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Baked with love

Nothing says comfort more than the smell and taste of fresh baked bread. No need to dig out your grandmother’s cookbooks or try to figure out what exactly you do with yeast, as there are quite a few bakeries in the 209 that specialize in baking the perfect loaf of bread — along with a bevy of sweet treats. 

209 Mom turns home bread baking
into successful business

By Angelina Martin
Nearly two years ago, Turlock resident and stay-at-home mom Megan Olson decided she wanted to try baking a loaf of bread to go with dinner. Little did she know, that one loaf would lead to her own business run from the comfort of her kitchen. 

Kneady Wife Bread Co. was formed shortly after, when Olson’s friends and family tried the bread she had baked and decided they wanted more for themselves. Soon, word began to spread quicker than butter on a hot slice of sourdough. Olson now makes up to 150 loaves per week and has customers throughout the 209 area code, providing fresh-baked goods to not only Turlock but communities like Hilmar, Hughson and Oakdale as well.

Olson takes bread orders on Facebook and Instagram, where she posts menu information and details about upcoming pop-up shops she plans on attending. Online orders are typically picked up by customers from Olson’s Turlock home, and those who purchase from her in person at vendor fairs have to get there early since she usually sells out in under two hours. 

“I’ve always loved to bake and cook,” Olson said. “I like feeding people and love seeing what they make with my bread.”

Olson’s menu has grown from simple, sourdough loaves to now include offerings like bread bowls, bagels and even specialty breads, like jalapeño cheddar and cinnamon swirl. She learned how to bake bread from a book, she said, and even purchased an additional kitchen oven in order to make more bread for customers — though even with the extra space she can still only bake six loaves at a time.

While Olson hopes to eventually be able to purchase a larger bread oven, for now she makes due by waking up at 3 a.m. the morning before a pop-up shop or order drop and baking until 11 p.m.

“It’s an all-day process to make bread,” she said. 

To make sourdough bread, Olson has what’s known as a “starter,” which she consistently “feeds” water and flour. She has had the same starter since she first started baking bread, and the substance requires constant attention or else it will die. Olson’s starter even accompanied her on a trip to Disneyland.

“It’s like another child to us,” she laughed. “We always joke that it should be in our family photos.”

While Olson’s starter has remained a constant in her life, the success of her business has shifted rapidly. Although many locals took up bread baking as a hobby during the pandemic and made it almost impossible to find the ingredients and supplies she needed to stay afloat, she says her business has now nearly tripled over the last year. 

“I think people realized how much work actually goes into making bread,” she said.

For now, Olson has no aspirations to open a brick-and-mortar shop for Kneady Wife Bread Co. She’s able to stay at home with her children thanks to her in-kitchen business and inspires others who have thought about opening their own businesses during the pandemic to chase their dreams because in the end, it’s worth it.

“As I become more and more successful I do doubt myself, but anyone can do it. You have to get up early and stay up late, but it’s possible,” Olson said. “The best part has been meeting my customers and creating friendships, and chatting it up while our kids run around in the front yard when they come to pick up their bread. I’ve made some really great friends out of it. That’s my favorite part.” 

Contact information: 
Sourdough loaves

Murphys bread company serves up artisan loaves

By Sabra Stafford
Murphys has a well-earned reputation for fine wines and eateries serving up a bevy of delicious entrees and desserts. But there was one niche still open to fill and Todd Gunter was ready to step forward.

“Todd was inspired by a conversation with a friend about the need for fresh baked sourdough in our food and wine loving community,” said Serena Rudd, Gunter’s partner.

Out of that conversation Gunter set out to meet that need.

“With Todd’s love for cooking and persistence to learn he decided to take a bread making class to refine his skill,” Rudd said.

That effort and devotion to craftsmanship led to the creation of Todd’s Bread Company, which has been earning rave reviews in Calaveras County.

“Todd is an artisan with a great passion for his craft,” wrote Nolan Love in a Facebook review. “Each loaf he makes is the product of careful study and focused attention and it is a joy to hear him speak about his love of baking and the journey he is on towards constant innovation and refinement. Get yourself a loaf of the best bread around.”

A willingness to experiment with flavors has led to some local favorites, like the red onion focaccia and a cheddar jalapeño focaccia.

“Todd’s favorite part about bread baking is experimenting and sharing his creation with others,” said Rudd, who also handles all the sales and operations for the company.

The company’s reputation for making great breads was really cemented with their sourdough offerings — rustic, extra sour, and 9-grain.

“We are excited to offer real bread made from high quality ingredients,” Rudd said.

Todd’s Bread Company is used at The Watering Hole in Murphys and also is available at the Hatcher Winery tasting room in Murphys, the Lemon Tree Bakery in Angels Camp, Angels Food Market in Angels Camp and Sierra Hills Market in Murphys.

Contact information: 
(209) 404-0011
Artisan sourdough loaves

Traditional Serbian bakery thrives in Jackson

By Sabra Stafford
The practice of making and kneading dough is just as much of Lana Zivanoviec’s family makeup as the color of her eyes. Her grandfather, uncle and mother were all bakers and taught her the traditional Serbian ways of making bread.

“I couldn’t run away from it,” Zivanoviec said. “It is in my genes and my blood.” 

Zivanoviec opened her first bakery in Los Angeles. But after having their youngest child, the Zivanoviecs were looking to leave Los Angeles for a quieter life.

Jackson, home to the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church and a thriving Serbian community, was a town the Zivanoviecs had visited often and was where they decided to make their new home and eventually set up a new bakery.

“Walking through Main Street I spotted this little location and the idea of opening a bakery was born again,” said Zivanoviec.

At Blue Door Bakery Zivanoviec makes bread the way she learned from her family. Using rustic grains Zivanoviec makes small batches of unleavened bread all by hand, with each loaf taking about 36 hours to reach completion.

“What I love about this process is that it fully connects you,” Zivanoviec said. “There are lots of variable factors that need monitoring. Is your starter hungry? Is the weather too cold? Is it too hot? Too humid? It’s almost like taking care of a child.”

Zivanoviec’s favorite parts of baking bread are the reactions it inspires.

“Once I get that beautiful loaf of bread from the oven, the whole bakery and Main Street in Jackson smells heavenly,” Zivanoviec said. “Your family, friends and customers are eating with beautiful sounds of yum. At those times I feel my baking life is like a universal language that gives comfort to people and gratitude to God for our daily bread.” 

Contact information:
Unleavened sourdough country bread

Quick breads to try at home

No need to break out the yeast for these easy quick bread recipes. Both banana nut bread and honey beer bread are the perfect recipes to start your love for home-baked bread.

Honey beer bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. fine salt
¼ cup honey
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer
¼ cup melted butter

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Slowly pour the beer and honey into the flour mixture, and stir until combined.
Pour half of the melted butter into the bottom of a 9×5-inch bread pan, and brush it around to grease the inside of the pan.  Add the batter and spread it out in an even layer.  Then brush the remaining melted butter evenly on top of the batter.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove and transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the bread cool for at least 10 minutes.

Banana walnut bread

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine salt
2 large eggs at room temp.
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup unsalted butter at room temp.
1 cup sugar
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
½ cup walnut pieces

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup with a spout, set aside. Lightly brush a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter while mixing until incorporated. Add the bananas (the mixture will appear to be curdled, so don't worry), and remove the bowl from the mixer. 
With a rubber spatula, mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn the bread out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack. Wrap in plastic wrap. The banana bread is best if served the next day.