Our responses to the most common customer questions & comments we hear can be found right here. Of course, if you ever want to come have a bread chat with us, please stop by the bakery.
(We apologize in advance for the ranting in some of our responses. We mean no genuine offense.)
Q: What’s the difference between the Country & Classic loaves?
A: They’re both sourdoughs, but the difference comes down to the variety and the type of whole grain used. Our Country sourdough contains whole hard red wheat and whole rye, whereas the Classic sourdough contains whole hard white wheat. We’ve also been told that the Classic is well-versed in Ancient Greek, has written a few epic poems, likes graffiti, and is quite the philosopher.
Q: Do you make gluten-free bread?
A: No. Are you asking because you suffer from Celiac? Or is this just a life-style choice? Gluten-free products can only be made in kitchens and bakeries that are 100% free of gluten-containing ingredients – definitely not us.
Q: What is gluten anyhow?
A: Gluten is protein found in wheat, rye, barley and a number of other grains processed in facilities that mill or roll wheat. Actually, it’s a combination of a couple of proteins, but they act as one in when mixed together in water. A VERY SMALL percentage of people worldwide have a serious medical condition (Celiac disease) which can lead to serious illness after ingesting gluten. Some people who have Gluten Sensitivity are able to eat certain gluten-forming grains (such as spelt) with no symptoms, but we suggest seeking advice from medical professionals before making any decisions to eat gluten-containing bread. We’re bakers, not medical experts. But we do know that someone with Celiac disease shouldn’t even walk into a bakery that deals with gluten anyhow.
Q: I have a sensitivity to wheat. Do you have any wheat-free products?
A: Not really. We specialize in producing traditional breads which use wheat or wheat-relatives (like rye and spelt) as a primary ingredient, we cannot guarantee that cross-contamination has not occurred in our bakery. However, we do make some products with only non-wheat grains or pseudo-grains (like buckwheat). Keep in mind that everything we produce is made in a facility that uses a whole lotta wheat, so cross-contamination is a real thing. On a side note, you might want to see if you’re really allergic to “wheat”, or if its the artificial enrichments added to most commodity flours (to earn the government subsidy) or possibly even the modern crops grown by BIG FLOUR which were selected for their ease of growth and chemical resistance.
Q: Do you bake the bread here (at Village Bread)?
A: Of course, otherwise we wouldn’t be a bakery, now would we? All of our products start as simple ingredients (usually only flour, water & salt). We scale (measure), mix, ferment, divide, shape, proof and bake everything we sell everyday. This is what a bakery is supposed to do: complete all baking steps in one location.
Q: How old is your sourdough starter (levain)?
A: That’s a personal question for the community of microbes that live (and die) very frequently in our levain (sourdough culture), but we’ll try to make this easy on you. We began culturing our levain from stone-milled whole grain organic California-grown hard red wheat in May 2016, about two months before we opened our doors. And don’t go thinking that the age of a levain makes it any better like a fine wine or something like that. The levain is a community of yeasts & bacteria which is always changing it’s composition based on the environment – it’s the regularity of feeding, careful control of water and air temperature, and quality of grains that make all the difference. Each time a levain is fed, a large portion is removed. Think about it – all those microorganisms (yeast and bacteria) are reproducing & dying at a pretty fast rate, so that 500 year-old levain Great Uncle Boris brought from the Motherland has definitely been replaced with localized microorganisms from being fed with whatever flour is available. However, the story of Great Uncle Boris definitely brings a certain romantic quality to that levain, and we appreciate that!
Q: What does “naturally leavened” mean?
A: Naturally leavened (or wild-leavened) breads are are all sourdoughs, since they do not contain any added commercially produced yeast of any kind. These types of loaves are made by propagating naturally occurring yeast cells from the surface of grains or fruit. We like the term naturally leavened instead of sourdough since our bread tends to be mildly sour at most. The sour flavor of sourdoughs comes from the accumulation of lactic & acetic acid producing bacteria which flourish alongside wild yeast populations in a sourdough levain (starter). We like grain-flavored bread, not vitamin-C tablet flavored bread, so our methods aim to produce less sour flavors (which used to be considered a flaw). And keep in mind that some bakeries make “sourdough” loaves that are not naturally leavened, sometimes including ingredients such as vinegar to create a sour flavor along with commercial yeast to ensure fermentation.
Q: Did you burn the bread? Seems awfully dark.
A: Nope, we did that on purpose in our deck oven to provide our customers with a superior and traditional product. The bold bake is due to the Maillard Reaction in combination with the fresh whole grains in all of our products. Just as there are variations in roasting coffee beans, there are also variations in baking. We like the bold flavor of well-baked whole grains. This is the way bread was baked before the dawn of modern mass-production bread factories, and is still the way that real bakers bake their bread all around the world. If you’d ike a lighter-baked loaf, as one of our bread slingers and they will try to accommodate.
