I was happy to lend a hand to Josh Berger's new website project: joshfoxbread.com I think it turned out great- take a look.
Imagine my surprise when reading through the annual "Best of Humboldt Local Foods" awards and I see the third place award. First place went understandably to internationally acclaimed cheese maker Cypress Grove Chevre. Second Place was local favorite Brio Breadworks. But this third place award was for JoshFox Bread. How is it that this position is held by a baker working just two miles away and I had never heard of him?
Josh, whose last name is actually Berger, is capitalizing on the California Cottage Food Law of 2013 which allows people to make and sell food from their home that would not be dangerous if unrefrigerated. Section 114365.5. (a) of the law states essentially, if you left the food out for a couple days and ate it, could you get sick? Gross simplification aside, this means yogurt is out but granola (and fortunately bread) is in.
After some quick texts, Josh invited me to come pick up some bread. Texting is the new ordering system; his customers text to find out what he's baking that week and then text their order. He bakes and they come by to pick up later in the week.
The shop is a studio off his home and visiting it makes you cheer for the underdog still fighting this world of bakeries that churn out thousands of loaves of flavorless bread each hour. Josh is milling grains, mixing & aging dough and baking a few loaves at a time in a tiny Rofco oven while coaxing every bit of flavor out of each loaf.
As we chatted in his shop, a constant stream of customers came in to pick up their breads. Josh greeted each by name and bagged their bread order. Most choose to add a couple cookies or crumb buns to their bread order.
Josh is proud of his extended fermentation technique where he chills the dough overnight to build complexity and depth in each loaf. This technique is not often used by industrial bakeries that prioritize production rates over flavor. He also takes the time to roast and mill whole grains like buckwheat groats for the loaves.
It would be simplest if he made one master dough and mixed in additions to that dough, but each loaf clearly comes from its own recipe. The San Joaquin Sourdough, for example, is a Tartine style bread with a mahogany crust and open crumb. This recipe uses a sourdough culture instead of commercial bread yeast.
The Sesame Wheat is a tighter crumb with the flavor and aroma of dark roasted sesame seeds and malted barley.
The “SRK” loaf is a surprising "Khorasan" ancient-wheat sourdough that balances the sweetness of raisins with fennel seeds. Unexpected and perfectly harmonious.
Finally, the favorite of many, for good reason, is the “Abricot” loaf which has generous chunks of apricots amongst a richly baked buckwheat and rye dough. This bread is delicious smeared with a strong gorgonzola or simply toasted as a breakfast treat. It’s like having bread with generous serving of jam mixed in.
These are some of the breads of a man who knows what he's doing. He trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York and worked for several local bakeries before opening his home kitchen to make the breads he believes in.
The shop in Arcata is tiny and not entirely easy to locate. Josh dreams of opening a store front someday soon and I think that would be good for the business. But if you want to catch a little of the passion and love for grain that a dedicated baker has, send him a text and pick up a loaf or two while he's still in a cottage food kitchen.
JoshFox Bakery 1372 #A Lincoln Avenue; Arcata, CA
Text (914) 582-8806 or email JoshFoxBread@hotmail.com
Bill has been trying to make the perfect pizza for over 4 decades. He's still working on it.