Can something be special without being rare? Can something be commonplace and yet worthy of our attention?
The wide world of bread Includes hundreds of styles extending back throughout nearly all of human history, with regional and histonc affecting the final loaf. Despite this vast array of paths before us, for the first eighteen months of our bread baking operation we chose to focus on a single style of loaf; and it took nearly that long to get it right.
Our core style of bread at Matchstick is what we call a rustic country loaf. While utilizing only a few conveniences of contemporary baking equipment necessary to scale our operations, we seek to bake this bread a lot like our ancestors would have done hundreds of years ago. While the majority of contemporary grocery store breads are produced in mere hours, our bread takes days to mature. One significant reason for this: our bread is naturally leavened, which, until the commercial adoption of new fast- acting yeast in the 20 century, used to be the only way. The yeast culture that we use is cultivated from wild yeasts present in the air around us. It is very local. It is temperamental and delicate. It requires a lot of attention, and needs to be regularly "fed" with fresh water and flour which provides new sugars for the yeast to digest. Aside from being highly romantic, nearly magical, and an incredible thing to witness, this method of cultivating wild yeast also produces bread of exceptional quality. Our bread is strong and hearty with a deeply-coloured crust from the well-developed sugars in the dough, a sweet and slightly tangy flavour, and a wild, irregular crumb structure produced as the hying yeast feed on and develop the gluten over a number of days.
Our approach to croissant production is very similar to that of our bread. Again, the process is temperamental, difficult, unpredictable, and amazing: all at once. We bring together flour, water, salt, yeast and many pounds of butter, then carefully fold them, rest them; fold them, rest them; fold them, rest them, much like a fine steel knife being repeatedly heated, folded, and cooled, each fold adding strength and precision to the blade. Once croissant dough has been wrapped around butter and folded it is called a 'book'. Each book contains multiple layers of dough and butter. Much like a fine Japanese knife, being meticulously heated, folded, and cooled over again, with each proceeding fold adding strength and precision to the blade, croissants are formed in a similar fashion. The dough must be folded over the butter, stretched out, then folded again, with this process repeated multiple times. Aside from the dough structure needing to be perfect from the outset, the dough and butter must be kept at a very stable temperature during the folding process. Too cold, and the butter cracks, damaging the dough. Too warm, and the layers melt together. However, when this is done correctly, the croissant crumb (the inside) is well-defined, and irregular. The crust (the outside) is crisp and layered, and there is a textural division between each brittle layer of crust and soft, melting, layer of crumb. There are fewer things more beautiful to behold. You can witness all of this in action, every day, at our Georgia St. location.
In our early days, we would buy croissants frozen, then bake and proof them in-house, even though the wholesale bakery offered to give them to us pre-baked for the same price. Quality presided over convenience, and we got familiar with reading a croissant during the proof, and learning the rhythms of daily breads. The stage was set for bread production. In addition to the staples of bread and pastry, our baking menu includes a rotating selection of muffins, scones, granola, cookies. Depending on the season and the time of day, we offer a food program leaning heavily on our bread: toast with a wide array of accoutrements for breakfast, lunch, or even a light evening meal, including jams, nut-butters, hummus, poached eggs and soups.
As with our coffee program, the ingredients that we use to prepare our food are incredibly important, both for allowing us to produce something that tastes good, but also for ensuring that we are producing something that promotes a healthy community and the ecosystem that supports it. One of the amazing projects that we are proud to be a part of is that of Inner City Farms in Vancouver. Sponsored by our local neighbourhoods, ICF helps turn frontwards and backyards into fertile land. Each year we receive a regular and bountiful harvest of kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, beans, cucumber, beets, asparagus, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, garlic, and even pumpkins for halloween carving. All of these items make their seasonal appearance on our lunch menu. We are always on the look out for amazing vendors and producers for our food program.
Our amazingly talented chefs are always up to something new. But our food program has a foot firmly planted in something old. Whatever technique we're adopting or perfecting, whichever ingredient we're incorporating, we are ever striving to connect our community with that which we believe to be fundamental to our humanity, breaking bread together. Whether its a quick breakfast for on the road, a leisurely brunch on a day off, or a small snack while catching up on email, we hope that the food at Matchstick will remind us and connect us with those things that are most important. Thanks for pulling up a chair.