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Hearth Wood Fired Bread

e
Eddie Van Hungry Nov 10, 2011 04:04 PM

Discovered these folks last year and absolutely loved the bread they were making, especially the French Country Loaf. I even took a trip down to their shop in Plymouth to check it out. A very friendly woman there happily talked to me about the place, even took me into the back to see the enormous wood bread oven. It's amazing. Really special product.

2 questions:
I was buying this bread regularly at the Fruitcenter in Milton, but they have stopped carrying it (lack of demand they claim). Does anyone know where Hearth bread can be purchased retail, either in Boston or the South Shore? It's not listed on their website.

Also, a month or so ago I bought one of their loaves at the Milton Farmer's Market and thought that the loaf was much different than I recalled eating when I first found them. Instead of a deep, very crusty, deeply slashed loaf with wonderful flavor and a beautiful creamy interior, this one was much more pedestrian...just lightly browned on the outside, thin crust and a bit of a dry, crumby interior. A bummer. Can anyone verify if they have changed their method / recipe? I certainly hope not.

Thanks.

EVH

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Hearth Wood Fired Bread
123-2 Camelot Dr, Plymouth, MA 02360

  1. b
    bear Nov 10, 2011 04:46 PM

    Give Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville a call. I'm pretty sure I saw it there last week for the first time. I wasn't in the market for bread so I didn't try it, but it's on my list.

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    Dave's Fresh Pasta
    81 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

    1. k
      Klunco Nov 11, 2011 07:17 AM

      Glad to hear this report as I am taking a pilgrimage up to Hearth tomorrow to try their bread. I am a serious bread person and mostly bake my own (although I also live only a 5 minute walk from Clearflour which also helps) but after hearing and reading about Hearth, I really want to give their bread a try. My "house" loaf is very similar, country batard with levain, but I'm really curious to see how the wood fire affects the flavor.

      One question I did have, do they sell sandwiches or anything else at the bakery or is it really just the single house loaf of bread (which is what it sounds like from the website)?

      11 Replies
      1. re: Klunco
        GretchenS Nov 11, 2011 10:50 AM

        Here is my previous post on this topic. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796422 When I was there, they sold several types of bread but nothing else at the bakery. Worth the trip!

        1. re: Klunco
          e
          Eddie Van Hungry Nov 11, 2011 11:28 AM

          Look forward to your report back Klunco. As Gretchen notes below, they only sell their bread at the store. It seems to me that their product line is expanding. Also, fwiw, Chad Robertson of Tartine Bread states emphatically that wood fired ovens impart zero detectable flavors into breads vs. gas fired. He seems to know what he's doing;)

          Thanks for the store guide Gretchen. will stop at Foodie's tonight!

          1. re: Eddie Van Hungry
            t
            T.Clark Nov 11, 2011 04:35 PM

            The oven at Hearth is indirectly fired by wood, the chamber is below the deck. The oven was designed by an M.I.T. trained engineer, it is not a prefab. It has a huge (huge!) deck surface and the dome is very low for that size oven. It's a great oven, and true the Hearth is not going for some kind of wood flavor, it's about the artisanship of using that type of oven. I spoke with the owner, Peter, a few weeks back and he intimated to me that he may be buying a deck oven and proofer to make different breads that he can't make in the wood fired oven (baguettes, rolls?). He originally said he just wanted to make one great loaf but I think the reality is that he has to offer some variety.

            I have been buying their bread from almost day one. I do think their bread has changed a little as the volume has shot up. He uses all natural leavening with no temperature controlled proofing so as the weather changes I think the challenges increase and the bread does differ from day to day. I still really like his original country loaf but I have experienced occasional "off" days.

            1. re: T.Clark
              k
              Klunco Nov 11, 2011 09:06 PM

              This is interesting about the oven. Eddie, I think I remember reading that interview with Chad Robertson where he said that but for some reason, a part of me wants to believe that wood-fired contributes more flavor than it does. It's funny, I had some Polaine bread recently and I kept searching for the "wood-fired" flavor, but I knew the whole time it wasn't there, and that there really wasn't any difference.

