FEATURED PARTNER: SISTER CRAVE BREADS
Tucked in the valley of the St. Croix River lives a lovely baker, Marlee Crave of Sister Crave Breads. On one of the hottest days of the summer, late-afternoon in mid-June, we met with Marlee in an on-site interview to experience a moment in the life of this gentle baker. With a soft summer breeze that cooled us, we meandered through the enchanting home where Marlee lives, works, and bakes.
Marlee’s story with Sister Crave Breads starts at Foxtail Farm in Osceola, WI. “Andy and I both farm: we are called First Acre Farm. We are good friends with the owners of Foxtail Farm; we live on the farm, rent an acre from them, and work for them part-time,” Marlee explained. “We work really collaboratively, and we couldn’t have found a better situation than having a home/bakery.”
As we wandered through the grass toward Marlee’s house and the farm’s commercial kitchen where she bakes, Marlee described a typical day for her. “With sourdough, there’s a lot of waiting – I’ll wake up, preheat the oven, feed the starter, then wait a half an hour. During that time, I will work or make breakfast. While waiting for the dough to rise, I’ll prep all of my ingredients and get everything measured, and then play some fetch with the dog,” she said with a laugh. “The dog lives outside of the bakery door, so there’s a lot of fetch that happens. I think that’s every baker’s dream: to be able to be home and have time to enjoy and work at your own pace,” Marlee shared.
Creating sourdough is a rewarding, slow-food process. Not only does the making-and-baking process allow for restful periods between times, it’s also a two-day endeavor: tend to the dough one day and bake following day. In addition, sourdough starters are often passed on from generation-to-generation, requiring daily attention. “I’ve been nurturing my starter for years,” Marlee said. “I got it from my mentor, and she had it for years before that, and it’s really something I take care of every day. I feed my cat, and then I feed my starter. It’s become a part of my life.” Like tending to all of the living beings in her life, Marlee takes great care with her starter and her breads. “I’ve grown attached to my starter,” she exclaimed.
As Marlee shared, her bread is always teaching her, and every time she makes bread she learns something new. “The starter changes with the seasons, and I have to change how I care for it. I have to feed it more or less, or use a different combination of flours depending on how it is acting,” Marlee patiently explained. “In this heat, this 100 degrees, it’s a learning experience. This is the fastest I’ve ever made bread because with the heat and the humidity in the air, the yeast is just so active,” she added.
Making sourdough bread is truly a labor of love: Marlee puts her time, heart, and the best ingredients into it. “I switched to using all organic flour since I launched the business and since moving here,” she said. “I just felt like, for many reasons, it was the right thing to do. With her age-old and beloved starter, organic flour from Meadowlark Community Mill in southern Wisconsin, and seasonal ingredients from the farm, Marlee’s breads are nourishing, delicious, and beautiful. Marlee moves through life with such love and grace, and a grateful heart. “It’s been really great to send people bread that is literally made at the same place that their vegetables are grown. It makes me really happy,” Marlee grinned. “I can just walk outside my door, find food, and find inspiration – which is pretty lucky.”
For more information about Marlee and Sister Craves Breads, visit her website at sistercrave.com. Coming to The Watershed Café, you will find her sourdough breads in our specials and seasonal boards. In addition, you can order her bread through her website and pick it up at The Watershed Café!
We are so proud to partner with this incredible, local and sustainable bread baker!