While many of us were at home, mid-pandemic, Googling how to keep our new sourdough starters alive and befuddled by barely-risen loaves, Heather Zikas was busy turning her bread-baking hobby into a business.
After years of baking bread for her family, more and more friends began requesting to buy loaves, and Zikas found herself outgrowing the kitchen in her Kings Beach home.
With nutrition in mind, Zikas traded yeasted white bread for sourdough and finally, turned to crafting whole wheat sourdough.
“I started reading about the whole wheat flour that you buy in the grocery store and realized that, while it is more nutritious than white flour, it doesn’t have as much nutrition as you think it does,” explains Zikas.
Many of the nutrients are stripped away to make the flour shelf stable, so Zikas decided to purchase a mill and began grinding her own whole wheat flour.
“Once I started milling my own flour, it changed the way I baked everything. That’s when the bread business really started taking off for me,” says Zikas, who named her cottage bakery Tahoe Bread Company.
Using a mix of premium flour from Central Milling in Petaluma and her own milled flour from a wheat farm in Clarksburg, California, Zikas began incorporating whole wheat into everything from cookies to pancakes. The fermented flour and water of the sourdough starter hosts an active colony of wild yeast and a bacteria, lactobacilli, that acts as a natural leavener for many of her baked goods.
“It changes your taste buds, not to mention you feel better because it’s more nutritious. I started to crave that flavor. For me, it was such a big moment,” recalls Zikas.
Just as the pandemic hit, Zikas’ husband and father wrapped up construction on a professional bakery in their garage complete with a stone-hearth oven imported from Belgium and ample room to work. With a cottage bakery license secured, Zikas was ready to take it to the next level. After a few months of taking orders through social media and doing home deliveries, Zikas had enough of a following to host regular pick-ups at Truckee Food Shop, Truckee Food Hub, Alibi Ale Works in Incline, and the Artisan Market at Tahoe Backyard in Kings Beach.
Her menu changes weekly, ranging from whole wheat peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and seeded wheat sourdough, to peach almond galettes and spelt sourdough scones with jalapeno and cheddar.
“The whole process, in particular sourdough, you never get bored with it. There are so many variables — so many things that can affect it everytime you bake, so it’s definitely always challenging,” says Zikas. “It’s kind of amazing. You start with a little kernel of wheat and some water and salt, and you turn it into a loaf of bread. Every time I open the oven to see if my bread has risen, it’s surprising and amazing.”
Have a hankering for a loaf? Visit tahoebreadcompany.com to find out where to find Tahoe Bread Company’s ever-changing menu of baked goods.