A steaming cup of chai and scone at Wild Leaven Bakery. (Courtesy Karen Long Images)
New Mexicans know the value of locally produced foods and we appreciate the edible gifts we receive from this rich land of enchantment. While we are known nationwide for growing hatch chillies, beans, blue corn, and pinon nuts, we are not necessarily known for making high quality bread.
That is changing thanks to Wild Leaven Bakery. Life and business partners Andre Kempton and Jessica Foumena Kempton founded the bakery in 2012 as salespeople at the Taos Farmers Market. They opened a retail location in Taos in 2016 and have built 20 regional retail stores over the past 10 years.
Although you’ve likely seen their bread in a chilled box at your favorite grocery store, you can now find their freshly baked goods in Santa Fe. On December 8th, a new retail location emerged in the heart of downtown Santa Fe at 130 N. Guadalupe.
A full rack of sourdough breads at Wild Leaven Bakery. (Courtesy Karen Long Images)
In this sweet take-away place, which also includes a production kitchen but no tables to eat, customers can pick up a variety of whole or half loaves of their signature square sourdough bread along with various baked goods and other simple delicacies. The main differentiator of Wild Leaven bread is that it is made from an artisanal sourdough that is fermented for 24 hours. In addition, they work with farmers and ranchers in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to source their heritage and heirlooms, as well as organic and local ingredients that make their products stand out.
About this complicated baking process, Andre Kempton says: “The 24-hour fermentation creates natural preservatives such as alcohol, lactic acid and various acids that help to preserve the life of the bread. The fermentation process is key to our mission. A long fermentation process breaks down the gluten and the carbohydrates and microorganisms pre-digest the bread for you. Because of this, many people with gluten intolerance can eat Wild Leaven Bakery bread. “
Wild Leaven’s bread menu includes 10 varieties of large or half sourdough loaves – the original ($ 18), quinoa, and sunflower ($ 20); Rye, molasses, and fennel ($ 18); Buckwheat and Millet (gluten-free and vegan) ($ 32); 100% Heirloom Rye ($ 22); Heirloom Spelled ($ 28); germinated rye ($ 20); over sprouted rye ($ 26); toasted walnut ($ 8); and Chili n ‘Cheese ($ 7 and up). Because the loaves are so big and there are only two of us, I buy half a loaf, which is available at half the price. The breads are delivered uncut, but they are happy to cut the bread on request.
I really enjoyed the sourdough and quinoa and sunflower breads which are two of the most popular. Both offer an easy start to the day as a simple slice of toast and butter. If I want it a little more substantial, I add avocado puree, microgreens and sprinkle with red chilli flakes and dukkah or everything bagel spice. My husband prefers to eat his toast with a fried egg and ham.
If you’re more into the sweeter side, Wild Leaven has a selection of pastries that sell out quickly. That includes a scone ($ 5) so good it deserves a new name as this scone is life changing. It’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and will likely make you turn up your noses at the traditionally dry English scones. Try the pecan chili bar ($ 5) or the cinnamon strudel ($ 5) – this is their version of a cinnamon bun.
Andre Kempton also bakes a variety of French pastries with laminated dough, which involves folding the dough over and over with butter to make super thin layers. Choices include a light and fluffy croissant ($ 4), chocolate croissant ($ 5), ham and cheese croissant ($ 6.50), and green chili cheese croissant ($ 6.50), but don’t expect that they are typically French croissants. These are better because they ferment for 12-15 hours, which is the Wild Leaven method.
Over sprouted rye sourdough is one of the three best-selling breads from the Wild Leaven Bakery. (Courtesy Karen Long Images)
If you need a snack when you go to the bakery – and I highly recommend staying hungry – there is a daily soup with a side of bread ($ 7) and an exceptional homemade chai ($ 5.50) called the Andre Kempton took a few weeks to perfect. A combination of organic ingredients such as local honey, freshly grated ginger and turmeric, cardamom, ground cloves, whole willow milk and black peppercorns simmer with black tea for a distinctive and sought-after chai.
Jessica Foumena Kempton says, “I love chai and I wanted us to have a special drink exclusively in the Santa Fe store. So Andre took the recipe he makes me at home and added a little more seasoning here and there to achieve this. “
“It’s well balanced and juggles a lot of different flavors,” adds Andre Kempton. “When you have the best ingredients, it doesn’t take much to make something great. I think it’s great that people are now coming to chai. “
As for the year 2022, Andre Kempton says: “We have developed two new sourdough breads – French baguette and country bread. We use 30% fresh, stone-ground organic heirloom Sonoran wheat from northern New Mexico and 70% high-quality organic bread flour. These breads are fermented for 36 hours at a cooler temperature of 40 degrees. “
When I asked him about the name Wild Leaven, he said: “When I started the company in 2012 and started thinking about a name, I was fascinated by the sourdough process and the wild yeast that surrounds us everywhere. Wild yeast is the master of bread making. It’s almost like we narrow it down and manipulate it to do what we want, but it’s the wild yeast that makes this bread possible.
“Wild Leaven is an ode to these wild yeasts and bacteria – they make bread rise with (carbon dioxide), they give flavor with the acid and alcohol they release. They also make the flour digestible. Grains are so intelligent that they have developed anti-nutrients, which are defense mechanisms to keep animals from eating their seeds. Fermentation interrupts the process and provides the host with nutrients, ”Andre proudly concludes.
Wild Leaven Bakery is more than just a bakery – it’s a philosophy and Andre Kempton and Jessica Foumena Kempton are committed to their mission to create healthy products from high quality, organic and locally and locally sourced ingredients. With the warm welcome that Wild Leaven receives, Santa Feans are clearly hungry for this new addition.