The recipe that changed me said this: mix flour, water, salt, and let rest. Let rest. In naturally-leavened, slow-fermented breads, dough strength is formed just as much through time as it is through kneading. Rest becomes an active process: building gluten structure, releasing grain’s nutrition, giving life to dough. Amidst a hectic world, this seemed poignant advice.
The Walnut Schoolhouse centers itself around this question: what are we capable of when allowed the time and space for active rest? This one-room baking school in the Blue Ridge Mountains will host workshops and community events that provide an opportunity to work with our hands and senses, to create with one another, and to approach food with new and curious eyes. From simple sourdough classes to regional baking lessons to studies on food history, the Schoolhouse offers a space to bring intention into our lives, whether for a professional baker looking to learn from the elemental practice of wood-fired baking or an everyday home cook eager to learn new techniques.
In this first year of the project, the Walnut Schoolhouse will operate as a village bakery and a workshop space. Find our products at the North Asheville Tailgate Market and at small stores in Madison County, and keep an eye out for upcoming events. Each year, a group of talented collaborators with a similar broad interest in food will offer their own workshops in the space, focused on whatever they are most interested in at the moment. 2019 collaborators and workshops to be announced in April.
Brennan’s fascination with food culture and history was catalyzed by a trip to Western Europe in 2009 to study communal brick ovens. He began baking bread soon after, baking out of his father’s own brick oven and selling at local farmers markets during his high school summers. He has a degree from Whitman College in Environmental Humanities—which for him meant exploring our culture’s relationship to food—and he has worked in restaurants and bakeries in San Francisco, Portland, and Asheville. The Walnut Schoolhouse is, for him, a way to piece together those disparate experiences, combining his curiosity in food studies with his love of hands-on cooking. This year Brennan will be teaching two classes on Sourdough Basics and another on Scandinavian Baking.