Every Wednesday this summer from sunrise to sunset, Sarah P. Reynolds of Woods Hole can be found in her kitchen, turning out 54 loaves of homemade bread for sale the next day at the Falmouth Farmers Market.
As a side project, the 35-year-old media producer started the business, Found Bread, last September. “This is an experiment,” Ms. Reynolds said Wednesday morning, as the rain drummed on the porch outside her small kitchen. A half-dozen country boule loaves, which Ms. Reynolds made with her own sourdough starter, sat cooling on the counter.
Ms. Reynolds cooks using her residential stove top oven, which only holds three loaves at a time. “I’m not getting paid very well for my time,” Ms. Reynolds said—but the bread regularly sells out at the market, and she enjoys the work.
“This is my starter,” Ms. Reynolds said, tapping a sealed square tub. “I have to feed it everyday, it’s like my baby.”
The starter is a fermenting mixture of flour, water and bacteria, begun a year and a half ago. Ms. Reynolds uses this homemade starter, rather than commercial yeast, to get her bread to rise.
The bacterial community in Ms. Reynolds’s starter—and all homemade starters—is unusual. It is a mixture of bacteria from the air and her own hands. Because differences in air composition translate into varying tastes,
“Even a Mashpee sourdough might taste different from a Woods Hole sourdough,” said Ms. Reynolds, who has been studying baking on and off for the past several years.
Ms. Reynolds partner, Holly R. North, is also interested in fermented foods, and makes her own drinking vinegars and kimchi. Ms. Reynolds opened a square kitchen cabinet to reveal rows of glass bottles containing homemade cocktail bitters. “So everything in this house is fermented, which is weird, and also fun,” she said.
Ms. Reynolds then explained that the name Found Bread is meant to signify the growing sub-culture of reviving old crafts. “It’s so delightful” when you rediscover—or “find”—a traditional skill, she said. Making homemade sourdough is “something I never did, but I bet my grandparents and my great-grandparents did,” Ms. Reynolds said.
Her bread making is in tune with the “maker’s movement,” a contemporary trend against mass production, Ms. Reynolds said. As if to illustrate the point, Ms. Reynolds used a serrated knife fashioned by Woods Hole native, Samuel J. Densmore, to slice a piece of bread baked with sweet chili peppers grown down the street by John “Rooster” Fricke, owner of Nobska Farms. “I’m trying to collaborate with other people making things around here,” she said, offering up a buttered slice of the pepper bread.
Ms. Reynolds said that if she decides to “make a formal business” out of the bread making, she would like to build a wood-fired brick oven in her yard, allowing her to scale up.
Forty minutes later, Ms. Reynolds checked the digital temperature and humidity gauge she keeps on her baking table. The temperature had risen from 76 to 81 degrees, with 84 percent humidity. Ms. Reynolds explained that she must adjust her baking procedures to accommodate changes in heat and humidity. For example, the bread will rise faster as the house heats throughout the day. “That process speeds up because of the temperature of the kitchen,” she said. “It’s amazing how sensitive the dough is to temperature—to everything.”
Ms. Reynolds first came to Woods Hole in 2008 to work for Atlantic Public Media, a production company affiliated with WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR Station. She and Ms. North bought a house on Hilton Avenue and have been living there full-time since 2011. In January, the couple will move temporarily to England, where Ms. North is from. Ms. Reynolds said she plans to study European bread making techniques while abroad.
Ms. Reynolds’s plain and seeded country boule loaves sell for $6 apiece. The Gruyere and cracked pepper loaves are $6.75 each.