Bryan Smith’s curiosity and passion for baking developed through a slow process of experimentation, study, and patience. âYou have to spend so much time there,â he explains, describing the art of baking. âYou examine every little detail: its flavor, texture, appearance, smell. How it feels when you eat it.
He finds great beauty in the process, but if you had asked him ten years ago, Smith would never have imagined himself as a chef or a baker. Yet after two years immersing himself in bread-making techniques, Smith unveils his new cottage kitchen bakery, Black and delicate cooking, specializing in natural sourdough breads, bakery products and sweet treats. The Instagram Store will allow customers to direct messaging orders and learn the stories behind the products with each of Smith’s posts.
Smith started working at a restaurant in 2014, moving from his career as a freelance web designer to running a commercial production company. He graduated from college with a degree in film, theater, and graphic design, but cooking work gave him a steady income. He started out as a dishwasher, but quickly turned to prep and cooking.
âIt was at the beginning of 2017 that I really had sea legs in terms of food,â he explains. Not only did he start working on the hotline in restaurants – a position his fire-scared young man would never have tried – but he also started looking for chefs and types of cuisine. âI took the summer, I buried my head in a book, I really made sure that was what I wanted to do,â he continues. That fall, he applied to Satchel’s on Sixth and started working with dough for the first time. He fell in love with donuts and believed that baking was a distinct skill that would help him continue to advance his culinary career.
The first loaf of bread he made came from a recipe his mother cut out of a bag of flour and stapled onto a card. It came out extremely dense and chewy, but that was a starting point, and Smith says he was inspired by its beauty and the potential to create with staples: flour, sugar, water, yeast. âThe mixture of all these materials is really fascinating for me,â he adds.
And the more he delved into baking, the more wild yeast and the natural fermentation process of sourdough creation caught his interest. âA thousand years ago, people didn’t have a packet of yeast,â he explains. They used flour and water, which captured and contained wild yeast and bacteria that fermented and helped the dough rise and develop its flavor.
âScience is something that obsesses me: the fact that wild yeast is all around us,â says Smith. “And I think it’s just a thousand times better.”
The aspiring baker descended into the sourdough rabbit hole, as he calls it, and filled notebooks with descriptions of his trials, errors, and successes while learning how to perfect his sourdough and other bread recipes. He also gave samples to friends and colleagues, and possibly to his bosses at Dio Mio, which really inspired him to start his own side business. âI was doing a ton of it anyway,â he says, âand I really want the content to be usefulâ¦ so people know more about it. [sourdough] and why it matters.
Black & Delicate Baking is also a conversation platform. Smith says the name of the company is important because it is a commentary on his experience of being stereotyped in food culture. In the kitchen, when new employees start working together, they often talk about their culinary background, their specialties and their passions. “I’m a five-foot-ten, 200-pound black man, and when I say I love to cook, it surprises them,” he notes. âThere seems to be this juxtaposition between what I look like and what I do. Like I can’t be black and do delicate work.
âBut your ingredients don’t care where you come from,â he continues. âIf I take a bag of flour, it doesn’t have any impression of what I look like. The kind of bread and pastries I want to sell are things I like to eat.
And on the menu, along with traditional country sourdough bread, are favorite childhood sweets Smith developed for an adult palate. His brown butter, brown sugar and bourbon cookies are, in his words, an augmented version of the sugar cookies he dreamed of as a child. He also sells natural sourdough cinnamon buns using a process that takes eighteen hours but creates a unique taste.
Soft pretzels are also available, and while they’re made with dry yeast, they also include a sourdough starter, added for caramelization, texture, and flavor. Smith is also in the final stages of creating his own ciabatta.
Black & Delicate Baking’s first public menu should be available on Instagram by mid-December. All orders will be placed via Instagram direct messaging; don’t look for a physical store. In the meantime, follow Smith, learn more about his products, and listen to all of his puns. “I try to stick to simple lines that at least catch a disapproving eye,” he says, for example: “I’m a gluten for punishment.”
âIf only I could share all the puns I’ve made,â he recalls.