ARTICLE BY VANELIS RIVERA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY MOORE CLARK
Scratch Bakehouse is a home-based, cottage bakery specializing in quality sourdough goods with a faithful customer base, but it began as a wellness journey. Around 2017, Christina Poole was having some health issues. “I was having food sensitivities where I wasn’t able to eat simple foods,” she says. As a devoted wife and mother of two young children, she was driven to find a way to gain control of her well-being. She knew that there were better options for a lot of the foods she was eating. Healing her gut took the form of consuming whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding additives. “That’s how I discovered the wonderful world of sourdough!”
Originally from West Monroe, Poole attributes her love for baking to her mother who was born and raised in Greece and lived there for almost twenty years. When Poole was thirteen, she spent a summer in her mother’s homeland and was able to experience a quality of life that would take hold much later in her life. “You would just walk down to the square to get your bread that was made that day. It was just pure, like an ancestral-eating kind of approach,” she says. Additionally, she grew up in a household where her mother was making meals from scratch, a quality she has always appreciated and has readily adopted.
Not wanting to go back to buying commercially produced loaves, she began teaching herself the meticulous art of bread baking. At the time, sourdough had yet to skyrocket in popularity, though it was already esteemed as one of the healthiest bread varieties due to its simple, natural ingredients. At first, she was just making the air-bubble-filled bread for her family, but when she began to share with friends, she noticed that there was clearly a community need. “I think people really like the idea of going and picking up their bread to have for dinner,” she says, mentioning the increased interest in her product which spread quickly by word of mouth. Another reason for the rapid rise in orders is due to the grueling hours dedicated to sourdough-making. It’s a long process of close to thirty hours. To make one of her most popular items, her sourdough donuts, Poole goes through a three-day process. “Some people don’t have the time to do that. And I get that. So I wanted to make that available.”
A common misconception about sourdough is that it’s a flavor, but it’s actually a process. “People will buy ‘sourdough’ bread at the grocery store thinking they are getting the same thing as when they buy with Scratch Bakehouse. But commercially processed ‘sourdough’ just has some sourdough cultures added for flavor, but still uses commercial yeast and has dough conditioners, preservatives, etcetera,” she informs. Scratch Bakehouse’s Classic Sourdough is made using only three ingredients—water, flour, and salt. Every loaf made takes approximately two to three days, which allows for optimal nutrition, flavor, and digestibility. More specifically, the lactic acid found in this naturally leavened bread helps decrease levels of phytic acid in the bread. In turn, allowing for the absorption of beneficial vitamins and minerals found in wheat. In fact, many people who can’t tolerate gluten are able to eat sourdough since the wheat is properly broken down during the fermentation process. “I strongly believe in making your food work for you, not against you,” enthuses Poole, adding, “ I believe clean, quality ingredients are the cornerstone of nourishing, body fueling, and great tasting food.”
Poole bakes every day, so she often approximates sourdough-making to having an extra child, particularly maintaining the starter. “It’s really not very hard to make a starter. You just need about five to seven days, about a week. And you need flour and filtered water,” she explains, referring to her website which has a detailed section on activating your sourdough starter. “I don’t think the first time I tried to make a starter it worked,” she admits, fascinated by the fact that the process is one that has been done for thousands of years. For many, the process may sound daunting, since you have to feed it constantly, but Poole assures that it is completely doable, even if you have a full-time job: “You could make your dough in the evening before going to bed and shape it in the morning, throw it in the fridge during the day, and bake that evening…you just have to want to do it.”
Currently, Poole offers four artisan sourdoughs. For those who appreciate a hearty crust, the Classic Artisan, a large rounded loaf, is bound to make the perfect dinner companion, as the bread is great for olive oil dips. Growing in popularity is the Soft Classic Artisan, made with flour, water, sea salt, olive oil, and local honey. It’s a classic flavor with a softer crust and crumb! Sandwich lovers will be happy to see two loaves that will elevate any combination of ingredients, one of which is the Everything Bagel. This classic sandwich loaf is rolled in sesame seeds, flakey sea salt, garlic, onion, and poppy seeds. Italian influences appear in two ways in Poole’s kitchen—focaccia and pizza. The rectangular focaccia loaf is available in three flavors, with Italian herbs and flaky sea salt, everything bagel seasoning, or cheddar and jalapeño. Pizza enthusiasts can either purchase Poole’s artisan sourdough pizza dough or a pizza kit which includes one dough ball, house-made San Marzano marinara, and freshly shredded mozzarella. Buon appetito!
While freshly-made bread is hard to beat, it’s Poole’s Sourdough Italian Bombolonis that have been selling out in a matter of minutes every week. These donuts are made with soft enriched dough and are usually rolled in sugar and then filled with a pastry cream filling. “I’m not a huge donut person,” she says, though she has been delighting in coming up with seasonal flavors. On her recent menu, she is offering three homemade fillings—spiced apple, maple pecan, and pumpkin cream—in addition to the unfilled classic bomboloni rolled in caster sugar. “It’s definitely a treat,” she says, explaining that she uses grass-fed butter, organic eggs, milk, and sugar in order to keep them as healthy as possible. She even fries the donuts using organic coconut oil! “It’s a good balance!” These fried dough balls have become so popular that she went from making about forty donuts to over one hundred per week.
For all her bakes, Poole always takes into consideration seasonal flavors, though for the donuts she likes to always have vanilla bean pastry cream. “I feel like that’s such a classic flavor.” When winter comes around, for the donuts, she plans on doing gingerbread and white chocolate glaze, cheesecake with a cookie butter drizzle on top, or an orange and cranberry compote. “I love to do fruit compotes,” she says, listing some of her favorite fruits to work with like peaches and strawberries. Ultimately, she’d like to add sourdough cookies and super seed sourdough crackers to her online menu, incorporating different types of whole grains. “I’d also love to someday mill my flour in-house. The more I can do with my own hands, the better.”
Poole’s magical bakes come from a passion that has been fueled by her upbringing and attention to personal health. “It’s such hard work, but it’s so rewarding,” she says, mentioning that at times she has to set her alarm for 3:30 in the morning just to check how the donuts are rising. “You don’t do it for profit,” she says. “You do it because you just love to create food.”
Learn more about the wonderful world of Poole’s Sourdough bakes by visiting her website https://www.scratchbakehousela.com or her Instagram page @scratch_bakehouse. All ordered bakes are delivered for pickup to For His Temple Foods thanks to the gracious patronage of Dana Milford.