Capitaine Levain : 100% organic bread from the wheat in the fields to the oven
Ghislain Despatie and Céline Richard never work in half measures. In their little Stanbridge East bakery, they strive to realize their dream of producing rustic style breads, 100% organic and 100% sourdough, but also to control every step of the process from planting the grain to kneading the dough.
While on a cycling trip to France during a “WOOFING” stay (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) with farm-owning bakers, Ghislain and Céline were struck by what would later become their passion, their vocation and their way of life.
“These bakers grow their ancient grains, they then mill their flour, make their bread and bake it in wood-burning ovens. We wanted to develop this approach this side of the Atlantic but also, to adapt their philosophy to our own lifestyle by producing healthy, nutritional products, socially responsible and with respect to the environment,” explains Ghislain. “We received some informal training from these artisans before returning to Quebec, where I completed a DVS (diploma of vocational studies) in Baking and interned with the Jean-Talon Market artisanal baker, Joe La Croûte.”
The young couple eventually left Montreal to settle in our region. Inside the old Atelier Caramel pastry shop annexed to their house, Ghislain and Céline are creating their own little revolution, one bun at a time, guided by the captain of this great adventure: their sourdough!
“Sourdough is simply water and flour that we ferment together. I have what we call a mother sourdough, that I ‘feed’ every day and from which I take a piece, to make my bread. Most breads on the market are made with lab-made yeast,” adds the baker. “It isn’t really dangerous, but it makes the bread rise faster and therefore, doesn’t pre-digest the gluten and also, it doesn’t develop any aroma. Sourdough makes bread that is easier to digest and is more tasteful.”
Although it’s been a year and a half since Ghislain and Céline have set up shop, they still have to buy their flour. However, very soon they will be able to make it with their own seeds.
“I’ve been resowing my seeds for three years now. They grow on our friends’ organic farm. The first year, we only used a small parcel of land. The following year, I doubled it. This year, I’ve planted a whole acre,” says Céline, the seed farmer of the pair. “Next year, we’d like to sow a hectare. That should be enough to mill our very own flour and to make our bread!”
The couple values cultivating their own seeds because they like to use ancient varieties that have not been modified by humans. Céline would like to grow wheat, rye, small spelt or einkorn wheat seeds.
“It’s clear that growing our own seeds to make our flour won’t be cheaper than buying ready-made flour; it might even cost more,” admits Céline. “Nonetheless, it’s an important part of our process.”
In fact, the apprentice farmer is seeking help from a mentor who would teach her how to drive a tractor and a combine and who could guide her throughout her learning process. Calling out to all seasoned farmers in the area!
To purchase Ghislain’s bread and Céline’s rustic pastry, you must order them in advance—it’s their way of avoiding any waste. Their products can also be purchased in organic vegetable baskets sold by farmers in local markets.