The Baker of Revelations

Everything at Moncton’s Les Brumes du Coude was delicious. Always. But for me, what blew my mind wasn’t just the consistently awesome food. It was the sourdough bread.

Have you ever had bread that’s as refreshing as a glass of water on a hot day? You know the feeling, the freshness that seems to spread throughout your chest. Well at Les Brumes du Coude, the sourdough had that effect. I know. Hard to believe. But it’s true. For me, this bread was a revelation.

 Without sourdough starter there would be no sourdough. Forget dry yeast!

Without sourdough starter there would be no sourdough. Forget dry yeast!

Love of baking and London

Breanna Richard, the baker of that famous bread, has now downsized to serving up delicious donuts at the farmers’ market on Saturdays. They’re coated in sugar and stuffed with homemade strawberry jam or transformed in chocolate covered Boston creams. Her donuts are pillowy pockets of fried goodness. It’s way too easy to eat three in a row.

“Starting at about the age of eight, I was always baking,” Breanna says. “Every day after school I’d make cookies or squares or whatever. Instead of playing outside, I baked. I come from a family who cooks and bakes all the time.”

This passion for baking cemented her childhood ambition of being a cook. She then made her way to London where she cooked in the kitchen of The Quality Chop House. It was during a trial at Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver’s St. JOHN Bakery that she was introduced to the process of making sourdough bread. “Back in England it’s pretty much the only thing they eat,” recalls Breanna. But returning to Canada, she couldn’t find sourdough anywhere so she learnt how to make it herself. The books Tartine and Flour Water Salt Yeast certainly helped.

Baking as therapy

Breanna has been a professional cook, baker and pastry chef for a few years now. Whatever illusions she might have had of living a rockstar life before getting into this career, they’ve since been dampened by reality. “As a cook, you work like a dog. You’re all hot, it’s stressful, people are yelling at you. But it’s a love-hate relationship. You don’t want to leave it but you don’t want to stay. It’s kind of the reason why I’ve gone more towards baking than the cooking. I love the cooking but it’s too much. Baking is way more relaxing.”

If you know or live near Breanna, it’s a really great thing that her ambition is to bake. Had I the deep pockets of a Maritime sheikh like, say, an Irving, I’d personally finance Breanna’s dream of owning her own bakery. But she might not need my patronage. Word on the street is that one of Canada’s most famous chefs might be setting her up at the mouth of his wood-fired ovens in his PEI inn.

“When I make bread I’m just happy and excited,” Breanna tells me. “It’s therapeutic for me. It doesn’t stress me out. It’s like doing yoga...but with bread, I can eat it!” Therapeutic bread making combined with the PEI pace of life; Breanna might soon become the chillest person in the world.