Community Class Spotlight: A Culinary Baking Adventure at Brot Bakery

Located off a dirt road in Fairfax, Vermont, Heike Meyer and her husband Jens run Bröt Bakery, a micro-bakery that specializes in organic, naturally leavened breads and pastries. With a custom wood-fired oven and a dedication to making hearty, delicious bread, Bröt Bakery is a favorite for City Market customers.

Last month, Heike opened up her home and bakery for a Community Class that a lucky bunch of Members were able to enjoy. It was a day full of summer rain, but we all felt cozy in the screened-in porch with tea, coffee, and coconut muffins as the group gathered. Moving father into the bakery, the fresh aroma of that mornings’ breads filled the air, and Heike explained her baking routine to get bread off to neighbors and the few local markets she supplies.

Her specialty is sourdough breads, and her refrigerator holds three batches of fermenting culture, so that she always has supply on hand to bake fresh dough 2-3 times per week. Sourdough starter is a thin, pre-fermented mixture of flour, water, and wild yeast and bacteria from the surrounding environment.  As the starter is “refreshed” or fed with more water and flour, the fermentation takes hold to keep the culture fresh, alive, and ready to bake with. The result of baking with sourdough culture is a natural leavening effect on the dough and a tangy, pleasantly sour taste in the finished bread from the gas and lactic acid released from the culture.

Heike demonstrated the refreshing schedule and passed around fresh, bubbling culture for everyone to see and smell, even experimenting with various types of flour. The mini grain grinder in the corner of the bakery mills fresh grains of all kinds into silky soft flours to bake with—from heirloom einkorn to soft, nutty buckwheat.

The class moved into an explanation of how the wood-fired oven works, with its dense walls holding in the heat of an early morning fire well into the day. Extremely high temperatures bake the crust of the bread to a deep, dark brown, while keeping the inner crumb soft and moist. It’s easy to see the years of practice as Heike expertly maneuvers mounds of dough on a wooden paddle, tossing them deep into the hot cave.

Participants eagerly watched and practiced loading the first round of loaves into the oven and then moved in, making and shaping their own free-form loaves. It’s a surprisingly delicate art to deal with the dough after kneading it so intensely in the moments before. Within minutes, everyone was coated in flour, gently pulling the dough into the desired shape and slicing into the edges where the cooking bread would later expand.

When the morning was drawing to a close, we pulled the bread out of the oven and laid it out with a spread of dips, butter, and veggies to enjoy it with. As we ate together, participants were able to ask questions, get notes on recipes, and share warm company (or break bread, if you will.) A big thank you to Bröt Bakery and Heike for leading such a great educational and social event with us.

If you’re interested in learning more about City Market’s classes and events calendar, you can check it out here.