              I can see how wood-fired from below wouldn't add flavor, but has anyone here worked with a wood-fired oven where the fire is in the oven on the deck? That would be an interesting experiment. I've had pizza cooked that way, but can't remember trying bread cooked in that manner.

              I can appreciate the challenges of trying to stick to a schedule while using a levain without a temperature controlled proofing space. As a home baker, I have more flexibility but for a commercial baker I can imagine that presents a challenge. Does anyone know when the loaves come out of the oven daily?

              Looking forward to tomorrow and reporting back.

              1. re: Klunco
                k
                Klunco Nov 15, 2011 08:03 AM

                Made it down to Hearth on Saturday and they get an enthusiastic two-thumbs up. They are truly a wholesale operation and are a bit out of the way, so unless you live in the area or are really into bread it may not be worth visiting in person. They had six types of bread for sale when we were there and told us the breads came out around 6am.

                We tried the French Country, Baker's harvest (their multigrain), and the raisin pumpernickel rye. Their flagship, the French country was moist, very flavorful, large and had a very large slash indicative of a wet dough. The flavor was great, slightly tangy but the taste of the levain didn't overwhelm the rest of the flavors. I think the loaf could be improved by a bit more baking time to get some caramelization but that's really a personal preference. The loaf was very pale and the crust was not crunchy. It could have just been the day though because from the pictures on the website it looks like they normally have a bit of color on them. Not Tartine style color but a nice caramel.

                I liked the Baker's loaf even more. With all the grains, it has a really interesting well rounded flavor but isn't overwhelming and would be good for people who want a little more nutrition but might still be transitioning from white bread. You can tell they are using high quality, fresh grains and wheat because the flavors are complex but never blunt or overwhelming. Once again, I felt a little more baking time would benefit the loaf.

                The raisin pumpernickel rye was OUTSTANDING.

                At the bakery the loaves (24 ounces) were sold for $4.50. It's a seriously good deal for the quality and amount of bread you are getting. I would highly recommend seeking out Hearth's breads. Does anyone know what most stores are charging for them?

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                Hearth Wood Fired Bread
                123-2 Camelot Dr, Plymouth, MA 02360

                1. re: Klunco
                  t
                  T.Clark Nov 15, 2011 10:06 AM

                  I'd say the color has been lighter for 6 months now. Still great bread, but it used to be a lot darker/crusty(er). I bought this loaf this morning (as you pointed out there is a deep slash on the left of this loaf).

                   
                  1. re: T.Clark
                    k
                    Klunco Nov 15, 2011 10:50 AM

                    Wow, even that is a lot darker than the one we got. I wish I took a picture. Ours was very pale (like Ciabatta pale), probably just a daily variation. I'm glad to know normally it's at least a little darker.

                    1. re: Klunco
                      e
                      Eddie Van Hungry Nov 15, 2011 02:02 PM

                      Thanks for the report back K. And for the pic TClark. The lighter, less crusty loaf was exactly what I was referring to. I must say I think the darker, crustier version is far superior. TClark, do you prefer the "newer" or the "older" version? I'm wondering if they're responding to customer request / demand or if it's an internal decision. Perhaps influenced by the need to get loaves in and out of that one oven more quickly. Hmmmm....

                      1. re: Eddie Van Hungry
                        GretchenS Nov 15, 2011 03:02 PM

                        This thread represents what I love most about Chowhound, I have learned so much. Thank you all!

                        1. re: Eddie Van Hungry
                          t
                          T.Clark Nov 15, 2011 05:42 PM

                          Older. In the first year it was quite dark and very very crusty. I liked that style. Just shy of burnt. Very "Tartine" like if you have the book. And yes Eddie, I believe that the blonde version is a result of their upping production. I have to say that the "sourness" has crept up also, kind of a raw yeasty sourness if that makes sense. This maybe a result of quicker fermentation, altho I'm not a baker so that's just a guess. Like I've said I really like their bread so my critique is nitpicking. BTW, the very nice woman you spoke to no longer works there........ sigh.

                          1. re: T.Clark
                            StriperGuy Nov 16, 2011 06:30 AM

                            Sourness just had to do with rise time. As they are using a starter and not using a proofing box the sourness could vary wildly depending on conditions.

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