Outside, temperatures dipped to 15 degrees below zero. Inside, the atmosphere was anything but frosty. Some 60 people had gathered in the cavernous production area of a commercial bakery for the winter meeting of the St. Paul Bread Club in St. Paul, Minn.
Each participant was asked to contribute a favorite soup or a loaf of bread, and tongues wagged as a jumble of pots and loaves began to line the oversized tables. Eventually, the clamor subsided, and bakers were asked to describe their offerings.
"My experiment for the week was sushi rolls," proclaimed one member as she described a white dough doused with sake and rolled around sesame seeds and nori.
"I made butternut squash buns using the same soup I brought today," explained another.
"I tried a multi-colored levain-type bread," said yet another.
People who consider baking a science find their view irrevocably challenged. Clearly, to club members it's an art-with dough a palette on which to lavish endless creativity.
The Bread Club is the brainchild of Dan "Klecko" McGleno, a professional baker who guessed that if you mixed people with flour, you'd give rise to a yeasty community of home bakers. Today's meeting is proof that his hunch was right. The assembled group includes teenagers and professionals and retirees. Men are as plentiful as women. Kitchen newbies mingle with long-time veterans of the oven wars.
"Part of what I love about baking is being alone with my thoughts," says member Kim Ode. "But the club certainly draws out the inner extrovert. "People have always come together over the breaking of bread," she chuckles. "We come together over the baking of bread."
Story by Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.