cohen’s website.