“It’s more of something you would have seen downtown in any city 50 years ago,” said Innocent Damiano, bread baker for Old Village Bakery. “It’s a local person who you know making local bread, making a local product and offering it to the community.”
Damiano and the Old Village Bakery operate out of Monk’s Rock, which is part of St. Innocent’s Academy. The idea of baking bread there has been floating around for a while.
“A lot of us had kind of had the idea of doing a bakery, and that sort of comes from the history of our dean, Father Paisius (DeLucia),” Damiano said. “When he was younger he worked with a man named Peter Reinhart.”
Reinhart is a leading authority on bread making who teaches baking at universities and has published books on the topic. The dean grew up with Reinhart and they started their own bakery together.
“So, I’ve kind of got inspired with baking bread and with the help of our dean — he’d kind of look at the breads and say, ‘Change this a little bit, change that a little bit,’” Damiano said.
Some of the types of bread the Old Village bakes include oreganata bread, potato bread, oatmeal walnut and dark Russian rye.
“We’re just staring out with a few of them, just trying to see if Kodiak is interested in a bakery,” Damiano said.
Damiano has baked before, and spent about a month at a Greek monastery in Arizona working with a bread baker.
“I worked with him everyday baking maybe 50 to 100 loafs a day,” he said. “It was a really nice inspiration to work directly with a real baker who works on a larger scale.”
So Damiano decided to put some bread on the shelf a couple months ago in Monk’s Rock and see what happened. The bread sells out pretty fast and is usually gone within a day or two. Oatmeal walnut seems to be the big seller.
Making the bread is both enjoyable and hard work. Each bread type has been a labor of love. Damiano takes a recipe, or variation of it, and works on the recipe every night changing one thing each time until the bread is perfect.
“You have to get the rise time correct, the bake time correct — certain variations will change the flavor of the bread,” he said. “The hardest part is being able to work out all those little details until you finally get it just right so it’s the same every time.
“It’s almost like a free-form art. Like a painter makes big strokes at first and slowly when he gets what he wants — his colors are in line — he begins to go into those broader strokes and begins to add details until finally the picture comes out just the way he wants.”
The future of the bakery is up in the air, but Damiano is dreaming big. If a bakery is what Kodiak people want, which Damiano thinks is the case, then he sees it taking on a larger form.
“Instead of just going from a couple loaves to actually producing several different kinds of breads and even taking special orders from houses or commercial restaurants or anything like that,” is where Damiano sees the bakery going if it becomes popular.
Until then, Damiano will keep perfecting his bread. And if you’re not sure about which bread to try, he is quick to offer up a mouth-watering suggestion.
“Sometimes the potato comes out with this magic flavor to it and it feels like you’re eating a cloud,” Damiano said. “It’s light, fluffy, and has a real rich potato flavor in it.”
Mirror writer Louis Garcia can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.