It is not lost on me, dear readers, that I use a lot of fantastical analogy when regaling you with tales of our work. I really do try to bring myself down to earth, to let a little air out of my high-flying bubble, and to marry a little more reality into these stories. While this *is* non-fiction, it often feels like I’m writing the opposite. It probably has something to do with the fact that all of this started from daydreaming, dancing, and delighting in the kitchen. Just a few short months ago, we were a trio of women simply enjoying each other’s company in the glow of cookie mountains. Fast forward to now and we are completely overwhelmed (in the *best* possible way) by the outpour of love, support, and enthusiasm you’ve given us.
This joy has manifested in the form of Spiderweb Salon's very first Wake & Bake workshop! In this post, we’ll be sharing our sourdough recipes, yeast starter tips + tricks, and some expert insight into the world of bread making.
I’ll be the first to admit that bread has never been my métier. I will happily bake a towering cake or a batch of adorable cupcakes, but bread?! It just always seemed so intimidating to me. Maybe I’ve been scared off by the science behind bread making? Maybe it’s because bread has played such an integral role in our human history? Either way, all I knew was that I didn’t have a clue--that is, until Peter and Christopher joined forces with our head baker and culinary queen, Caitlin Childs.
Peter Brewer is a fellow Spiderfriend who does everything from composing and playing music (when you're done learning about bread, you should check out Strange Monsters, a collaboration between Peter and badass writer & Spiderweb art editor, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam) and running his own recording studio to baking delicious creative masterpieces in the kitchen. Not one to disappoint, Peter arrived with an impressive artillery. In addition to bringing us a beautiful mound of pre-made dough for the students to work with, he gifted the class a gorgeous loaf he’d made at home the night before. He is a true master of his craft and king of precision, showing up with professional tools such as: digital scales, a super official bread lame, artisanal proofing baskets, and a living yeast starter (which he cultivated himself right here in Denton two years ago!) that was bubbling up inside his recycled glass jars.
Along with Peter, we had another talented at-home baker join us: enter our longstanding, invaluable Spiderweb production assistant and Denton-based actor, educator, and creator Christopher Taylor, who also brought a beautiful loaf of homemade sourdough, PLUS his own living sourdough starter that’s been in his family since the 60’s (!!) and of course a stockpile of bread-intensive knowledge. For Wake & Bake’s first ever workshop, we couldn’t have asked for a more dynamic duo of guest-teachers. Where Peter is all about precision and record keeping, Chris likes to wing it, and bake by feel. We wanted to ensure our students got a well rounded treasure trove of knowledge and diverse perspectives and I can say with full confidence that we accomplished this thanks to Peter and Chris.
We had the usual W&B spread once the students arrived. A table covered in various cheeses, slabs of salted butter, fresh, local produce and jams, homemade sourdough crackers (and another sourdough loaf!) made by our beloved Caitlin, and a seemingly endless supply of wine. What I found really special was the varying degrees of everyone’s experience. We had a team of people whose expertise in the kitchen ranged from highly skilled to, “I’m just here to party and eat all the bread I can.” Both spectrums were, of course, warmly welcomed and appreciated. That’s one of the best things about the W&B space. You don’t have to know diddly squat--just show up and we’ll feed you and get you drunk...err...on love...and baked goods… [insert menacing snicker]
As Peter laid down the essentials, he educated us on what it takes to make a simple yeast starter at home, how to utilize its full potential, etc., along with some vital tips on how to get a perfect loaf on the first try (turns out even when you make mistakes, you still get bread!). He shed so much light on the topic of bread making that I started to feel like this was culinary feat even I could master.
Soon after, our bakers got their hands dirty and started mixing up their own dough. I don’t know that I can properly convey just how amazing it was to see so many people creating something for the very first time, all at once...just know the energy in that kitchen was nothing short of exhilarating. They kneaded and slapped and dusted and rolled as flour flew through the air. While their individual mounds of dough proofed, they were able to work and shape little dinner rolls out of the premade dough Peter had brought with him. Each student carved their own personal insignia across the top of the rolls just before they went into the oven, like artists signing their first painting.
The whole house filled with the warm scent of fresh bread and yeast. Their little rolls got pulled from the oven, baked to a perfect golden brown. Eyes grew wide with excitement, mouths salivated, and confidence soared as they broke their loaves open and took those first bites. Allow me this one embellishment and pardon my french. It was fucking magical.
Once our bellies were bursting with bread and the giant magnum of champagne had run dry, we packed up the remnants of our day together. Each student left with their individual batches of dough to proof and bake at home, a jar of their very own yeast starter, and, with any luck, a newfound love for experimentation. Be it a love for bread, a love for baking, or just a love for creating something to share with those you care about, our goal is and always will be: to inspire and embolden anyone who rises to the challenge.
We’ve compiled several links so you can learn more and join in the fun! We love to hear from our friends, so please feel free to share your baking adventures with us. Who knows, it could lead to a tasty, creative collaboration in the Wake & Bake kitchen!
Written by Storie Cunningham. Edited by Caitlin Childs and courtney marie.