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Grandma Agnes would be proud

As a kid, I remember riding my bike to St. Jude Church during the summer to have a free lunch; the days with tater tots and chocolate milk were the best.

I'd then head over to Grandma Agnes's house across the street and play in the backyard, or watch some soap operas with her while eating a few cookies. Some days she'd take me to Bethesda Thrift store to do her volunteer work with her, or we'd jump in the car to deliver some "meals on wheels" around town. 

She lived across from St. Jude for my entire childhood and spent her final years here too. Nearly every day she walked over to St. Jude Church to participate in some event, or to go light vigils.

Grandma Agnes was a woman of incredible faith. During the 10 years I lived abroad in Asia / Australia, she would always tell me that she had lit a vigil for me. I think quietly, she was always saying a prayer that I would return back to Green Bay as soon as possible to be safe in her arms once again. 

The incredible irony, or perhaps no irony at all, is that when I finally returned to the U.S. with a baby on the way, Grandma Agnes had passed and her little humble home was ready for someone to move in. So we did.

It was a place of familiarity, safety, and love - making it the perfect place for me to get grounded back in the U.S. and start my little family. 

Little did I know that in the first 18 months of my child's life, she would spend many hours at the St. Jude Church Kitchen. She plays in that same cafeteria that I ate lunch in, and she returns home to the familiar place that I spent many of my childhood days. 

FAQs about The Bakehouse Project on Kickstarter

 

FAQs about our Kickstarter Campaign:  

1. Tell me more about the croissants and brioche. Our family will LOVE that. 

They are staples for any good bakery that makes things from scratch with a European focus. Once we have a bakery up and going, we will concentrate on the pastry, with a European style to them, which means not too sweet.... and lots of butter! From brioche, you can make all sorts of things; cinnamon buns, hamburger buns, there's a whole list of items you can make. Those are 2 fun things we'll be able to make later in the year. 

2. How are you going to raise the rest of the capital you will need to open your bakehouse?

We are going to get a loan from either a bank or lending company backed by a small business association. The pitching for that starts in the next week or two. Hopefully, that will allow us to get the rest of the money to fit out the bakehouse and equipment we need. As well as working capital we need to help us through the rest of the year! 

3. Aren't there cheaper ovens you could get? $25,000 seems like a lot for an oven. 

Yes, $25,000 is a lot for an oven and it will probably be a bit more than that. When it comes to ovens that is the entry price for a proper bread oven, with a stone hearth to bake on. I've done extensive research and spent a lot of time looking for a used bread oven, but I can't find anything, that is under 10 years old. I think it is wise for the business that we get something that is new. It is going to mean a really good product for years to come and also become an asset and heartbeat of the business moving forward. 

4. How did you decide to go the crowdfunding route?

Why did we choose to crowdfund? Well all of us in the business are big fans of crowdfunding and have followed many great ideas that have come via crowdfunding. We saw some great examples of other bakeries around the world that have used crowdfunding to put some money together. We knew we would need to get money and funding from somewhere to kickstart this business to the next level. We knew that would come via debt or a loan. Kickstarter was a great way to get our community involved. We see ourselves as a community supported bakery, and little pledges from a thousand people around Green Bay is really going to set us up for success in the future. We won't have to borrow as much in the early stages. It is going to help us a lot. 

So what if we raise more than $25,000? How will it be spent?

Our goal is to raise $25,000 in our Kickstarter campaign. The majority of the funds will go towards the purchase of a bread oven. However, that is only around 30% of the total costs needed to set up our new Voyageurs Bakehouse. Our Kickstarter goal is the minimum we need for the bread oven. If we surpass our goal of $25,000, we will spend the money on other equipment like a professional dough mixer, shaping benches, other bakery equipment, bringing the building up to code, and making an awesome coffee bar for our community to enjoy. 

This is why we need the continued support of our community to share this project with your community around Green Bay. 

 

How is sourdough made?

There are many ways to make sourdough—its versatility and variation are part of the thrill of making sourdough (besides eating it)! Our sourdough takes anywhere from 18-24 hours from start to finish, and typically follows a process like this one:

Preparing the starter

There's more to say about sourdough starters than we have room for here, but essentially the starter is the source of wild yeast that is mixed into all of the dough. A sourdough starter (or leaven) is a mixture of flour, water, and wild yeast. To prepare for a bake day, we feed the starter with fresh flour and water to cultivate and strengthen it and mix enough for the number of loaves we're going to make.

Mixing the dough

After 4-6 hours, the starter is ready and we mix the full batch of dough with flour, water, salt, the starter, and any other ingredients we may be using in our menu (walnuts, herbs, raisins, maple syrup, etc.)! There are many ways to mix the dough—currently we use a mixer (named Kemper!) for the initial mix, and after that first step the dough is folded by hand.

Stretch and fold

After mixing, we do a series of stretches and folds to the dough to build tension and strength in the mixture. This is similar to kneading the dough, but its spread out over several hours to allow time to do most of the work for us! The stretches are alternated with resting periods where the dough relaxes and forms a cohesive whole. Both working the dough and proper rest are essential for building dough strength (just like working out at the gym!).

Bulk fermentation

After the stretches and folds, the dough is allowed to rest for a longer period to fully ferment. At this point, the bakers typically take a break for dinner and let the dough do the work! By the time we get back, 6-7 hours after the initial mixing, the dough has doubled in size all on its own.

Dividing and shaping

When the dough has fermented, we divide the full dough into individual loaves which are then shaped to build tension and structure in each loaf.

Proofing

After shaping, we place the loaves in cold storage overnight to slow down the fermentation. This not only creates a convenient baking schedule, but also deepens the flavor over a long twelve hour slow fermentation.

Scoring and baking

Twelve hours later, we heat up the ovens, roll out the loaves, score them with a blade (draw the fancy patterns on top) and bake them at a blistering 500°F for 45 minutes.

Baking sourdough is a fascinating skill with endless variations to explore. Let us know if you have any more detailed questions, and we'll be happy to talk about it for hours!