Before you answer that question, consider if your idea about the functionality of bread is to serve solely as a vehicle for butter. I bring this up because until a few days ago, that was my sentiment exactly. Then I walked into Wild Leaven, a new local bakery in Taos specializing in heirloom and heritage grains. While I still adhere to the joy of copious amounts of butter, at least I now know that not all bread is made equal.
Wild Leaven is a bit of a Taos underground secret. Most of their customers are repeat locals who have met them at the Farmer’s Market. Honestly, I knew nothing about them (maybe that’s not saying much), until I started my 30-day Root Down yoga challenge over at Shree. The reason this is notable is that Shree has partnered with healers of all types (body and energy workers, yoga instructors, herbalists and many folks offering healthy food alternatives) interwoven in our community to create a network of self-care for yoga challengers in April. This network is sure to blossom outwards long after the challenge is over (which, let’s face it, is how things get done in Taos!).
Take me, for example — I wouldn’t have gotten up the gumption to get over to Wild Leaven if I hadn’t embarked on the challenge, and now here I am telling you all about it!
Here’s what happened. I walked into the very modest-sized industrial kitchen on Yucca Plaza, where I met Andre and Brandon. Just inside the doorway there’s a small counter for sampling and bantering, next to a simple wire baker’s rack packed with crusty square-shaped lovingly-crafted loaves. A simple wooden community table next to a big picture window holds a variety of functional condiments — sea salt, olive oil, honey, and vinegar to name a few (I immediately noted no butter).
The rest of the space is dominated by ovens, flour mills, and a HUGE prep table where different batches of dough are leavening right before my very eyes. The aroma is tangy and sour, the yeast is working, carbon dioxide bubbles are rising, and the dough is growing. This was hands-down my favorite thing about my visit. The bread is alive and the bakery is humming with thought, care and tradition.
When I speak with Andre about his process, he is shy. Brandon works away in the background greasing pans, interjecting intermittently and shooting questions to Andre about what they’re doing next. Amidst this flurry of kitchen activity and customers, Andre and I talk about Wild Leaven.
They focus on a natural sourdough process. Wild leaven refers to yeasts that are naturally occurring in the environment. The bread is fermented to cultivate these yeasts and, as all of you sourdough junkies out there know, the taste is incomparable. This isn’t your store-bought, Fleischmann’s-yeast white bread.
Andre is also adamant about the fact that he sources local honey and organic ingredients, and fosters relationships with small grain farms throughout the area. He also mills his own grain in-house! That my friends is time, energy, and dedication to one tiny loaf.
Wild Leaven is also makes tasty treats like ice cream (made with local milk), pizza (delicious homemade crust, of course) and on the day that I visited, an offering of Vegan Ethiopian fare.
I brought home a caramel-coloured sourdough made with caraway and molasses. Sweet and tangy with rich crusty bubbles and a spongy hearty texture, it has long since been devoured. I almost didn’t put butter on it… almost.
Wild Leaven is located in Yucca Plaza behind Wabi Sabi and is open Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 12-6pm. You can also find them at the farmer’s market on Saturdays, once it gets going.
Cheers to changing your morning toast!