Saturday, July 2, 2011

Artisan Bread in OKC: Prairie Thunder Baking Company

Raisin-nut boule.  My attempt at artisan bread-baking.

Breakfast is a challenging meal for a vegan when eating out – especially here in Oklahoma.  During a recent overnight in the city, a friendly staff member at (the wonderful) Forward Foods on Western Avenue suggested several places to try, but when she mentioned Prairie Thunder Baking Company, my ears perked up.  I’d been meaning to stop by but we aren’t often in the city and when we are, our meal times haven’t coincided so well with their hours. 
The next morning we walked into Prairie Thunder and thankfully there was not a big breakfast crowd that Tuesday as we would’ve driven anyone waiting behind us nuts.  We gave a thorough once over to the beautiful pastries (maybe they’ll come up with some vegan versions); studied the menu, asked lots of questions and tweaked our orders to make them meat- and dairy-free.  My partner and I being raging bread junkies, however, we mostly admired the piles of beautiful, crusty breads behind the counter.  Through a pass-thru window we could see an enticing rectangle into the heart of the bakery – the colossus of the bread oven.  Apparently John McBryde, owner and baker, could see a bit of us, too, because once we’d placed our orders, he invited us back for a tour.  My shoes left skid marks on the floor I moved so fast.  To a home bread baker a glimpse into the workings of an artisanal bakery and a chat with a master is a priceless encounter.

Mr. McBryde took a lot of time with us, explained how he built the support for the oven and how long it took to bring it up to temperature; what the rows and rows of pipes did and how he took bread in and out of the oven.  Next to us were rolling shelves lined with rising dough – future rolls, focaccia and loaves.  I wanted to set up a cot in a corner and just hang out for a while.  If I lived in OKC, I’d beg Mr. McBryde to take me on as an apprentice, starting with sweeping the floors if need be.

Our order was up so we headed to a table to enjoy our breakfast burrito and a bowl of real oatmeal topped with banana.  We went home with a couple of loaves of his bread – purely for testing and research purpose. Thanks to Prairie Thunder for accommodating two hungry vegans and to Mr. McBryde for the tour of his fabulous bakery. 

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