It’s an aroma which can make the fullest belly yearn for one more bite. Perhaps one of the most beautiful creations one can produce with the most basic and simple ingredients. For 209 author Bonnie Ohara, taking up the art of baking bread was not prompted as a fun housewife hobby, but rather necessity to feed her family.
Ohara, author of Amazon best seller, “Bread Baking for Beginners,” first began baking bread as a two-for. Purchasing a 25-pound bag of flour, utilizing some borrowed books from the library, the author shared baking bread at home was a way to stretch the family budget. It was also a way to heat their 1920’s Modesto bungalow.
Becoming an author or even a business owner at the time was the furthest thing from the wife and mother of three’s mind.
Yet a result of her library learned skill launched her successful cottage business Alchemy Bread, which she runs from her home, and later landed her a book deal.
“I thought, this is probably spam, because I live in Modesto and bake out of my house,” Ohara said of receiving an e-mail from a publishing house in late 2017.
Upon further communication and review, the self-taught baker learned that the e-mail was far from spam and quickly prompted her into the next chapter of her own life story.
“I have the perspective of someone who’s actually been a beginner,” she said. “I’m a person who taught myself from books and I had always baked from my home.”
While the book was first released in late 2018, the increased interest in bread making thanks to COVID-19 has placed the book at the top of many searches on bread making for the beginner.
“It became an Amazon best seller due to coronavirus and went out of stock and was back ordered for like a month,” she shared of the book’s recent success.
Coronavirus may be the culprit for the recent surge in sales, however, Ohara’s no-nonsense, simplistic approach to bread making can make even the novice feel more comfortable in the kitchen.
Each recipe in the 150-plus page book is unique to Ohara, who created and tested each recipe in her Modesto kitchen.
The baker shared she simplified by eliminating the variables and building from base bread to sourdough at the book’s end.
“It’s almost like tracing back my whole story of what I started with and what I got comfortable with,” she said.
“I recruited a couple of friends to test the recipes side by side with me,” she continued, “and would say can you make these things?”
The baker also indicated she would follow the recipe right alongside her friends as they put each recipe to the test.
For Ohara, the process of learning to bake bread began in the same place she would resort to to pen the book which was a labor of love – the local library (and Starbucks).
“What I realized is that, I’ve managed to run a baking business while homeschooling three kids,” she shared of adding one more task to her already full bread basket. “Baking is a physical activity; you can talk your kid through long division while you’re dividing your dough. You can’t have a complete thought and write at the same time.
“The irony I always say … in the book I’m depicting this lifestyle where I’m baking with my kids and we’re creating all this gorgeous food,” she continued. “When in reality I’m eating a Starbucks pastry for dinner writing this book and my kids were eating Top Ramen ‘cause I’m not there.”
Yet in no time, with tight turnarounds and deadlines, the one-time Modesto Junior College English and Art Major turned baker had the book ready for the world and the publisher. A fact she confided she struggled with initially since, after all, she had not sought out the book deal and, with much respect for the professionals she learned from, personal validation was a struggle.
With the encouragement of family and friends, as well as positive feedback from the publisher, Ohara shared she made peace with the feeling.
“Although all the recipes are unique from each other, the basics are very similar,” Ohara said of the book contents. “Most breads are made the same way. It follows the same trajectory every time. So you’re not going to start with sourdough starter, because adding the sourdough starter is creating another variable.”
Now as her passion formed from necessity has been shared with the world, Ohara noted the extreme gratification she gets from seeing the love others have for the art of baking bread.
“To see people around the world replicate it and share it, I feel so good about it,” she said of her social media audience and being “tagged’ (noted) in posts with pictures of bread made by beginners. “These people are doing my book, and then they get to the end and they’re a very competent baker and they go now what?”
“Not very many processes that are part of people’s modern lives allow them to be part of the beginning, the middle and the end,” she concluded, “and also allow them to be the receiver at the end. Bread happens in a day.”