“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
—Robert Browning (1812-1889), English poet
I spent Friday morning at Harvestyme Bread, an artisan bakery in north Edmond, Oklahoma. Pat Kelley is the owner and baker; he was kind enough to let me hang out and ask silly questions, like, “What’s this starter thing about?—I don’t get it.”
Harvestyme has been in business for about 1.5 years. Pat sells directly out of his bakery, as well as at area farmers’ markets. He’s quite the entrepreneur, even though he doesn’t see himself that way. He’s always cooked and baked, but before he decided to make a living at it, he was a woodworker, electrical contractor, and maintenance man. His grandmother taught him to cook in 3rd grade and he has been inspired by his restaurateur-friend in Kansas.
The bakery is definitely unexpected. Country roads and a short stretch of gravel lead you to his house and adjacent bakery, which are tucked away at the end of a cul-de-sac. His herb garden is alongside the driveway. There, he grows the herbs used in his breads and pizza rolls. On this late summer day, the cicadas are humming and the sprinkler systems ch-ch-ch-ch-ing neighbors’ tidy lawns.
Pat tweaks formulas for European breads; he’s anxious about a Tuscan bread he is trying out—the recipe doesn’t call for salt. Salt is crucial. “I just don’t see how it’s going to be any good,” Pat said. He scurries around checking and restarting timers. He’s juggling at least four types of bread, all at different stages. The cranberry walnut celebration dough (a temperamental bread) was in the proofer, rising, actually almost overflowing. He pulls it out and punches it down. Once the dough has finished, he separates the dough into balls of two weights: 6-ounce and 4.5-ounce pieces. Every step requires precision, as to standardize baking times and fit into the bake ware. The 6-ounce pieces are for the bottom braid and the 4.5-ounce pieces are braided and placed on top. They are beautiful!
Meanwhile, the cinnamon raisin walnut bread is ready to come out of the oven. He pops the loaves onto the cooling rack. I comment on how it’s never that easy for me. “Hon, you’re not doing it for a living,” he tells me.
I get an intro to bread-making. A starter must be fed, Pat explains, and is a mixture of flour and water, plus wild yeast that is everywhere around us. And starters vary by geographic location, because yeasts vary by climate. One of his is 12 years old and smells very sourdough-y. Like one of those pungent cheeses, that at first might be off-putting, but simultaneously enticing. Water, like salt, is crucial, hence the fancy steam-injection oven that Pat mimics through manual techniques. Moist flour helps, too. He makes due, but says that European flour is preferred because the moisture content is ideal. But, FDA regulations make it difficult to procure.
The pizza rolls are probably his most popular item, he says, but the white chocolate raspberry brownies, Mediterranean apricot cranberry walnut loaves are popular, too. And the cinnamon rolls are euphoric. Oh, but the blue cheese walnut bread, paired with some red wine is heavenly. Oh, forget it! It’s too difficult to pick… Try them for yourself. Harvestyme Bread is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. He’s also at the OSU-OKC Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. You should make the trip to his bakery, if not for the smell alone!
More pictures of Pat and the bakery are here.