Flour. Water. Salt.
Three simple, everyday ingredients that can be found in any home — but when combined in just the right portions and in just the right hands, magic can happen.
Andrew Berthrong, the owner of Hawk & Sparrow in Midway, routinely makes magic at his organic artisan bakery. The ultimate goal for this masterful bread maker? “To make something that people want, to really care about the details.”
The Road Less Traveled
Andrew was working on his teaching certificate at Utah State University (USU) and started working for Great Harvest Bread Company simply because he needed a job. He hadn’t really had any formal baking training, but he was intrigued by the idea.
He continued on with academia; taught on a Navajo Reservation, went back to USU for a master’s degree, worked at Crumb Brothers and taught at a middle school in Rose Park, Utah. He eventually concluded his academic career at Texas Tech University, where he received his Ph. D. in Creative Writing and English Literature.
After applying for several teaching positions at the university level, he quickly realized there were too many applicants for just a scant number of jobs available and got discouraged. He decided to mix it up, so to speak.
“I had always been interested in having a bakery,” Andrew admits. But, after touring dozens of bakeries in the Western United States, he discovered that most successful bakeries weren’t run by an owner/baker – they were run by staff members. “I didn’t want a traditional bakery,” he explains. “I wanted to bake my own bread!”
“It’s a process of consumption,” says Andrew. “It’s just bread and people eat it. You make this beautiful food to be consumed.”
He isn’t being humble when he says this; he is getting down to the basics of what food is, and what bread really should be.
Andrew doesn’t use commercial yeasts. Like most serious bakers, he has developed his own “starter” by combining flour and water, then letting it naturally ferment in a controlled environment.
Yeast naturally exists in the air we breathe every day, and during the fermentation process, the natural enzymes in the starter’s flour absorb the yeast spores in the air. At the same time, carbon dioxide is created, which eventually produces beautifully irregular holes in the crumb structure of the bread.
For Andrew, making bread is like making art and solving a puzzle all rolled into one ball of dough. “Each loaf is hand-formed,” he explains. “Each loaf is its own little problem. It’s a very tactile process: each dough is individual.”
Every loaf that he creates reacts to touch and temperature differently. So, to create a consistent crumb, color and crust, he must masterfully shape, proof and bake each loaf of bread.
Andrew uses only untreated flours and grains to create his loafs, and mills a lot of his own grains. He does this just hours before the flour is added to the starter, adding more water, salt and other quality ingredients required for that specific type of bread.
For him, “the organic nature matters.”
An Education Few Receive
When it comes to making organic artisan bread, there are so many variables that cannot be controlled. “It seems very simple, baking bread; and I’ll never master it,” Andrew confesses. “And that is fine.”
His constant goal is to make his bread better and better; and with artisan bread, that is an unending challenge he knowingly embraces. This sense of continual education he embodies, his relentless striving to bake bread the way it should be made and consumed, is what makes his bread so scrumptious. And why it flies off the shelves at the Midway Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
For Andrew, his mission is simple. “I want people to buy the bread, cut it up for their family and say, ‘Oh, this is what bread is.’”
Hawk & Sparrow organic artisan bread can be ordered online each week for home delivery or pick-up at the Midway Farmers Market. For more information or to place an order, please visit hawk-sparrow.com.