Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Hangar Bread-It Really Does Fly
Trina Benson brings out the cinnamon rolls, which contain no heavy gooey sugar and no glaze but are tasty sweet and extremely moist.
Friday, October 18, 2019


It's apropos that the new bakery tucked around the corner from Java on Carbonate Street is named Hangar Bread.

Its tangy sourdough loaves have been flying out the door ever since it opened two weeks ago.

The minute Roman Chavez and his staff begin sliding sweet rolls into the case at 8:30 a.m., customers begin streaming into the bakery, oblivious to the window lettering noting that the bakery opens at 10.

Roman Chavez slices rolls while Cynthia Luck Carr goes to work building grab-and-go sandwiches.

"It's not dehydrated," said Mark Caywood, as he happily bit into a cinnamon roll after emerging from a "brutally cold" hunting trip in which he and his hunters had to delve into emergency rations.

As he talked, Roman Chavez brushed the flour off freshly baked baguettes, arranging them in a basket that includes three different types of round loaves, including one with seeds and another featuring Chavez's special recipe of raisins and big chunky walnuts.

"This is our Bachelor's Loaf," he said, holding up a package containing a half loaf of sliced pumpernickel bread. "It's just a half loaf so you can eat it while fresh and come back for another half loaf."

Chavez’s love affair with artisan bread started during a vacation he and his wife Rachel Schochet took to Europe. He fell in love with French bread during that trip but was unable to find anything that approximated the bread when he returned home to Los Angeles.

An array of breads await their journey to the display case. IF they last more than a day, you’ll find they’re just as easy to slice and just as fresh tasting on day two and three.

So, he decided to learn to make his own by going to school at the San Francisco Bakery Institute.

"The minute I pulled my first loaf of bread out of the oven, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he said.

As soon as he returned to his job working for a jet fuel broker at Long Beach Airport, he ordered a commercial oven. Since he had no commercial storefront, the manufacturers dropped the oven off at the Federal Express hangar.

Chavez's fellow employees fell in love with his early experiments and soon he had 200 airport employees and Federal Express pilots clamoring to buy bread and pizza dough from him. When he found a commercial space, they begged him to stay: Why would you move when you can have this spot for free?

Each batch of bread starts with flour, water, salt and sourdough starter in this mixer.

Chavez moved his bread making operations to Hailey three years ago when he and Rachel moved to the Wood River Valley to be close to Rachel's mother Ellen Schochet.

He baked bread out of a studio attached to the garage of his East Fork home for NourishMe and the Wood River Farmers’ Market and then seized the opportunity to expand his operations at his new storefront.

"We didn't bake bread for the Farmers’ Market this summer because we were busy getting this bakery ready. But we'll be back in the Farmers’ Market next summer," said Chavez, who also has added Cafe Della, Tundra restaurant and Ketchum Kitchens to his customer base.

Chavez's breads take two days from start to finish. Trina Benson, his business partner, gets it started whipping a batch of flour boasting wheat grown outside the new Hillside Grain mill south of Bellevue with water and Chavez's sourdough starter. Stretched, folded and kneaded, the mix is stuffed into bread proofing baskets four hours after its genesis and the baskets are put in the refrigerator where they will stay 18 to 20 hours as the bacteria feeds on the flour mixture.

Mark Caywood celebrated his return from the hunting grounds with a warm cinnamon roll.

"The sourdough feeds on the flour and extracts starches and sugars--that's where you get the flavor," said Chavez. "When you bake it, it pulls the sugar outside, making it crusty and brown, carmelizing it. Some people don't give the bread time to release those starches so they miss out on the flavor they could have."

Chavez cuts open a round loaf containing sunflower, flax and sesame seeds and points out the holes and crevices formed by gasses released by sourdough. It's moist and stretchy, easy to cut and even easier to eat.

"There's nothing in here but flour, water, seeds and salt,” he said.

Each sourdough starter bears characteristics unique to the baker and the bacteria on the baker’s hands and the bacteria in its environment, Chavez said. San Francisco has great sourdough bread because of the salt water ocean air, he added.

Chavez recounted a study done of student bakers in Europe who took a sourdough starter home and brought it back. Every bread had a different chemistry, a different taste.

"If I went somewhere else, my bread would taste different," he said.

A stream of customers continued to pour into the shop, from road crew workers to Helen Chenoweth and Donell Salus, who were treating themselves as part of a birthday present.

"My neighbors and my family are hooked on it," said Annie Weber. "My favorite is the loaf with seeds,  but the men in my family like the sourdough."

It's the whole process from walking through fields at Hillside Farm to handling the stalks of wheat, harvesting and crushing them, mixing the flour with sourdough, baking it and having someone eat it that delights Chavez.

“And then the cycle starts anew,” he said. “Full cycle from the grain to the mill to the oven to the stomach."

As baking continued, Cynthia Luck Carr arrived to help turn the softball-sized rolls that Chavez has made into three types of sandwiches: an American with turkey, cheddar cheese, pesto and lettuce; a French, with ham and butter, and an Italian with salami, provolone cheese, pesto and lettuce--all wrapped and ready to go.

She pointed out the rosemary growing in the bakery.

"When the focaccia bread, which we make with rosemary and parmesan, comes out of the oven in early afternoon, the aroma draws people in," she said.

Benson and Carr are quick to point out that many of their customers with gluten sensitivities are able to eat Hangar Bread without getting tummy aches because of European style of preparation with long fermentation makes it easier to digest.

"They realize bread is not the demon--it's the artificial commercial bread that's hard on people," Carr said.

Chavez has loved living and baking bread in the Wood River Valley, where he’s traded California surfing for his newfound pursuits of mountain biking and Nordic skiing.

“My wife wanted to go to Europe this year. And I said, ‘Why would we go anywhere else when I can mountain bike here?!’ ”

Both he and Benson have also loved the support the community has afforded them. Among them, one man who said eating their bread transported him to his grandma’s kitchen.

“He was crying. He loved his grandmother like nobody’s business and he hadn’t thought about her in years,” Chavez related.

“Everybody relates to the bread in a very special way,” added Benson.

Rachel Schochet, who works alongside her husband, said it’s been amazing to watch his journey with breadmaking from Day One when his new $1,000 oven wouldn’t work.

“He put his training in electrical engineering to use, spreading diagrams and dozens of colored wires out on the garage floor. And he got it to work,” she said. “I am really proud of him. He’s worked really hard to make his dream come true.”









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