It’s a heck of a long way to come from Blakely, Ga., to Olympia just to bake bread. But that’s exactly what Nadja Vawryk-Button did last month as one of five participants in an artisan bread-making course held at Hains House, a bed-and-breakfast south of Olympia, where owner Pat Hains has converted a love of good bread into a destination for those who want to learn to make it.
“It’s a lovely place to stay, with a top-notch instructor and a very knowledgeable hostess,” explained Vawryk-Button over a lunch of fresh rye bread, bagels and soup. It was the last day of a five-day baking course taught by master baker Gunther Franz of the International Baking Academy in Weinheim, Germany; as well as Vawryk-Button. The course had drawn participants from Massachusetts and Bremerton plus Olympia and Seattle to learn the art of German pastries and breads.
For Pat Hains, helping clear lunch plates and timing cinnamon rolls in the oven, it’s a dream come true.
“Originally it was going to be just a B&B,” Hains said of the picturesque 19th-century farmhouse on Beaver Creek she’d bought three years ago with her husband. Everything needed remodeling, including removing a false kitchen ceiling. After a sudden divorce, though, things changed for Hains. She decided to go to Italy to learn bread baking, something she’d always wanted to do, and suddenly realized what she could do with her house.
“I met a chef there and invited him back to teach,” Hains said. “But he needed a wood-fired oven.”
Hains got an oven shipped in pieces from San Francisco and put it together in her backyard with the help of a neighborhood friend. Within six months she was holding her first baking course, and things were off. She began holding full- and half-day classes in conjunction with South Puget Sound Community College, and last February took two months off her job with the state Department of Early Learning to get certified in German baking in Weinheim, graduating top of her class. Talking teacher Gunther Franz into paying a visit, she organized last month’s five-day course that got folks’ attention on bread websites around the country. Hains also teaches private pizza-making parties, and gets B&B customers from the airbnb.com website.
“It’s unfolding in a way I never imagined,” Hains said. Quiet and short with apple-red cheeks and a round face, she hovers in the corner of the main kitchen, helping Franz load baking trays and watching the students mix up seed-roll batter with a contented smile. “I’m really doing what I like.”
And it’s obviously what others want to do also. Vawryk-Button was a complete bread novice, but Anne Wallace is a returning student who’d experienced some of Hains’ other courses. She laments the extra pounds caused by delicious pastries but loves all the recipes, the expert tips and the sheer volume of cooking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
“It’s absolutely worth it,” Wallace said. “It’s much more than I expected – nonstop baking, home-cooking and a B&B. I’ve wanted for nothing. And there’s stuff Gunther’s told me that I’ve never read in books, like the technique he invented of beating butter with flour.”
Brian Hensley agrees. A pastry chef himself, who owns Seattle bakery and coffee shop Kaffeeklatsch, he’s learning a lot of take-home techniques at Hains House.
“You get a lot of experience because you’re doing it every day,” he said. Among the things he’s learned better are controlling the bread through dough temperature, different resting times and tweaks on common recipes like adding grated carrots to seed rolls. “I have a good list of items to take back to the cafe,” he added.
But it’s just the beginning for Hains. Looking past the wide-beamed living room to the five acres of wetland and fields where blue herons and eagles soar, she imagines a future growing organic produce and planting vineyards. She’s also hoping to bring Franz back for another German baking course.
As she opens the oven door for Franz to pull a steaming tray of sweet stollen into the busy kitchen and watches Anne Wallace stretch her dough window-pane thin, she smiles.
“To have people come here, take away two or three breads and say, ‘I can’t believe I did this’ – it’s what I want to do,” she said.
WHAT: Offering a B&B with artisan bread-making courses
Who: Pat Hains
When: Next course is through South Puget Sound Community College on artisan wood-fired bread, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. July 28, $85; wood-fired pizza, 9:30 a.m.- 11 a.m. Aug. 11, $65, through SPSCC
Cost: $65-$85 for day classes, around $1,200 for week-long courses including accommodation
Also: Private classes and pizza-baking parties can be arrangedblog.thenewstribune.com/arts