Artisan bread at The Good Loaf
New bakery rises in Milford
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum email@example.com
Lynda Shortt dresses much differently today than she did a decade ago. Where she once wore business attire and pumps as a real estate broker, she is now dressed in a black T-shirt and pants, a long white apron, a black cap and comfortable shoes. She is also usually covered in flour — par for the course in her life as a professional baker.
Shortt’s business, The Good Loaf, has also come a long way in the past five years. It began in her kitchen, moved into the garage, and now into a new retail bakery on Mont Vernon Road in Milford. Here she creates more than 30 types of bread, all done by hand.
“If you can’t find it here, I don’t know where you’ll find it,” she said.
The bread was already a big hit at area stores and farmers’ markets, and the new retail bakery has taken off.
“We opened the day before Thanksgiving at 3 p.m. and by 6 had sold out,” Shortt said. “The response has been wonderful.”
Shortt’s husband John gets the credit (or is it blame?) for her new career. The couple moved to Mont Vernon from the Seacoast, and she traded in her pumps for Carhartt to help build their new home. As a gift, he bought her the book Artisan Baking Across American by Maggie Glezer, and she was enthralled by it.
“I would stare at it and yearn for it. John said, ‘Why don’t you bake something?’ but all of the recipes were formula-based and I could never do them at home,” she said.
So John sent Shortt to a week-long baking class at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vt., and she was hooked. She signed up for another weekend class, and then just about every other class that was available.
As Shortt’s skills grew, a graphic designer friend made up business cards for fun with the name The Good Loaf. Shortt decided to try to sell her breads and took a variety of them, and the cards, to a local store. Three hours later, the owner called her back and said the store would take as much bread as Shortt could make.
In the business’s early days, Shortt also did home deliveries — like the milk man. But as her wholesale business grew, it wrecked havoc on her home ovens. She had modified them with baking stones and a cast iron pan in the bottom, and would use a garden watering can to pour water into the pan to create the steam necessary for the bread’s crust. The ovens just couldn’t handle the constant use necessary to bake 70 loaves of bread in a day.
Then Shortt came up with the idea of remodeling the garage into a bakery. She worked in that space for about five years before she moved the business to Milford.
“I’m grateful to be retailing now,” she said. “When I was just wholesaling, it became more like artisan assembly work. I didn’t receive the gratitude for what I made like I do here.”
What makes the Good Loaf’s breads different from most is that they are naturally leavened. Native yeast from the environment and one or more strains of beneficial bacteria are fed and fermented, like what is done with a sourdough starter, to develop a more complex flavor and texture. It takes a lot of time to create a loaf of bread here. The starter is fermented for an entire day before it is added to the dough. Some of the breads can take two full days to make.
“You know the classic elements — earth, water, fire and air,” Shortt said. “The elements of the Good Loaf are science, patience, art and heart.”
For Shortt and her staff, 18-hour days are common. She is in the bakery by 3 a.m. and often doesn’t leave until 8 p.m. The hope is once she is settled into the new bakery and adds additional staff, she may be able to cut back her hours and spend more time with John and her two daughters and grandchild.
Besides the many breads, the bakery also has cookies, scones, muffins, Danish and anything else she or her staff thinks up. There is what Shortt calls a bread bar, where customers may try any bread in the shop before they buy. Her day-old products are 50 percent off, and then donated to local soup kitchens and animal lovers.