Meet the Baker: Celine Underwood of Brickmaiden Bakery
Celine Underwood’s passion to bake sourdough was behind an incredible Point Reyes bakery.
Point Reyes’ Brickmaiden Bakery was born from baker Celine Underwood’s passion to bake sourdough loaves and her deep connection to the land and community of West Marin. Her philosophy is rooted in maintaining the highest ingredient standards and product quality, sourcing sustainably and ethically, and creating an environment of support and professional development for artisan baker, while building community and maintaining financial viability, to create a truly sustainable business.
MM: What was the inspiration behind Brickmaiden Bakery?
CU: I was inspired to take simple elements (flour, water,salt, and fire) and bring them together to make wood-fired, naturally fermented bread. I wanted to share the joy that I felt in watching this alchemical change, and the unparalleled smell of fresh baked bread with its crisp crust and chewy interior, with my community.
MM: Where do you source your ingredients?
CU: We source organic ingredients or from companies that use sustainable practices, and we source a great majority of our ingredients directly from local and California farmers. We currently buy grain and flour from Central Milling/Keith Giusto Bakery Supply (Petaluma/Utah), Mendocino Grain Project (Ukiah), Table Top Farm (Point Reyes), and Community Grains (Oakland). A large percentage of our grains are now California grown.
Our produce is currently sourced through our Marin Farmers' markets. We regularly work with farms such as Marin Roots, Full Belly Farm, and Star Route Farm. Our chicken eggs are currently purchased from Coastal Hill Farm (Petaluma) and quail eggs from Little Wing Farm (Point Reyes).
MM: What makes your bakery unique?
CU: The history of our space has a unique story: When Brickmaiden began, I was a young woman with no attachments and no employees. I was enamored of the romance of baking the nights away, and living and working here on our property in Point Reyes Station. Now, there are now 10 of us, and the property is solely used by the bakery. We have had 18+ years of slow growth, staying true to the people who’ve worked and grown within its walls, the families that we’ve built, and to the consistent growth of West Marin in general. And now, what was once a place that housed myself, my family, and other bakers and their families, is becoming our retail storefront. We will be able to deliver our products directly to our customers, and we will be able to share the magic of this special place with everyone.
MM: Can you describe a typical day of bread baking?
CU: Our sourdough culture begins its fermentation cycle 24 hours in advance of mixing it into our dough. We typically begin mixing our dough between 6 to 10 a.m., depending on the quantity needed. Our dough is then fermented for several hours in bulk at room temperature, which in truth is quite warm. The bakery never really drops below 78 to 85 degrees. After this initial fermentation, the dough is divided by weight, and lightly formed to prepare it for its final shape. The dough is allowed to rest for up to an hour, and is than shaped into baguettes, rolls, loaves or any other form needed. After its final shaping process it is allowed to rise for up to 1.5 hours at room temperature and then stored overnight in a temperature controlled refrigerator until about 2 a.m. the next morning when the morning baker arrives. Throughout this mixing and shaping process we are also tending our wood fired oven to build heat for the morning bake.
The morning baker may give the loaves more time to rise while tending the fire and building the oven heat, before finally putting the loaves in the oven. The baking process is 40 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the size and variety of the loaf. Truly, it is a 48 hour process to bring the public a fresh loaf of Brickmaiden Sourdough Bread.
MM: Do you have any specialties and/or top sellers? Are there certain items you are best known for?
CU: We are bringing more and more California grown grain (much of this is whole grain) into our bread and pastry. We have a strong following for our Spelt Whole Grain Pullman, as well as our California Whole Grain loaves. However, our Country White Sourdough loaves and baguettes are still the top sellers. You will often see a line at our farmers markets when we open because our diehard, longtime customers are very particular about what they want, and they get there early to make sure we don't sell out! Everyone has their favorite!
MM: Where can your products be found in Marin (besides the farmer’s markets)?
CU: We are currently in the build out process of opening our retail shop at our downtown Pt. Reyes Location. We will hopefully be open by early Summer 2019.
Where to Find Brickmaiden
Current Retailers: IP Market, Cowgirl Creamery, Bovine Bakery, Palace Market, Toby's, Stinson Beach Market, Bolinas People's Store, Marshall Store, Hog Island Oyster Co., Marin Community Farmstand in San Geronimo, Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.
Restaurants: Mad Cap, Bull Valley Roadhouse, Bolinas 123, Osteria Stellina, Due West, The Olema (lodge).
Farmer's Markets: AIM Farmers' Markets (Thurs & Sun, Marin Civic Center-year round), Fairfax Farmers' Market (Wednesdays, May-Sept), Point Reyes Farmers' Market (Pt. Reyes, June-Nov), Mill Valley Farmers' Market (Friday-Year round).