It was a quintessential fall evening in Vermont. The leaves on the trees were a perfect mix of orange, yellow and red and the crispness in the air was something you only dream of. Honestly, on an evening like this, there is no place I would have rather been than Brot Bakehouse School & Kitchen- the location of our Intro to Sourdough Breads class.
In 2012, Heike Meyer opened Brot Bakehouse in Fairfax, Vermont. Growing up in Germany, Heike was heavily influenced by the rustic, hearty country loaves you still find in many European bakeries, with inspiration from the rich food traditions and bread skills in the Americas. She offers a number of different workshops and retreats over the winter and spring months and over the summer, you can find hand-shaped breads freshly baked in the wood-fired oven at the Brotbakery along with other ancient grain breads and even some unusual pastries and cakes!
Participants gathered at the bakery and were greeted with warm apple cider made with apples grown on Heike’s land. After some short introductions, Heike brought the group over to her garden to show a few of the grains she grows. It was fascinating to see the actual grain crop as it is not widely grown in Vermont’s harsh climate. Still, we are lucky to have a handful of local grain growers like Nitty Gritty Grain Company. You can find their cornmeal and flour products in our Bulk and Grocery departments! Heike explained that there are endless varieties of heirloom grains, similar to the tomato crop, we are just familiar with a handful. Einkorn, which directly translates to the “mother of all wheat”, is the oldest cultivated grain we know about. It is not a variety we typically see used in breads because it is difficult to separate the husk from the seed and is not ideal for large scale grain production.
After the grain demo, the group moved inside to dive into the wonderful world of sourdough. Heike explained everything from caring for your sourdough starter, storage tips, and red flags to look out for (although here is a secret: it is very hard to “kill” your starter). She explained the benefits of baking with sourdough and gave some yummy recipe ideas. After all of this background information, Heike presented the group with the opportunity to dive into a Sourdough Discard Biscuits recipe. The group successfully worked through preparing the recipe, and moved on to tasting while the biscuits baked in the oven.
Heike cut up a beautiful display of different types of sourdough bread for the group to try. Even after one bite you knew this was not your average bread, the layers of both flavor and texture were out of this world. Heike encouraged the group to evaluate the flavors in each taste, asking folks what they liked and didn’t like about the breads. Stereotypically, sourdough is associated with a tangier flavor and in the U.S. the more sour, the better, but Heike shared that in Europe tasting a tangy sourdough bread would be unheard of!
The evening ended with Heike gifting the group perfect individual sourdough loafs along with bits of sourdough starter. Everyone left full, happy and inspired. Below is the recipe for the Sourdough Discard Biscuits—give it a try and let us know what you think! Looking for more hands-on classes like this one? Be sure to check out our current classes and events here for more educational opportunities!