Q: Do you use preservatives in your bread?
A: Never! We use traditional methods in our bread process, which naturally preserves our bread and increases the accessibility of the nutrients of the whole grains. We also do not receive any pre-processed dough, which is a disturbingly common method at many “bakeries” which offer “fresh-baked bread.” We’re also proud to say that our bread will absolutely begin to mold after a few days at room temperature and stale very well in a refrigerator. We suggest eating the bread within 2-3 days of purchase (keep it in a paper bag) or freezing the portion that won’t be consumed quickly (in wax paper or a plastic bag), then thaw it overnight when you’re ready to finish it. You can also toast pre-sliced frozen bread straight from the freezer.
Q: Do you sell day-old bread?
A: Nope. We make our bread everyday in our bakery. Items that we don’t sell (which is rare) are often donated to a charity food pantry.
Q: Do you slice your bread?
A: We will gladly slice property-cooled bread upon request to around a 1/2″ thickness. However, we believe that pre-slicing bread has a detrimental effect on flavor and texture. Unsliced bread just might be the best thing since sliced bread if you have a good bread knife, cutting board and knife skills.
Q: How is your bread different from the stuff at the supermarket or that “B r e a d – bread” cafe?
A: Unlike most non-artisan or fake “artisan” bakeries, we actually follow the ENTIRE bread baking process in our bakery using heritage & organic grains as often as possible. We have very few pieces of equipment, which means the bakers constantly monitor the entire fermentation process. We don’t use any preservatives, we refuse to use bleached flour, we use a low-impact mixing processes, and are admirers the methods of Raymond Calvel. We use top-notch ingredients (ask us about them) and care more about the source and skill it takes to produce all of these ingredients. We know our miller, and our miller knows the grain farmers. We know our egg farmer and honey producer. We know our olive oil grower and producer. We know our produce farmers too. Ask that other bakery if they have these relationships.
Q: Do you make “squaw” bread?
A: Eeeeeeewwwww, no way! We’re not THAT kind of bakery. Too many unnecessary ingredients in that stuff, and it’s often colored with additives and rolled with oats to make it appear healthy. And those bakeries that make this type of bread aren’t using the quality of ingredients that we use either. Instead, we suggest coming by on a Tuesday to try our 3-Grain Molasses sourdough (made with whole wheat, whole rye, whole cornmeal, and unsulphured molasses).
Q: Do you make “sheepherders” bread?
A: Nope. That is a specialty of Schat’s Bakery, based upon a Basque bread recipe. Read more about this bread of the sheepherding migrants from the Basque Country on Schat’s website.
Q: From where do you purchase your ingredients?
A: Regionally & locally when feasible! If not, we at least want to know the origin (like a farmer) of each product. We use ingredients from local sources whenever possible: whole grains are from Grist & Toll, free-range eggs and “legit” 100% real honey are from Arnott Farms, and our chocolate is crafted by Parliament Chocolate in Redlands fro single-origin cacao. Our olive oil is from Lot22 in Redlands. We’d love to form more partnerships with other local or regional producers to incorporate into our products. If you are a local producer with a California State wholesale license or possess a Class B Cottage License, please contact us if you believe you have a product that we might find useful in our bakery.
Q: Why just bread? Where are the cakes and pies?
A: Just bread? JUST BREAD??? Bread is food, daily food. Bread is our specialty! Bread has been a staple of human survival for thousands of years. Bread is an everyday food, not just for special occasions or cravings. We would rather leave the cakes and pie to the dedicated cake or pie professionals. We do have some non-bread items at our bakery, like whole grain cookies, croissants, danishes and brioches – get here early for these though, they sell fast. But bread is in our name and we’re sticking to it. Next time you’re visiting your favorite cake shop, ask about their naturally-leavened hearth breads and heritage grains.
Q: Is your bread vegetarian? Vegan?
A: The majority of our bread is vegan (most sourdoughs, baguettes, Pain de mie) and the rest we believe is vegetarian (depending on how do you feel about eggs and dairy). Our challah loaves are made with eggs, but contain no dairy. Our salt is a pure sea salt, harvested from the Northern California coast, which retains its natural mineral content with a special cleaning process that also keeps the salt vegan (not purified with animal charcoal). We use no animal products in any of our hearth breads, unless it is indicated in the name. Any items with added sugar (not too many of them) are prepared with fair-trade evaporated cane sugar or local raw honey (not beet sugar).
Q: Which common food allergens are in your products?
A: Wheat should be an obvious one, along with rye, buckwheat, oats & seeds. Some of our items include dairy and/or eggs. We frequently use almonds; walnuts, pecans & hazelnuts occasionally. Our dried fruit is not sulphured. We are also soy, peanut free. We use olive oil to keep the dough from sticking to the bins while bulk fermenting.
