No sooner had I finished writing about the father-daughter partnership that makes the Waxhaw Antique Clock Shop work, than I encountered a mother-son business partnership that brings great bread and locally produced honey to the Waxhaw farmers market.
My mission last Saturday was to buy a special loaf to bring to a Sunday dinner party. I encountered Laura Whittaker under the big tent, chatting with friends who had cycled to the market.
“Try a piece of the best sourdough bread you will ever taste,” said one of the cyclists.
I'm a pretty easy mark when it comes to sampling baked goods, so I did try – twice. The riders were onto something.
Laura was nearly down to her last loaf, so I snatched one up. I also chatted with her for a moment and learned that her business partner in Loaves & Honey is her 12-year-old son, Jake, who at that moment was camping with his grandparents. We agreed to talk later in the week.
The sourdough bread lasted until that evening, when the thought of a BLT made with fresh organic tomatoes and thick sliced bacon on that wonderful bread was more than I could resist. In a flash, the loaf was toast – literally.
What intrigued me was the unique taste of this loaf, just a little sweeter than other sourdoughs I had tasted. I learned from Wikipedia: “Sourdough bread is made by using a small amount (20-25 percent) of ‘starter' dough (sometimes known as ‘the mother sponge'), which contains the yeast culture, and mixing it with new flour and water. Part of this resulting dough then is saved to use as the starter for the next batch. As long as the starter dough is fed flour and water daily, the mixture can stay in room temperature indefinitely and remain healthy and usable. It is not uncommon for a baker's starter dough to have years of history, from many hundreds of previous batches. As a result, each bakery's sourdough has a distinct taste.
“The combination of starter, yeast culture and air temperature, humidity, and elevation also makes each batch of sourdough different.”
When I caught up with Laura last week, I learned this was exactly the case with her.
A friend gave her the starter seven years ago, and she has been baking with it ever since. She told me her bread is referred to as “Appalachia” style. “My starter is not a dough,” Laura said, “but a liquid mixture of yeast, water, sugar and potato flakes. I feed it weekly, rather than daily, with a little water, sugar and potato flakes. The Appalachia style sourdough has a sweeter taste and softer texture than the San Francisco style sourdough.”
It started as a personal ministry, baking the special bread for family and friends. Before long, people were asking her if they could buy larger quantities for parties and celebration events. This summer, she decided to sell at the Waxhaw farmers market, and Loaves & Honey was born.
The honey side of the partnership is contributed by son Jake. He works with beekeeper Jeff Knight, who has more than 45 hives around Union County. Jake helps extract honey from the combs, then he purchases the honey wholesale. He and his mom sell it on Saturdays at the Waxhaw farmers market.
Laura said shoppers are curious about the local origins of honey, and Jake is quite knowledgeable about local farms that have hives.
Laura said the enterprise has drawn the two closer, in addition to providing Jake with a hands-on course in Business 101. Laura told me she typically bakes 18 loaves for each market to complement the honey, and she and Jake almost always sell out.
It's a great symbiosis.
Laura gets to indulge her passion for baking, Jake learns about entrepreneurship, and Waxhaw becomes a land of Loaves & Honey for a few hours each Saturday.