Fermenting with Wild Leaven Bakery
by Shawn Erin
Along side an ancient flatbread tradition, a new baking trend is on the rise in the high desert city of Santa Fe, NM. Andre Kempton, owner and sole operator of Wild Leaven Bakery spends six months of the year preparing his bread from the grindstone up, sprouting ancient grains and watching his loaves slowly rise.
Once a chef, Kempton had the opportunity to become an apprentice under Willem Malten, whom Kempton refers to as a friend and mentor and who helped spearhead the Northern New Mexico Organic Wheat Project back in the 1990's. At Malten's Cloud Cliff Bakery, Kempton learned to make rustic sourdough breads with local organic wheat grown by the Sangre de Cristo Ag. Producers.
"Malten has a special relationship with fungus and bacteria and taught me how to collaborate with these champions of the bread making process. He showed me that the live sourdough cultures are at the heart of the whole bread making process, and are responsible for the flavor, heartiness, and shelf life of a good bread," Kempton explained.
After almost five years Kempton left his apprenticeship and started his own small bakery. He had become fascinated with heirloom grains and ancient varieties of wheat, and the experiments began.
"I came across Lentz Spelt Farms and was amazed at what they grew. I started using all of their grains in different types of bread and after a couple years I developed three or more standards for my bakery," Kempton said.
Kempton found the ancient grains presented unique flavor, color and texture profiles. To highlight the uniqueness of each grain Kempton baked a series of single-grain loaves. "The 100% Einkorn and the 100% Rye were my favorites. I used a cool dry fermentation process for these sourdough breads which produces a unique flavor in the dough. The sourdough becomes sweet, nutty and sometimes almost cheese like," he said.
He especially likes the 100% Einkorn brot which features a rich, buttery and nutty flavor. And if he had to bake with only one grain for the rest of his life, "It would probably be Einkorn."
At Wild Leaven Bakery, a run of the mill 40-hour-or-more work week is spent grinding 100 to 150 pounds of grain in an electric stone mill, and hand mixing dough for 300 to 350 pounds of bread. Kempton grinds, mixes, shapes and bakes in a small commercial kitchen in the outskirts of Santa Fe County. The breads sell at Toas farmers market May through November.
At market, Kempton sells his bread by weight, which is particularly useful when purchasing his popular German brot. This dense bread is made with stone milled and sprouted grains mixed with his sourdough starter. "This bread can be used as a food staple, a weapon or a door stop!" he joked.
New at market this season Wild Leaven Bakery will feature a Black Nile Barley Bread. "This barley has such a rich, earthy, complex flavor," that not only makes great bread, but also a "superb" and "astounding" beer.
Kempton plans to incorporate the cold dry fermentation process into all of his breads. He would also like to incorporate more locally grown grains and produce into his products, and in general would like to see more food security in the region. “Producing food and drink from earth's bounty is a key part of this important mission," he said.
What will come out of the weekly Wild Leaven Bakery fermentation lab? Whatever it is, it will be purposefully done, high in flavor and nutrition. Buen Provecho!
Photos courtesy of Wild Leaven Bakery
© 2015 Lentz Spelt Farms
Enjoy this einkorn bread recipe courtesy of Wild Leaven Bakery.
A printable version can be found at ResurgentGrains.com.
Courtesy of Andre Kempton, Wild Leaven Bakery
Mix 1 part fresh milled Lentz Organic Whole Grain Einkorn Flour, 1 part spring water.
Let sit for 30 min. Add 1 part Einkorn sourdough starter (use coarse ground flour) and pure salt to taste.
Put dough in a well-buttered baking pan or glass and let rise in a cool place.
Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when knocked on. Sometimes it could take 2-3 hrs. depending on the heat of oven.