Baking homemade bread is a chore that many struggle to master, but after trial, error and a plethora of research, Dan Beach was able to create a business around it.
Beach recently opened Wild Cultures Sourdough Bakery on West Commerce Street in Hernando after selling his bread at the Farmers Market for the last two years. Sourdough is naturally leavened bread, which means it doesn’t use commercial yeast to rise. Instead, it uses a starter, a fermented flour and water mixture that contains wild yeast and good bacteria, to rise. Beach said he started to sell sourdough to simply fill his farmers market booth.
“We started making bread to sell at the Hernando Farmers Market in 2021,” Beach said. “We were growing lettuce and carrots, and we had a small market garden. So, I started making bread to help fill the table. It was a huge hit, and it kept flying off of the shelves, so each week we would make more and more.”
After balancing two professions for a period of time, Beach quit his job at a steel mill to pursue bread making full time.
“I was working at a steel mill in Memphis, and I was on the rotating shift schedule. I spent four days working at the mill, and then I would spend four days baking bread when I was off,” Beach said. “I definitely enjoyed making the bread more than I liked working at the steel mill, so I put in my notice and we decided to go for it.”
After the bread was so successful at the farmers market, Beach knew he wanted to eventually open a bakery. He spent the rest of 2021 testing new techniques.
“That first year was pretty volatile,” Beach said. “I was figuring out how to make the bread and do this right. At the end of that season, I actually broke my leg, so I was out of work for about three months. We really stepped it up in 2022. We added more bread to the table and hoped within a few years we would have enough money to start the business. But, we were able to open much sooner than that time frame.”
Beach first became interested in sourdough when he realized he wasn’t very good at making it. Perfecting his sourdough recipe was a challenge he was determined to win.
“Before we moved here, we lived on the West Coast,” Beach said. “My wife had a friend that made bread out there, and she gave my wife a sourdough starter. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, so I had been cooking and baking with commercial yeast. My grandfather was also doing sourdough, so I started to become more interested in that process. I wanted to figure out why everyone else could do it but I couldn’t seem to get good results.”
Beach took to Youtube, Facebook groups and popular books to perfect his craft. He found that there is a large group of people that have made sourdough baking into a science.
“There’s actually a large community of engineer-type people and people that understand things in a more mathematical way that got into sourdough baking,” Beach said. “I learned a lot from those guys because they would do analyses on what was happening from the bacterial level, temperatures, hydration percentages, and all of these things that affect how the bread develops. I read a lot of books and watched a lot of videos on Youtube.”
Beach was inspired by the different nutritional values of sourdough components.
“I started learning more about the health benefits and the flavor of fermented grains, and I really liked the idea,” Beach said. “I really felt like it was the way bread should be made, and I wanted to make it available to more people.”
After researching all of the best baking techniques, there was only one thing left to do – bake the bread.
“Even then, there was still a huge disconnect until I spent a lot of time doing it and noticed little things about temperature, humidity, and other things like that,” Beach said. “That first year was when I spent a lot of time learning that stuff the hard way. I would have really good results one week but really bad ones the next week. I made a ton of bread. The tinkering and the troubleshooting was the most fun part to me.”
Beach became comfortable with his recipe, so he decided to look further into the properties that make up sourdough. He said he learned that he could make a bread with more flavor and nutritional benefits.
“It almost got too easy once I figured it out,” Beach said. “So, I went deeper to find out how the length of time that you ferment affects the flavor and the digestibility of the flour. The way that wheat is grown and the different types of wheat affect flavor. I wanted to make the most flavorful and most digestible bread that I could because there’s so many people that are on diets or have a gluten intolerance that want bread and can’t get it. I have bread that is available to those people.”
Beach said he gained inspiration from hearing people’s stories about not being able to consume bread.
“Everytime someone told me about their diet or a gluten intolerance, it motivated me to dig deeper and help the best way that I could,” Beach said.”
Wild Cultures’ grand opening is scheduled for February 28, and Beach said he is excited to offer bread and other products like desserts.
“We’ve had one soft opening event, and the response to that was huge,” Beach said. “I think everyone really appreciates the fresh bread with flavor and nutritional benefits.”
Beach said his faith has been a large part of the process of opening a small business.
“God has really been there throughout this whole process,” Beach said. “He’s put a lot of great people in our path that have helped us, and to see it all come together has been pretty fantastic.”
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