Story and photos by Paul Krasauskas
If you're looking for a healthier alternative to highly processed, flavourless, and mundane white bread, then Hearthstone Breads provides a delicious solution. From golden baguettes to crispy loaves of artisanal sourdough, after tasting Bailey Symington’s homemade breads, you’ll never consider another store-bought loaf again. For those new to the sourdough world, traditional recipes use a starter made of water and flour, which ferments over time. The starter produces a natural yeast with a slightly acidic flavour that gives sourdough its appeal. When asked how you can know if it’s sourdough, Symington says, “If flour, water, salt, and yeast are the ingredients you see, then you are good to go.” About her ingredients, Symington says, “I love to source locally. The flour is local—the rye and whole wheat are from Brule Creek and Ardent Mills—and the yeast is wild.” Symington has been baking since she can remember, and recalls childhood visits with her grandmother, whose home would always smell of freshly baked bread. Growing up in a family of cooks and bakers, bread making was always a part of her life. She moved to Thunder Bay for university, and also travelled Ontario building her resume as a baker, but working in a Toronto-based bakery is where she acquired a good chunk of experience with sourdough. Returning to Thunder Bay, she worked for Sapling Bakery, where she took over as head baker and was encouraged by friends and coworkers to set off on her own. While searching for a space for her bakery, Symington was using a subscription-based service to deliver her breads. “It’s a three-day process,” Symington says of the sourdough baking process, and deliveries were not the most efficient method of getting her bread to market. So when the Thunder Bay Country Market called, she was ready to set up for February 1. Hearthstone Breads is located on the second floor of the Thunder Bay Country Market, where Symington’s specialty breads (generally all sourdough) are on display. Her menu varies weekly, but ranges from traditional loaves, like the baguette or sandwich, to more flavourful loaves such as rich, dark rye with caraway and cinnamon raisin. There are crisps made from the same dough as the loaves for a crispier treat as well. And if you would like to try baking your own bread, some helpful accessories like a starter journal and bannetons (proofing baskets) are also available. Occasionally there will be some special loaves that will find their way on the menu, so be sure to follow Symington on social media for updates. Not only will the flavour of her basil and olive or northern rye loaves appeal to your taste buds, but the lame (pronounced lahm, meaning blade in French) scored designs on the loaves themselves add to the unique brand that is Hearthstone. For more information on Hearthstone Breads, follow @hearthstonetbay on Instagram or find them on Facebook, and visit their booth at the market.