Polestar Hearth Bread ….Unsung Heroes of Daily Bread in the Community

Jesse unloads the oven

Jesse unloads the oven

In my attempt to share the best beautiful businesses with you, I spend lots of time scouring the web, casting the net far and wide. Wherever we might find them, a beautiful business is still ……a beautiful business. Occasionally I come across a business which is ‘busy minding its own business‘ but at the same time being totally amazing….these are the unsung heroes and the reason beautiful business started. Polestar Hearth Bread based in Guelph, Ontario, Canada is one such business.

Though each is special in their own right, there are probably lots of small bakeries like this and the sad thing is that the making of bread is something we take for granted. But (in no small part due to mass media and the glut of home-making programmes), the ancient tradition of bread making is going through something of a popular revival. As well as this, the usually quiet world of bread making has been disturbed by wild fluctuations in the price of wheat, making the price of bread spiral more than any other time since the 1950s. Yet, in spite of this sales of bread have actually increased. As the credit crunch hits many households, bread is still seen as a household staple or even as a replacement for more expensive foods. The impact on the milling and baking industries has led to a range of changes not seen since the end of the Second World War. We have seen an upturn in home bread making and baking, bread making kits, bread machines and ‘no-waiting’ doughs have all added to the ‘rising’ profile of bread. Though bread remains popular, the headlines tell another story such as…’The unpalatable truth about supermarket bread!‘ and its impact on the globesity‘ epidemic.

Where magic happens...

Where magic happens…

But this showcase is not flash-in-the-pan, trend-driven bread making. This is bread in the community, made by artisans who care. Let PoleStar Hearth Bread stand as a shining example (though highly appropriate, there was no pun intended) for unsung heroes.

Polestar Hearth Bread is the creation of Jesse Merrill and Scott Williams. Formed in January 2008, this home-based business centres round an old brick oven in the middle of the garden which acts as focal point for business and family. They make bread with wonderfully rich artisan names such as Superseed, Currant Sourdough, Country Bread, Seedy Viking and Spelt Bread. Their signature or speciality bread, is the Sesame Sourdough, marked out they say as the foundation of their reputation. A formula which has been perfecting for years, it is a simple mix of wheat flour and cracked rye rolled in sesame seeds, elegant enough to serve to guests and yet sustaining and simple enough to eat every day.

Beautiful bread...

Beautiful bread…

Today, enzymes are baking’s dirty secret and the industry has been so reluctant to tell us that it uses them. They’ve found that the right mixture of enzymes – sometimes tweaked by the genetic engineers – can not only produce light fluffy bread, as the banned chemical additives did, but also stop the baked bread from going stale. Unfortunately, almost all mass produced bread is now made from ‘no time dough’. Which is bad news for our bodies.

image:PSHB

image:PSHB

Image:PSHB

Image:PSHB

Polestar Hearth Bread like to keep the ingredients for their bread as simple as possible, remaining true to artisan styles and ancient traditions of bread making. Using organic ingredients where possible, they focus on simplicity and quality being reliant upon the four staples of bread making… sifted wheat flours, water, sea salt and culture. Not reliant upon enzymes and additives and industrial tech, they use wild yeast and trust in their beautiful brick oven. As Jesse remarked (tongue in cheek Im sure)

“Outside in the dark, mopping ashes out of the oven. Seventy km gusts blowing snow in one ear and out the other. I’ve heard of these new-fangled indoor ovens. They sound a little spineless and kind of wussy, but I’ll admit: I’m intrigued by the idea….(Jesse on Facebook January 31st 2013)

The Polestar Hearth artisan style maintains the hands-on approach with simplicity at its heart;

Polestar Hearth is a cottage industry making bread the slow, old-fashioned way, baked in a brick oven, using only flour, water, sea salt and culture.

Polestar Hearth bread in the community

Polestar Hearth bread in the community

Like many beautiful businesses they are rooted in their local community, playing a role in community action, community events and doing their bit to provide a point of connection. Being part of a local food growing community and supporting local farmers and businesses is part of working for a sustainable future for their hometown of Guelph. In a world of industrial food production, small and local is certainly healthier and far more beautiful.

Supporting the local community, PoleStar Hearth Bread arranges a community share scheme. On the eve of the new Spring 2013 BreadShare, running ten weeks from April 11 until mid-June, Polestar Hearth Bread arrange and organise a truly cooperative process. Let them tell you what this beautiful idea entails…

The idea is mutual support. Working together we can all be part of a circular chain that includes farmers, artisans, community and the land around us. Community supported endeavours make a way for artisans and farmers to operate sustainably with a wise mix of traditional and forward thinking skills, low overhead, simple tools and a web of community to uphold them physically and spiritually. It goes both ways, and we artisans support our community with a product made carefully, sustainably and with a strong belief in the simple joy of handwork.

As members of our Community, we aim to support and make sustainable the diversity of the city of Guelph and of the farmers and craftsmen nearby.

CSB is for Community Supported Bakery. Folks pay ahead for a ten week stretch of weekly bread and they get to choose what bread they want. It means they won’t arrive in a shop to find the bread sold out, they get a small price decrease, they get breads that we don’t offer to other retailers and all the money goes to supporting a vibrant little corner of the local-food economy.

I defy you to find a more satisfying smell than that of newly baked bread, warm and fresh from the oven (Okay, granted fresh ground coffee probably comes close). Nothing is better for communities than fresh food, locally sourced and made with care with an eye on skills and tradition. Lets shout for the unsung heroes of our daily bread like Polestar Hearth Bread 

To find out more about Polestar Hearth Bread visit their website http://www.polestarhearth.com/

and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Polestar-Hearth-Bread/289612221093651

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