The Farms & Fields Project at Virginia Tech regularly features delicious local breads from Sweetwater Baking Company in their fresh paninis. Curious about the story behind the bread? We touched base with the bakers, Sam and Alison Siller, for today’s local food spotlight.
Located just forty miles south of campus in Floyd, VA, Sweetwater Baking Company makes hearth baked granolas, energy bars, nuts, and organic breads. Sam’s sister and brother in law started the company in 1995, and they offered the business to Sam when they moved. Sam enjoyed their bread and baked goods, so he and Alison decided to give bread making a try. While the process was humbling (bread making isn’t as simple as it sounds!), after thirteen years Sam and Alison have mastered the process.
Sweetwater Baking currently produces nine varieties of bread, which they make using fresh mountain water from a well on the couple’s land. Sam and Alison rely on simple, minimally processed ingredients such as coconut oil, unrefined salt, and rapadura, which is unrefined cane sugar. They bake the dough in a wood-fired oven, which allows for even heating. One of the challenges of making bread in a wood-fired oven is synchronizing the oven temperature with the time the bread is ready to bake. If the oven is too hot the outside of the bread burns, but if the oven is too cool the crust becomes too thick. While the baking process itself is quick (each loaf takes about 30 minutes), the entire process of making and rising the dough takes about two and a half days.
For Sam, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is being able to provide people with comforting and nourishing food that is not readily available in the region. Bread making adds a rhythm to life, and Sam joking referred to their sourdough starter as being like “a pet you have to look after.”
Can’t get enough of Sweetwater Baking Company’s breads? In addition to getting them at the Farms & Fields Project, you can purchase their breads (along with cookies and granola) at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout the year.
Photos courtesy of Sweetwater Baking Company.