I’ve spent the last many months planning for the opening of my new business, Otto’s Bread Club, and today is the day it becomes real. You dear readers, will be the first to see the website, and hopefully some of you will become founding members.
Otto’s is a small subscription bakery, sort of like a CSA farm. Folks sign up for regular orders of baked goods, and this reliable customer base helps keep both costs and waste down for the baker. Members will have the option to add specials to their weekly order (a scrumptious chocolate cookie or an extra loaf or two to share with friends). They can also pause orders when out of town. While the business grows, you can also order a la carte each week.
The Otto’s plan is special to me for a few reasons. First, I’m excited for the opportunity to form personal relationships with my customers. At Ground Floor Farm, I knew and loved many of our regulars. But more often than not, I spent all day (and night) in the kitchen, so I didn’t really get to know customers the way my front-of-house compatriots did. I’m looking forward to weekly conversations on my front porch with members coming to pick up their bread.
I’m also excited to keep things small and nimble. Otto’s is a cottage food business, meaning everything I produce will come out of my home kitchen. Cottage food requires no licensing or inspection from the state. It requires me to cap earnings and doesn’t allow for me to hire employees. Being forced to keep things small is not in my nature, which has led to burn out on occasion. I’m looking forward to running a tight ship as my own boss with limited work hours, low overhead, and a lot of flexibility.
But most importantly, I’m excited about the bread. The vast majority of bread eaten in the U.S. is made with white, roller-milled flour. Even the whole wheat and rye breads we get at the store and large bakeries are mostly white flour with just a hint of whole grain flour added to keep up appearances. With Otto’s, I have challenged myself to use only regionally grown, stone ground, whole grain flours. These flours are much harder to work with. They have lower gluten content, making the dough more challenging to manage. They also spoil faster and can respond to fermentation in unpredictable ways. But this personality of their own is what makes these flours so appealing. Whole grain, stone ground flour is more nutritious, digestible, and so much more flavorful. It’s got a soulfulness that I feel is missing from commodity white flour. With this choice, I’ll be supporting a small but mighty regional grain economy, made up of farmers, millers, bakers, and bread eaters who are building a bread culture embedded in respect for the land.
I’ve named this business after my dad — a serial entrepreneur, a gifted salesman, and a dedicated cheerleader for all of his children. While I was renovating the kitchen and building the oven in preparation for opening Otto’s, my dad stopped by every single day to check on the progress, just as he visited the farm every day without fail. Otto has the catchy name, but my mom Marian also deserves a shout out. She’s an exuberant and creative free spirit who always encouraged me to march to my own drum. Thanks mom and dad for gifting me with such a strong foundation of love and support.
Otto and Marian at Studio 54 in the 70s.
That’s it for today’s newsletter. We’re not including fresh links or a recipe, as I’ve been really busy launching a business. I hope you’ll spend some time checking out ottosbreadclub.com. Please share feedback!
For anyone on the Treasure Coast, I’m also asking you to help get this business in front of more eyeballs. Word of mouth is truly the best way for a business to grow. If you could send an email to some of your gluten-loving friends, or share Otto’s on facebook or Instagram, that would be an incredible boon. If you’ve got a business or other spot where I could drop off postcards (and perhaps product samples?), please let me know.
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes about bread, from food writer Michael Pollan. I think it does a perfect job of expressing the roles and meanings food can take, from basic fuel to sacred symbols.
“One way to think about bread — and there are so many: as food or Food, matter and Spirit, commonplace, communion, metaphor, and medium (or exchange, transformation, sociality, etc.) — is simply this: as an ingenious technology for improving the flavor, digestibility, and nutritional value of grass.”
Thanks in advance for your support. 🍞