Idle Hands Bakery

December 06 2015

Recently there has been new and pleasant scent wafting down the streets in Scotts’ Addition, an ever more hip neighborhood in our native Richmond. In no small part due to our friend Jay.

Jay has spent his nights and weekends for the past few years experimenting with his breadmaking technique. After about four years kneading away in his families’ kitchen and sharing text batches with his neighbors, he decided the best possible next step was to go legit. So like any young upstarts of the digital age – he went to Kickstarter. For 120 of his closest supporters, it came time to pay the dealer. So he set up shop in Scotts Addition, and while he was still putting the finishing touches on his new space, Jay was kind enough to invite us over to take a look at the space, talk breadmaking, and fix us up with a fair number of samples.

People from nearly every culture on earth have been making bread in one form or another for Millenia. It is a decidedly simple product – you only really need a few ingredients, flour and water, heat and time, and most importantly for our purpose, yeast. Jay works in the lone line of sourdough makers. Unlike traditional breadmaking, sourdough yeasts are kept and developed over time. The center of American sourdough culture is undoubtedly San Francisco, home to the Boudin bakery who – as legend has it – is still using the same sourdough starter as they have been since the very first day that wild yeasts from the Bay Area wandered into their bread dough over 160 years ago.

Much like the fermentation process of kombucha,  a sourdough starter tends to transcend the status of foodstuff and become almost pet like in it’s requirement of attention. Jay’s starter is the same one he started with nearly 5 years ago. After developing and growing his yeasts for that long, Jay is very familiar with subtleties of flavor that find their way into his bread. He shared with us the simple recipe behind his rustic loaves.

100g fed starter

450g water

12g salt

300g whole wheat flour

300g bread flour

In a large bowl mix the starter and the water. Add the whole wheat flour and mix well. Add the bread flour and form rough shaggy dough.

Autolyse. Cover dough and allow to sit one hour.

After an hour, add the salt and lightly knead it in.

Over the next 1.5 hours do a stretch and fold every 30 mins for a total of three stretch and folds. Cover between SAFs

After the 1.5 hours cover and put in fridge over night.

Next morning take dough out of fridge and let sit at least 3 hours. Then turn out the dough and let sit 20 mins. Form into a loaf and place in loaf tin. Allow to almost double. This will take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.

Once proofed, bake at 375 for 40 mins or until thermometer reads 190.


Autolyse is the kind of term that will impress your friends when you are recounting the tale of how you first made bread and it turned out pretty good, actually. It essentially means that the yeast and salt aren’t added until late in the game, after the flour and water have risen. In sourdough’s especially, Jay tells us, the rule is hands off. Over kneading your bread is overkill, he says.

Kneading or the process of developing the glutens is an essential part of bread making. The gluten, the often villainized by fad diets, is strong, sticky, stretchy protein that forms when wheat flour and water mix. They’re whats holding the structure of all those perfect pockets of air in Jay’s perfectly shaped loaves.

You can find more from Jay and Idle Hands Bakery on Facebook, including information about where to buy his french inspired loaves.