Q: Is you flour non-GMO?
A: Yes, and also certified organic or uncertified organic when possible. Organic certification can be expensive, so some small farmers shy away from paying for the certification, but still follow organic practices and dry-farming techniques, often even more stringent rules than required by the organic certifiers.
Q: Is your flour enriched?
A: We do use some enriched flour in a number of our products, but our goal is to eliminate these someday. In the meantime, we strive to incorporate as much stone-milled whole-grain and unenriched organic flour into our products as we can afford. We do offer several items that are made entirely from unenriched grains: Country Sourdough, Whole Wheat Sourdough, Ancient Sourdough (Sat only), Vollkornbrot (Fri & Sat), and all of our cookies.
Q: Can we take a tour of your bakery? School tours?
A: No. Sorry, but bakeries are dangerous places and, according to bakery lore, some adults & children have been known to not follow directions. Familiar with Max and Moritz?
Q: When do you sell out?
A: When we run out of bread. We haven’t developed our clairvoyance just yet, so we can’t give any advance notice. But you can call us anytime after 9am to ask if it’s happened yet.
Q: Why do you always sell out? Why don’t you just make more?
A: We do often sell out of items, but there are plenty of days each month when we don’t. However, we may not have all of our products available all day. We carefully calculate how much bread is purchased on a particular day of each week for the past year, consider how many orders have been placed in advance, along with any information regarding variables (big event in the next town over, weather, staff illnesses, holidays, etc.) and do our best to estimate how much we should make. All of this planning happens a week in advance. Then again, we are primarily a community retail bakery, which means we never know who’s going to show up each day. Hope you can understand this from our standpoint. We don’t wan’t to waste food (or expensive ingredients), and we don’t sell day-old products, so we choose to limit our production to what we believe we can actually sell. Quality over profits.
LESS COMMON QUESTIONS & COMMENTS
Q in the form of a comment: I thought you were a bakery.
A: We are a bakery.
Q in the form of another comment: I thought you were a bakery-bakery.
A: WE ARE A BAKERY. WE BAKE BREAD, VIENNOISERIE & COOKIES. Some call us a bread shop, which is fine as long as those folks acknowledge that we actually mix flour and water into bread right in our little bakery each day. The French word that best describes us is Boulangerie, a bakery that specializes in bread. We bake stuff in our bakery & our oven – through the use of logic, this would appear to justify Village Bread as a legitimate bakery. We are not a cafe or deli, just a bakery. But bakery-bakery has a nice ring. Kinda of like that place called “Bakery-bread”, but we’ve heard those guys at that little chain cafe just put loaves into an oven and take it out when the alarm goes off, kinda like a fast food french fry timer. Maybe try requesting to speak the “baker” there and ask about the “12 or 14 step baking process.” We mix, shape & bake bread every day we’re open, which we believe further strengthens our logical claim as a bakery-bakery. We don’t bake cupcakes, cakes or fry donuts, leaving that to the folks who do that best.
Q: Why don’t you make “_________” bread?
A: There are countless varieties of bread from many cultures throughout the world, yet we are only one very small bakery in the eastern Inland Empire of Southern California. We love hearing your suggestions that we make YOUR favorite loaf of obscure bread (or not at all obscure like “squaw”), but we simply do not have the capacity to meet all our our customer requests. We do change it up sometimes though.
COMMENT: A-ha, see, you DO use white flour to make your whole wheat.
RESPONSE: IT SEEM THAT THERE’S A UNDERSTAND REGARDING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN REFINED WHEAT (“WHITE FLOUR”) AND “HARD WHITE WHEAT. Refined “white” flour is made from only the endosperm of the wheat berry, whereas 100% stone-ground hard white wheat contains the germ and bran along with the endosperm. Our whole wheat loaf is made predominantly from a type of wheat that professional farmers/millers/bakers call “hard white wheat”, which has a much lighter-colored bran than “hard red wheat.” We do this because we want more people to eat whole grains (more nutritious & tastes better) and understand that a lot of folks don’t like the stronger flavor associated with hard red wheat, and that the darker color of hard red wheat is a bit off-putting to those same folks. So, we’re using this grain as a way to promote public health and transparency of ingredients. Know the details before trying to call us out, because now you just seem like a mean-hearted individual. Oh, and good luck with “perfecting lamination” in one weekend. We mean it – you’ll need it. Like most professionals, we plan to work on this difficult and time-consuming process for the rest of our lives.
More questions? More snarky comments? Come by the bakery during normal business hours and ask or snark away. Just try to be nice about snarking if that’s your goal, especially if you’ve stopped by just to talk down to our staff with no intention even buy anything, or aren’t sure what you’re talking about.