Gimme Some L’Oven
Abby Love of L’Oven is teaching the Austin community how to make good bread, from grain to loaf
by Abby Moore
Knead pattern. Slow fermentation. Proofing. Lamination. As I sat watching The Great British Baking Show, my stomach growled with aggression and my head spun with confusion. Carbs are a language I speak fluently, but the terminology of bread making was foreign to me.
Abby Love, former pastry chef at Dai Due Restaurant and Supper Club, has recently launched L’Oven, a series of bread making classes tailored to the uninformed, like myself. While attending graduate school for library science and archival studies, the avid home baker took a part time job at a bakery. “I loved it so much, I never finished grad school,” says Love.
Her passion for baking began at a time when the most notable celebrity chef was Julia Child. “The Food Network was nascent and things were just starting to take off, so I thought bread was lame,” admits Love, “I wanted to be making the fanciest, fussiest desserts at the fanciest, fussiest restaurant in town.”
Love eventually did work her way into restaurants, serving plated and composed desserts. After following that path for several years, she began to miss the simplicity of bread over the grandiosity of specialty desserts, but found herself limited by space and resources. “I was in a restaurant, not a bread machine,” says Love, “I wanted to get back to my roots.”
With that craving, L’Oven was conceived. Though the brick-and-mortar is not yet in operation, pop-up classes are offered in various locations around Austin. Participants can expect a hands-on experience and a greater understanding of the fluffy stuff that holds their sandwiches together.
“I want everyone who takes my class to leave feeling like bread is no longer a mystery,” says Love. “I hope to cover a lot of terms so when they encounter them outside of class the intimidation is taken out of it.”
With arguably more zeal for the origin than the final product, Love recognizes Barton Springs Mill for providing fresh stone-milled flour for each class. “My story is very much tied up in the formation of the stonemill,” says Love. “My product and instructions are dependent on and inextricable from what they’re doing.”
While the commercialization of sliced bread may be convenient, it has caused consumers to eat the wheat berry out of context. “We take it apart, compartmentalize it, sterilize it, and then put it on shelves to sit for a year,” says Love. “The way nature designed it is more gentle on our systems.”
Making bread that people feel good about eating drives the business. “Gluten is the enemy right now, and I want people to be less afraid of it,” says Love. Though she would never recommend her products to a celiac, she believes using freshly milled grains can “turn the tide of our belly troubles.”
The fresh grains along with her favorite style, slow fermentation, make Love’s breads more digestible than what lines the grocery shelves. In a slow ferment, the bacteria in the yeast begin pre-digesting the wheat, making it more nutritionally available after consumption. Additionally, the bacteria creates the flavor that our tongues recognize as sour.
Love acknowledges her curious spirit, which led her to research the science behind bread making. While she doesn’t expect attendees to leave as experts, she hopes they’ll at least take away a basic understanding and a deeper appreciation for their food.
“Artisan bread is so sexy right now,” says Love. Her hope is that people find it a life-long love, not just a temporary infatuation.