I am now, at long-last, complete.
It’s been a week since my family and I hit Savannah, Georgia in search of beautiful town squares (22 of them), ghosts, history, unique shopping and great bread and cupcakes (O.K., also barbeque, homemade pralines, crabcake sandwiches, brownies, banana pudding, pizza – hey, it’s vacation).
To that end, I marched them, on foot, all the way from the middle of downtown – past this:
straight to Mecca, aka the Back in the Day Bakery, at the corner of 40th and Bull streets. It didn’t take long to check off most of our wants once we passed through its glass doors.
It was a completely random cold, Friday afternoon thrown into a week of sunny-80s-beachy bliss, way past lunch rush, but you’d never know that inside the bakery, owned by Cheryl and Griffith Day (authors of the new cookbook of the same name).
Sensory overload took maybe ten seconds – the deep-red floor, the rustic, stoney-beige brick feature wall, baby-blue counters and interior walls, the bright-red lipstick the “Sugarnauts” sported as they served up their signature Star Brownies, Nana Pudding, Red Velvet and Easter cupcakes (among many other delectables) with smiles and demeanors as sweet as their wares.
Are these people even serious?
Very – every last detail one comes in contact with in the bakery is rooted in vintage Americana, which echoes the Days’ devotion to the ( over my dead body) dying art of American scratch baking.
From the wall of old school tablewear and appliances to the handkerchiefs on heads to the mismatched farmhouse tables and retro chairs – everything in BITDB is expertly styled and coordinated to make you happy AND hungry the minute you step inside. And I haven’t even talked about the food yet.
Case in point:
Will I, or anyone in their right – or any – mind, refuse this kind of hospitality? Absolutely not! I know you’re busy, y’all, but I want to see it, touch it and taste it all, right now, so I’ll take you up on your offer.
Well, I can’t be happier to report that the BITDB team showed my family and I all around, consulted on confection selections and happily dished on bread-baking. Only two things were missing on this Friday afternoon: Cheryl and Griff (sadly, they were out of town on a little thing called a book tour).
I think it turned out in our favor, though, as my daughter and I were quickly ushered into the kitchen to meet the sweetest young – and new – bread baker alive today: COURTNEY.
Griffith himself has been baking bread most of his life, and is the main bread baker at BITDB. However, once he and Cheryl started readying themselves to hit the road in support of their new cookbook, Courtney, originally on the lunch team, decided she wanted to devote herself to bread.
Griff took her under his wing and the bakery hasn’t missed a bready beat in his absence while on tour: ciabatta and baguettes were scant by the time I got there, having been snatched up by hungry patrons all day long.
Turns out, Courtney’s favorite part of bread baking matches mine: the rhythm of kneading – just getting into a zone with your dough and “knowing” it at every stage. Bread itself has a very simple ingredient list, she pointed out, it’s the way you handle the process that makes the difference.
“I like the fact that it’s so simple – three or four ingredients – but it’s something that I can see all the way through. There are so many things that can affect it,” she says. “You really have to know your dough.”
Courtney’s main bread-baking resource is Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman. She attributes her quick success to persistence, willingness to make mistakes and, most of all, confidence.
“The dough always knows if you’re scared,” she says.
Griff’s main advice, for which I just had to reach out and ask him, is simple, too: “Bread is: flour, water, salt and something wild – yeast. Don’t over-complicate your bread baking with unnecessary ingredients. Don’t punch your dough – be gentle. Use the ‘folding dough’ technique during the rise.”
And if you want to become a rock-star breadhead, he suggests: “get into sourdough bread making – long fermentation, great flavor, healthy benefits – [you'll] gain bragging rights with your baking friends.” (Note: you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be hanging out with Griff coming up this fall for some sourdough series action!)
As for the gnoshing, top of my list goes to Star Brownies. Fudgy, chocolate-chunky, dusted with a powdered sugar star. I can die a happy woman now (my son also voted Star Brownie). We can’t ignore the Red Velvet cupcake, though – my daughter WILL fight you for one. Nana pudding: do I really have to say anything about this? No, I didn’t think so. When you go, do it. DO IT ALL.
Now I’m really wishing it was yesterday, National Grilled Cheese Day, and I was Back in the Day again, waiting for Griff or Steven to make me a grilled cheese sandwich…
Peace – and brownies/cupcakes/ciabatta – out.