This month for the Canadian Food Project, we are showcasing regional food hero’s, and I immediately thought of Mark and Cindy of Orange Boot Bakery here in Regina for several reasons. First of all, they are a delightful local bakery pumping out gloriously fresh bread daily. And second, they use as many local ingredients as they can get their hands on. I’m a huge fan and supporter of their bakery and I can easily wolf down a loaf of their bread on my own in one day!
Back in 2007, Cindy and Mark started using a homemade brick oven to bake 100 or so loaves once a week for family and friends. It didn’t take long before the list of bread lovers grew too big to handle, so they stopped baking in the brick oven and started planning to open their own shop.
Mark and Cindy opened Orange Boot Bakery on Gordon Road back in January 2010. They specialize in hand made bread using traditional techniques – crusty sourdoughs, hearty ryes, airy French baguettes, etc. They also make a variety of classic sweets such as cookies, muffins, fruit galettes, sticky buns and the like.
Growing up, Mark was taught that Saskatchewan is “The Bread Basket for the World.” It was this old adage that made him want to use local flour and grains in their baking. Using organic flour came about because the only small, local mills remaining in Saskatchewan use organic grain in their milling. The flour used at Orange Boot Bakery is milled by Bob Balfour at R&J Milling in Riceton, SK. Their seeds, cracked grains and flaked grain come from Nicole Davis’ amazing Daybreak Mill in Estevan.
When Orange Boot Bakery first opened, they only offered handmade bread. Despite evolving to offer a variety of other goodies, their bread is what they are best known for. So naturally, bread is the product they are most passionate about.
I asked Mark what he considers to be the “best loaf of bread” and his answer left me craving a giant loaf of sourdough.
He says, “For me, the perfect loaf is a wheat sourdough loaf that’s had a long, slow fermentation and has been fully baked. It’s a free form loaf that’s been baked on a stone deck.
The crust thin and crisp and is a mix of dark reddish brown, golden brown and nearly, but not quite, black.
The inner crumb is a light, airy, cream colour (the cream colour tells me you’ve used unbleached flour and haven’t mixed it too long) with a lot of random, open holes. The holes themselves have a glistening sheen to them.
When you smell the cut loaf, you should smell wheat, not yeast. You’ll get a slightly sour tang too – like yogurt or buttermilk, not vinegar. When you taste it, you’ll get the cool creaminess of the crumb, the complex, sweet-tangy flavour of the crust, with just a slightly sour finish.”
See that I mean? How can you not want to run out a buy sourdough now?
Just by reading Mark’s description above, you can easily tell he has a passion for baking bread that’s second to none. Not only is his passion for bread evident, but so is his desire to make people happy and make a difference in people’s lives. Mark gets a huge kick out of playing a small role in something fun for his customers, whether it’s some scones for a visit with your neighbour, Birdseed Bread for a sandwich for lunch or that baguette you need for supper. And when they’re working 30 hours straight right before Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, they can’t help but think about the hundreds of Holiday dinners that they are a part of.
The craft of bread baking holds strong on Mark and I think it’s his drive and passion that will make Orange Boot Bakery an institution in Regina and a positive force in the community.
I want to thank Mark for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer all my questions, and for the crew at the bakery for putting up with me while I came in and photographed pretty much everything!
This blog entry is part of The Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7, 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape, through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. I will be writing new entries and posting them on the 7th of each month with a focus on Canadian food, particularly food found in Saskatchewan and the Canadian Prairies. Please join us.