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Sourdough: In The Backyard, The Home Kitchen And The Science Lab

Keith Romaine wearing face mask cutting bread dough with baked loaves and baskets of dough on table, outdoor brick oven behind him and rainbow flag above.

Keith Romaine prepares sourdough for the brick oven in his backyard. His recipe includes flax and chia seeds, for texture as well as nutrition. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

“I found that smaller loaves are better, so these are little guys.They look like little animals when they get done.”

This week on our show,  we visit a backyard brick oven and talk with Keith Romaine and Amy Roche about their neighborhood pop up bakery.

And we have two more stories about sourdough, a Spring recipe featuring radishes, plus Harvest Public Media reveals a mystery about grasshoppers.

A Neighborhood Pop-up Bakery

When Keith Romaine dreamed of building a brick oven in his backyard almost 7 years ago, he was picturing neighborhood gatherings and festive evenings featuring hot pizzas, steamy loaves of fresh baked bread and bottles of wine and cold sparkling water passed across tables. In other words, he wasn’t picturing life in a global pandemic. 

But now that his wood-fired brick oven is finished and his backyard has been transformed into a lovely garden piazza, he’s finally ready to start baking bread, and sharing it with his community. 

He and a friend have recently started a pop-up bake sale on Friday evenings in Bloomington, Indiana. I paid a visit to Keith’s place, which is just a few blocks away from my house. Here are a few photos from my visit:

Four uniquely shaped loaves of bread on a metal pizza peel, at the entrance of a brick oven.
The brick oven holds about 16 small loaves at a time, and at peak temperatures of 700F they bake in about 15 minutes. (Kayte Young/WFIU)
Rustic fruit tarts filled with peaches and blueberries arranged in  box.
Amy Roche takes all the orders for the pop-up bakery, and sells her own hand-crafted sweet and savory galettes made with organic, local & seasonal ingredients.(Kayte Young/WFIU)
Two women wearing facemasks with arms outstretched, reaching across a distance, to pass a small paper bag. They are on a patio with outdoor furniture a fountain and plants and trees.
Bakery customer, Dena El Saffar reaches out to take her galette from baker, Amy Roche at a backyard pop-up bakery in the Mc Doel Gardens neighborhood. (Kayte Young/WFIU)
View of a person in front of a brick oven, with a small roof, a rainbow flag and a table with baked bread and dough on a long table, outside in a patio space surrounded by plants and trees.
Keith Romaine's brick oven is set in a lush piazza, sourounded by plants and trees and complete with a gurgling fountain.(Kayte Young/WFIU)
Three small, golden brown, rustic tarts with tomato filling and parmesan cheese in a metal pan.
Amy and Keith are still working out the temperatures and timing for baking Amy's galettes in the brick oven. These savory tarts baked quickly and filled the piazza with delightful aromas. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

Update: This story first aired in September of 2020. Here is an update from Amy: 

At Stonewall Bakery, we continually look at our ecological impact and what we might shift to be more supportive than detrimental. For example, Amy is increasing her use of local sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup over organic cane sugar which is grown and shipped from elsewhere. And she is always adding to her garden, developing her selection of “yardlings,” as she likes to call them: home-grown ingredients to fill her sweet and savory galettes. Asparagus, arugula, scallions, rhubarb, and ramps are her garden’s latest edible treasures.

For Keith, his wood-fired oven is a beautifully romantic dream come true, but regularly burning local hardwood is not as dreamy, producing unfiltered smoke and using a limited resource. At this point, Keith is looking at the firings as more of a special occasion thing. What shall he use instead for his day-to-day? He is shopping for a particular electric Belgian bread oven, as he believes the future of ecologically fortuitous electricity looks more promising than burning wood. The wood-fired oven isn’t going anywhere, but is just being but on a back burner, if you will, haha, for now.

We have plans to expand Stonewall Bakery this year in number bake sale days per week and in offerings (gluten-free galettes! crispy crackers! to name two) and in the bakery stand physical facilities. For more information, conact Amy at Yardling Galettes.

Music on this Episode:

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Universal Production Music.

Stories On This Episode

Butter Braised Radishes With Fresh Dill

Cut pink and white radishes with herbs sprinkled on top in a white dish.

When the Spring garden (or farm stand) brings an abundance of radishes, here is a simple side dish to put them to good use.

Sourdough Bread Recipe

Round loaf of artisan-style bread on a wooden table in the sunlight

When commercial yeast is hard to come by, make your own! Sourdough captures the wild yeast that's all around us.

Water, Flour, and Trust: Researchers And Citizen Scientists Unravel The Mysteries of Sourdough Starter

Erin McKenney smiles at the camera and holds up a jar of sourdough starter, a green wall and houseplants in the background.

Scientists are getting ordinary people to help them understand, for the first time, what's up with the microbes that give each sourdough starter its special funk.

Climate Change Has Turned The Kansas Prairie Into Junk Food That's Killing Grasshoppers

A close up, detailed photo of a grasshopper's green and light brown face with a black background

The Konza prairie has seen a dramatic drop in grasshoppers over the last quarter century … even where the grasses they feed on thrive. So, what's the problem?

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