For the Love of Bread
March 28, 2014 Matt Salis - Owner, Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver
I am often asked, “What is the best thing about owning the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver?” Often the interviewer expects me to say something about being my own boss, thinks I might talk about providing jobs and doing my part in the local economy or hopes I will philosophize about the values of reaping tangible rewards from hard work and persistence. Those things are all pretty cool. But the best part…at the very top of my list of things I love about what we do…is sharing a hot loaf of Honey Whole Wheat right out of the oven.
I am talking about the first couple of minutes after it has been determined by our baker that our most basic, most popular bread has reached baking perfection and is ready to fill the senses of those lucky enough to have the timing of their day align with the timing of our loaf’s long journey from wheat kernel to bread nirvana. It starts by carefully listening as we tap on the bottom of the loaf searching for the sound it makes when it completes it transformation from dough to the lattice of wheat and air pockets – the texture of bread. It is a unique little “thumpy” sound that means little to the untrained ear but makes my mouth water in anticipation of the first delectable bite. The loaf is tossed lightly from hand to hand because it is too hot even for a seasoned baker to grasp securely as it is transported to our BreadBoard to provide joy, comfort and unmatched satisfaction. With a wax tissue covered left hand holding the loaf gently and with care not to smoosh the beautiful bread in its hottest and thus most delicate state, we cautiously slice through the loaf with our bread knife wielding right hand releasing the first tantalizing rush of hot, fragrant steam. A deep breath makes me tingle from my nose through my chest as my body is filled with warm deliciousness. The only thing that will top this moment is when it all comes together with that first bite of bread perfection.
Some like to spread butter on this hot slice of Honey Whole Wheat. Not only is it a perfect taste paring, but watching the creamy butter absorb and almost disappear into the hot bread somehow proves that the two were meant for each other. Still others like to squeeze golden honey onto their steaming slice to watch it quite literally melt as they try to catch the drips running off the slice on all sides. As for me, I prefer my hot Honey Whole Wheat proudly pure and naked…a blend of these five simple ingredients measured carefully and blended with an artful skill to yield a course yet fluffy texture with a subtle sweetness of honey in a right-from-the-oven temperature that makes the slice melt in my mouth. It is hard to believe that wheat, honey, water, yeast, salt, a baker’s skill and love and a little time in the oven can produce such flavor nirvana. Hard to believe, that is, until you have experienced it just right. Once you have, it is impossible to forget.
For me, the hot loaf of Honey Whole Wheat we share on the BreadBoard is end of the story. For me, the story starts with wheat…it all starts with the wheat. We start our process daily by grinding wheat kernels. If you have never seen one, they resemble little grains of uncooked brown rice. We grind the kernels into whole wheat flour complete with all the fiber, nutrients and…most importantly…freshness that the bounty of mother earth can provide. Then we bake with it. We bake with it immediately if not sooner. The peak flavor, peak nutritional value and peak condition for long lasting bread freshness is available for only a short time when the protective hull of the wheat kernel is first cracked open and exposed to the environment. As we listen to the stone mill rumble away grinding our life-giving wheat kernels into our fresh whole wheat flour, we crumble fresh yeast into the bottom of a huge empty bread-making bowl. The cake-like texture is somewhat creamy and a little sticky as the lifeblood of our dough sends a pungent and unmistakable aroma into the air. The very smell of yeast brings a smile to my face in anticipation of the hot finished product and the joy it will bring to so many. It is joined in our bowl by the sweet sent of thick amber honey. Pouring pure, natural honey yields a connection to nature and a pride in simplicity that is unmatched in the food world. Just as the all natural bread will be food for our bodies the honey is the food that the yeast needs to make this beautiful blend of chemistry and art come to life. Fresh flour, water and a little salt are then added with attention to times and temperatures to provide to us what we painstakingly strive to achieve. Another fresh, natural, pure and delicious batch of Honey Whole Wheat is born.
I celebrate the nutritional power and deliciousness of wheat. This is a grain that has stood the test of time, provided nourishment and sustained life since the beginning of mankind. Our wheat is without genetic modification and provides healthy food to thousands just as wheat has been the food cornerstone to so many civilizations for tens of thousands of years. If you are a common sense romantic like me, please try something for me. Consider the impact that bread has had on our very existence since the very beginning. Then, come into our bakery late morning or mid-day and drip some honey and butter on your sleeve while our five simple ingredients melt in your mouth, feed your body and soul and put a smile on your face. This is not just any bread. This is bread baked with love in a tradition that goes back as far as recorded history. This is bread done simply. This is bread with the best interest of its consumers in mind. This is natural, wholesome, nutritious bread. This is bread done right.
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Great Harvest Bread Co.
765 South Colorado Boulevard
Denver, Colorado 80246
Open Mon. - Fri. 6am - 3pm
Sat. 8am - 3pm, Closed Sun.