Fort Wayne – Each morning between 2 and 3 a.m., Leigh Rowan rises to begin making the dough to create whole-grain breads and rolls at her business, The Big Brick House Bakery.
Rowan’s bakery is the on the main floor of the building, while the downstairs has been converted into the living space she shares with her husband, Kevin. Her wholesale business caters to restaurants that like the uniqueness of the products she creates. In 2008, her breads won the Indiana Artisan award.
Rowan, 53, used to have the bakery in Wabash County, but after noticing that most of her clients were from Fort Wayne, she moved the bakery to Fort Wayne. She began to mill her own flour in 2004 and opened the bakery in 2007.
I opened it on my grandmother’s birthday, Oct. 1, because she taught me to bake, Rowan says. From the age of 4, I was with Grandma cooking.
After learning that many types of bread were not as healthy as they claimed, Rowan decided to make her bread for the family, which includes son Luke, 33, and daughter Bridjet, 22.
I always tried to make good meals for my family. Once the grain is milled, after three days, there’s no nutritional value. I use green flour.’ It’s never been aged. Enriched flour is that when they take out 11 nutrients and add five chemicals to enrich it. And enrich’ sounds better than chemically enhanced,’ she says.
All my grains are non-GMO (non-genetically modified) and chemical-free. And some are organic.
Eventually, Rowan became determined to grind her own flour using a stone mill.
When I bought my first (stone) mill, I snuck it down (to) the basement. I didn’t want my husband to know. I turned it on, and it echoed all through the house and was spitting out grain. It sounded like a rapid-fire BB gun. It’s been a learning process for sure, she says, laughing.
After urging from friends, Rowan ventured into the bakery business.
I used to be in charge of divisions. My college background is mechanical technology. I’ve done time studies. I troubled-shoot machines. It was very helpful when laying out a work kitchen, she says.
I found with friends the encouragement to venture out. I wanted something with flexibility because of the kids’ schedule. It was more family-based to step out on my own with the bakery.
Asked how many loaves of bread she makes daily, Rowan answers matter-of-factly, About 120 for markets and customers.
Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?
A. My go-to cookbook? My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The old one that isn’t checkered.
Q. What do you do to keep meals healthy?
A. Kevin works with me. We’ve always eaten healthy.
Q. What’s your favorite vegetable?
A. I would say onions and green peppers cooked out on the grill.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. I could not bake bread without my industrial mixers. If one breaks down and I have to have it repaired, I’m like a wounded bird.
Q. Who’s your cooking idol?
A. People asked me where I’ve trained, and I tell them I’m grandma-trained, by the late Ruth Robbins.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one meal you couldn’t live without?
A. Fried pork loin and gravy. Can’t go without the gravy and mashed potatoes.
Basic Bread Recipe
1 cup warm water, not to exceed 115 degrees after placed in bowl, divided
1 (2 1/4 teaspoons) package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups flour, approximately
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature
In a large bowl, add 1/2 cup warm water, sugar and butter. Work this together. Slowly stir in dry yeast. Continue to stir until yeast is dissolved. Wait 5 minutes. Place 2 cups of flour in bowl. Stir; add egg and salt. Slowly add remaining water and flour. If needed, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl. Amount of flour depends on weather. Turn dough onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch – about 5 minutes, depending on how vigorously you knead. Let it rest for about 10 minutes to help with texture, then knead again to gain elasticity. Put dough in buttered bowl, turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down dough. Turn onto floured board and knead for a minute. This relaxes the dough. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Form dough into loaf and set in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes or until it doubles in size. Put in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Internal temperature should be around 200 degrees. Turn out bread and let cool for 2 hours on a rack or clean dish towel so it doesn’t sweat in the pan. This reduces the chance for mold. Makes 1 (2-pound) loaf.
Japanese Fruit Pie
1 stick margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
Cream margarine and sugar. Add remaining ingredients, except pie crust. Mix and pour into pie crust. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.