Baker Chris Foley and his signature breads are on the rise in Columbia, Missouri, as a result of a fresh problem Foley is facing. “I started having too much bread,” he says.
Foley’s new bakery, Fiddle & Stone, has been open on Saturdays at the Columbia Farmers Market for several months now, and each week, “people are coming back for it,” he says. “Nobody is throwing loaves at me from passing cars or anything, so it seems to be going well.”
Foley prefers to use natural leavening techniques to make most of his breads, which is much more challenging and time consuming than using commercial leaveners. He says he thinks many gluten sensitivities might come from grains that aren’t properly fermented, and using a natural leavening process requires a significantly longer fermentation period.
“Grain needs time to be pre-digested by bacteria and what-not before your stomach and gut can really handle it,” Foley says. In order to bake with natural processes, Foley has to grow and maintain his own cultures for breads, which he tends to every day. “It’s a little bit of biology and a little bit of magic,” he says.
At the moment, Foley mostly sticks to baking classic flavors of bread. His sourdough is a popular choice at the market, as well as a sesame, sunflower and flax seed bread called “seed feast.” He’s also recently released a rosemary rye that often sells out quickly.
Fiddle & Stone is appropriately named for Foley’s love of fiddling with recipes while baking on a stone (and, fun fact, he also plays the fiddle). “I fiddle around with everything, trying to get it exactly right every time,” he says. “And I don’t – I don’t get it anywhere near exactly right most of the time, but I think in some of that imperfection you get some of the best outcomes.”
Although Foley’s business is experimental in its start right now, he hopes to eventually turn it into a larger project. Ultimately, his goal is to open a small bake shop in town where people can buy their bread weekly, possibly even daily. And someday, he might teach classes in his shop. “When I do get a space, I want to start a school where people can come in, and I can teach them you can do this at home – you can make great bread at home,” he says. “There is so much history and science behind breadmaking. I find it fascinating, and I think other people would, too.”
Fiddle & Stone, facebook.com/olewildbill