“Free-From” Business Spotlight: Bread Srsly: Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan Sourdough. AKA, Heaven.
Before I met my husband, my first true love was sourdough bread. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’d always find a way to eat it. Toast, sandwiches, stuffing, bread pudding, even sourdough bowls for soup (yum)! Sourdough won my heart with its tangy flavor, unlike any other bread. Sadly, once I eliminated gluten from my diet, sourdough bread also disappeared from my life.
Here’s a few fun facts about Sourdough in case you were curious about origins of this delicious bread.
One of the worlds oldest leavened breads, sourdough is produced through a the process of long fermentation of the dough using lactobacilli and yeasts. The use of naturally occurring yeasts and friendly bacteria versus cultivated yeast causes the bread to have a slightly sour, but pleasant taste.
Most likely the first form of leavening available to bakers, it is believed sourdough originated in Ancient Egyptian times around 1500 BC. It did remain the usual form of leavening into the European Middle Ages. During the California Gold Rush, sourdough was the main bread made in Northern California and is still a part of the culture of San Francisco today.
The bread was so common at that time the word sourdough became a nickname for the gold prospectors. In The Yukon and Alaska, a sourdough is also a nickname given to someone who has spent an entire winter north of the Arctic Circle, and it refers to their tradition of protecting their sourdough during the coldest months by keeping it close to their body. The sourdough tradition was also carried into Alaska and western Canadian territories during the Klondike Gold Rush.
San Francisco sourdough is the most famous sourdough bread made in the United States today. Â In contrast to sourdough production in other areas of the country, the San Francisco variety has remained in continuous production since 1849, with some bakeries able to trace their starters back to California’s Gold Rush period.
I’ve found it very difficult to find great sourdough bread, add in the gluten-free factor, and I’m basically out of luck…until I discovered Bread Srsly. Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, vegan sourdough for the sensitive foodie? Handmade? Was this real? I couldn’t wait to get to their San Francisco headquarters to try it out for myself. Let me tell you..their bread is something else. I wanted to cry tears of joy after eating my first bite of sourdough in over five years. It was THAT good.
As today is National Sourdough Bread Day, I felt that it was only fitting to feature Bread Srsly! I spoke with founder Sadie Scheffer about her amazing company which originally started with one employee (Sadie) making the loaves by hand and delivering them by bicycle in San Francisco to a much larger team with shipments of Bread Srsly being deployed across America in just a few years.
AFW: How did Bread Srsly get started?
Sadie: Bread SRSLY started as a hobby business out of my Cole Valley, San Francisco apartment in August 2011. I had begun working on gluten free recipes to win the heart of my college crush in 2009, and became enamored with sourdough along the way.
AFW: I love that your facility is gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan. Was this difficult to accomplish?
Sadie: Yes! I had been working out of shared commissary kitchens with other businesses that used wheat products, and it was always a struggle to clean our workspace and scrub the ovens every day before baking. After my 4th kitchen, lucky timing led me to collaborate with a fellow baker who had already begun to build out a gluten-free facility. He agreed to install a massive and beautiful oven for us and to produce our product in his kitchen. We agreed to keep the facility nut-free to increase our customer base (and to sleep more soundly, knowing our products are safe for everyone!)
AFW: The sourdough used in the Bread Srsly loaves is made from Wild Yeast, how is that different from “regular” yeast?
Sadie: Wild yeast comes from the air and grain on which it feeds. It’s a collection of many different strains of yeasts and bacteria that work symbiotically to break down tough proteins and sugars in the grains. “Regular” yeast is a single strain of yeast that has been isolated from the rest and selected for its speed and consistency in bread-baking (different strains have been selected for brewers yeast, champagne yeast, baker’s yeast, etc). Being a single strain yeast, it lacks the health benefits created by the yeast and bacteria combo, which works too slowly (read: expensively) for most mass-produced products. To speed up the process even further, most products with baker’s yeast bump up the yeast quantity and add sugar to give it an extra boost. Thus, the yeast breaks down the added sugar and leaves the grain sugars untouched and harder to digest.
AFW: Your bread takes over 12 hours to rise! Is this what sets you apart from other breads?
Sadie: The wild yeasts we use set our products apart. Wild yeast works slowly, taking its time to break down hard-to-digest sugars and proteins, and to develop more complex flavors than a regular yeasted bread. We wait on our dough, instead of adding more yeasts and sugars to speed up and cheapen our process.
AFW: After discovering you have an intolerance you must have found some great gluten-free spots in San Francisco. Which ones are your favorite?
Sadie: My favorite spots for a gluten-free meal in SF are Gracias Madre, Mau, Padrecito, and Parada 22.
AFW: It’s amazing that you used to hand deliver orders on a bicycle. Do you still do this, or have you moved onto different delivery methods?
Sadie: It was fun to do bike delivery, and I’ve never been fitter. At one point I was biking 100 miles a week without leaving San Francisco, which is pretty impressive considering it’s only 7 miles on a side. But we outgrew our bicycle delivery program after we started selling to multiple grocery stores. I was making several out-and-back trips a day once I could no longer fit all my orders in one trailer-load, and I was just exhausted doing it. I started to work with a fellow GF business, Nana Joes Granola, to help deliver my boxes, since we were delivering to many of the same locations. We still share a delivery route 4 years later.
AFW: I think it’s pretty cool that you sponsor athletes with your “Team Srsly” initiative. Where did the idea for this come from?
Sadie: We had been asked for a sponsorship by a couple of rad runners, and thought it was the coolest thing. The folks that we sponsor are so inspiring and hard-core, it just feels so cool to have them on our team.
AFW: You have distribution in California and in a few places in Arizona, and Washington. In addition to distribution, you also ship across the United States! Have your out-of-state orders been growing? It’s clear that awareness is spreading beyond the West Coast!
Sadie: We ship bread nationally direct to our customers, and that accounts for a good chunk of our business, and a LOT of our packaging time!
AFW: Currently you have three “flavors” of sourdough: original, seeded, and kale. Any plans to expand on your offerings?
Sadie: We’ll be bringing back our Sweet Onion Sourdough later this year (my absolute favorite), and have ideas for plenty of new products that are in the queue for recipe testing!
AFW: What’s it like to own a business and be in charge of making all the product? Do you have any help?
Sadie: Oh my gosh, I could not have done any of this without help! Our products are all made by the staff of our GF kitchen, who are all incredibly trained, tireless, and rigorous about quality control. The breads look and taste way better than they did when I was in charge of all the baking, and it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made handing production over to these great bakers. My own staff are in charge of marketing, packaging, QC and order fulfillment, and keep our gears turning smoothly. I’ve realized that my most important job is to create a good work environment, and going to the kitchen is fun instead of stressful because we all like hanging out with each other. It’s pretty cool to have such a neat group of people.
AFW: What are your plans for Bread Srsly in the future?
Sadie: We’re going to continue to fill out the map of stores that carry our bread, and hopefully expand to national sales within the next five years.
AFW: Describe Bread Srsly in three words.
Sadie: Nourishing, clean, fulfilling.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me Sadie! As a special thank you to readers, I’m giving away a three pack of Bread Srsly loaves which includes the classic, seeded, and kale flavors. Enter below!