Co-owner and Head Baker
Hungry Ghost Bread
As leaders in the back-to-the-grain movement, Jonathan Stevens and Cheryl Maffei have long espoused the view that an essential element of the bakers’ tools is the skill to learn from the grain. They are referring to non-commodity varieties of wheat, barley, rye, and other grains that on account of weather variables and crop management decisions may differ from farm to farm and season to season. This perspective reverses the customary expectation that it is the millers’ responsibility to eliminate the guesswork in baking by achieving a predictable uniformity in their flour. But for craft bakers like Jonathan, flavor and nutrition are more important than flour consistency. This value can bring bakers into contact with local farmers who are growing non-commodity grains. Working with unfamiliar wheat varieties can be challenging. Predictability is less a science and more an art. The baker’s recourse is innovation and the skill to determine the best use of the grain on hand. Is this a formula for success? It is probably more accurate to call it a way of life. Respecting the grain and the process that transforms it grew Hungry Ghost Bread into a beloved community bakery with a national reputation for excellence.