A bread maker's day begins at 1 a.m., so it's good that Amy Breckenridge is a night person. Breckenridge, the baker at Rainbow Natural Grocery, spends her nights baking bread, usually four different breads a night. When I meet her, she's in constant motion. It's Friday, and there's no baking over the weekend. "It's all gone come Monday morning," she says.
She spent a month in New York baking and learning about bread. "There were three instructors and three students, so it was hands-on training. We made baguettes for the restaurant below (the school) and at least four other breads a day." Breckenridge returned from New York in late October on a Saturday and started baking that Monday.
"I think it was a little overwhelming for our members at first. Everyone said, 'umm, what's this?' When I went (to the Institute), I hadn't made bread in years. They did such a good job teaching the methods, the shortcuts, the long cuts."
Breckenridge has 30 breads in rotation now. Besides the standard Honey Wheat, she's added Cinnamon Flop; Fruit Medley with cranberries, dates and pecans, sweetened with apple juice; Kartoffelbrot, a potato bread; Bordelais, her favorite; and Olive Pull-Apart bread, which she is baking tonight.
Breckenridge kneads the Olive Bread as she talks. The scent of olives permeates the air in the small Rainbow kitchen. After it bakes, she says, "It's a flat thing that looks like a leaf." It's very popular at Rainbow.
Breckenridge bakes each bread and "goodie" from scratch. She says they take between three and seven hours from start to finish. For the most part, she uses the recipe book from her training in New York. "I have hardly had any time to play with stuff (to add new recipes)," She said. "It's a full day to get everything done now. But I am about to start working on my Rye Sourdough Bread because it's absolutely the best bread. I ate it every morning before class."
She's also working on improving some of the breads already in rotation, especially the Spelt Bread, which is made specifically for those who have food allergies.
"I'm very sensitive to the Spelt issue," Breckenridge says. "People who are allergic to gluten have a really hard time, and I know I can make it better. One of our members has been baking (Spelt bread) for years. She's going to come in Wednesday and help me work it out."
In addition to the breads, Breckenridge bakes assorted goodies, including brownies, carob-chip cookies, muffins and scones. She changes up the ingredients in the scones regularly, using different fruits and flavorings. Tonight she's baking beautiful chocolate-chip scones. "People are still getting used to the scones," she says modestly. But they're wonderful: perfectly moist, with just the right hint of sweetness.
Like everything at Rainbow, Breckenridge's breads contain all organic ingredients. "We definitely have the best ingredients in town," she says. But because everything is fresh, she says members frequently ask about shelf life. "It all depends on storage," she says. "The best thing you can do is put it in a bread box. And if it's not sliced, it holds up longer. In fact, some breads, like the Bordelais, are better the second or third day. Yesterday I ate a whole loaf of the Bordelais I had just baked. Now I wish I had waited until today, because it's better the second day."