“It’s a journey that began with nostalgia,” says Blaine Davis (co-conspirator, co-nurturer, co-builder of Sola Bread) standing in his kitchen shaping sticky, wet dough into loaf-size mounds in his kitchen.He’s re-creating the hearth bread he knew from his childhood in Brazil. Since nothing like it is found anywhere in Tyler – until tomorrow at the Rose City Farmers Market – he and his wife, Karin, and family members + longtime friends Tim and Lindsay Long, decided to bring to Tyler what people around the world have been tasting and preparing for centuries.
It’s a simple dough made of only four ingredients: flour, water, levain (leavening agent) and salt. “Sola,” meaning only, implies that the bread is stripped of all things unnecessary. It also echoes the solas of the Christian Reformation; it’s a reminder that nourishment is not only a physical need but a spiritual one, too.
Out in the backyard is the brick oven, the likes of which goes back to the Romans. It’s a giant thing of bricks, covered by a 10-inch layer of masonry and a blanket of insulation — the kind of craftsmanship that says this is also a thing of love happening here in Tyler’s Brick Streets.
In Brazil, “it’s rude to serve a person bread that’s over a day old,” we are told by Blaine and Tim, who also spent growing-up years in that country and in a place where every neighborhood had its own bakery. I think that’s to say that the product and the process is a craft: it’s something to appreciate, savor and respect.
“Good bread doesn’t taste good unless you love it,” Blaine says, referring to the patient process of nurturing the dough, which includes waking up at 4am daily to feed the starter. (Apparently, “Did you feed the starter?” is a household question, not too different from asking if they’ve fed their two children.)
It’s part-science, part-art: time, temperature and how the levain is fed all determine the bread’s flavor. The brick oven is heated to 600 degrees by fire; the oven is cleared of its ashes, and after that the bread bakes while the hot oven cools. There’s also something important about wet dough, and steam inside the oven properly transforming gluten, and thick crusts and pockets of air.
But the art is the stillness of the mornings, the hallelujahs of simplicity, and the late nights of a family laughing, talking and creating together.
(Find Sola Bread at the Rose City Farmers Market at Juls starting Saturday, April 4. There’s so much more to say about what they’re doing — and I probably got a detail or two … wrong — so stop by their booth for a chat! And of course, buy their bread!)