Breaking Bread with Sprout Momma

Local bakers share their love for and advice about making healthier breads.

Story by Eddy Hoyle + Photography by Lisa Staff

There is nothing better than the scent of fresh-baked bread wafting through the air. Hot, fresh-baked bread may trigger childhood memories, warm our souls, and spark our desire for a hearty meal. Throughout history bread has been a staple of nearly every culture – from ancient Mesopotamia to modern Italy, bread calls people together to share a meal. It is also a metaphor for the basic necessities, and is sometimes referred to as the “staff of life.” Wheat is the quintessential food in nearly every culture throughout history.

In today’s hectic world, however, we too often settle for mass-produced bread in plastic bags. Convenience over quality dictates our choices. At Sprout Momma, Kim Tavino and her son, Ryan Fennessey, have returned to the basics to create artisan breads that are more nutritious and healthy.

A health coach and baker, Tavino said, “We should eat what God put on earth, not what comes in a bag or a box. That means a whole food, plant-based diet. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it in your mouth.”

The ingredients that go into a loaf of homemade bread are simple — flour, yeast, liquid, and salt. Then you can use your imagination to create wonderful flavors, textures, and shapes. Combinations can be simple or complex, and the nature of the ingredients, their proportion, and the way they are combined makes a difference in the final product.

The mission of Sprout Momma is to nourish the body and please the palate. Inspired by Old World sensibilities, they have mastered the art of creative, healthy breadmaking. From bold ryes to French baguettes, Sprout Momma offers handcrafted artisan breads with varied flavors such as cheddar jalapeño, garlic rosemary, cinnamon cranberry and buttermilk molasses.

“Making bread is a noble calling,” said Fennessey, a chef and baker. “Bread is of one the oldest foods, and every culture has its own variations and traditions. It’s important to honor this process. I love the history of breadmaking.”

“My father was a great chef. Dad taught me to do things the real way. There’s a lost art involved with food. Today it’s all about convenience,” Fennessey explained. His father, Geoff Fennessey, was a culinary master who operated two restaurants.

Now he works with his mother, Kim Tavino, and his sister, Abby Fennessey, at Sprout Momma, a production bakery in Hilton Head that opened in 2017. Originally Tavino started baking bread at home as gifts. “I wanted a better, healthier bread to support well-being and healing.” People kept telling her that she should open a bakery, and she now enjoys working with her children at Sprout Momma.

They specialize in custom, artisan bread that combines King Arthur flour, sprouted ancient grain, sprouted whole wheat, vegetables and fruits — all organic when possible, and they source ingredients from local markets and farmers. Tavino said that sprouted wheat ups the nutritional value of bread, and it’s easier to digest because the body recognizes it as a vegetable. So what is sprouted wheat? Tavino said you take hard, red, wheat berry grain, soak it overnight, and then keep it moist until sprouts appear. Once that happens it’s ground into flour, sprouts and all.

Whole, unrefined grains are beneficial to your health, while refined grains, such as white rice, white bread and white pasta are devoid of most nutrients and fiber due to the refining process. These processed grains behave like sugar in the body resulting in blood sugar imbalances, sugar cravings, mood swings and weight gain. Whole grains are the way to go to improve health.

Fennessey explained that making great bread requires the freshest and highest quality ingredients. After that, you need patience, he said. “Each step is important and all the steps take so long. Don’t rush it, or it will come back to bite you.”

This high-energy, creative family constantly challenge themselves with new ideas, new products and improved processes, and the result is a constantly growing business.

Tavino and the Fennessey siblings have figured out how to work together as a family team.

Tavino manages Sprout Momma; Ryan is the chef and bread maker and is responsible for the research and development of new products; and the “baby sister,” Abby, develops the website, handles the marketing and serves as the “resident grunt” doing anything and everything that is asked of her. “I get bossed around, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she said. Her degree is in public health, but said she has found her true calling in the family niche.

The Art of Baking Bread

All ingredients should be near room temperature, about 75 degrees. To activate the yeast, liquids need to be 100-115 degrees for active dry yeast or 120-130 degrees for quick-rise yeast. On a cold day, warm the mixing bowl in a warm oven to speed rising time. Commercial yeast is reliable if it is used before the marked expiration date. The use of quick-rise yeast allows all ingredients to be added together if the water is warm enough to activate the quick-rise yeast.

Once the flour is added, the dough is kneaded. The dough can be kneaded by hand, with a mixer and dough hook, a food processor, or in a bread machine. Kneading develops gluten, the protein found mainly in wheat flour, which gives bread its structure. The more you knead the dough (up to a point), the finer the texture will be. The kneading breaks up pockets of air being incorporated into the dough. These air pockets between the strands of gluten fill up with carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. The smaller the air pockets, the finer the bread’s texture. Well-kneaded dough is smooth and satiny and has a soft, pliable body to it. Be careful because dough can be over-kneaded using a mixer.

Knead to Know

Here are some interesting facts about bread:

• A rolled up piece of white bread was used to erase graphite before rubber erasers were invented.

• Within five years of the invention of machine for making sliced bread, 80 percent of bread sold in the USA was sliced.

• Pre-sliced bread was banned in United States for a short time in 1943 as a wartime conservation effort.

• The Great Fire of London started at the bakery.

• Bread became a staple food during the Neolithic, around 10,000 years ago.

• The sandwich is named after John Montagu (1718-1792), the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who started a fashion of eating beef between two pieces of bread.

• Bread is usually baked but in some cuisines breads can be steamed, fried or boiled.

• On average, each American consumes 53 pounds of bread per year.

• Old wives tales tell that eating the bread crust makes a person’s hair curlier.

Germany has the largest consumption of bread per capita worldwide, followed by Chile.

• The automatic popup bread toaster was patented before the bread slicing machine.

Source: The History of Bread

Sprout Momma serves up more than just artisan breads. They also specialize in healthier items such as deli prepared salads, vegan cheeses and soups. Here are two great recipes from the Sprout Momma squad.

Almond Vegan Cheese

1 cup almonds, soaked overnight in filtered water
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste

After your almonds are soaked, the skins should just pop off. Put skinned almonds in a Vita Mix or blender and pulse. Add each ingredient one at a time to give it time to blend. This will take patience — scrape the sides of your blender and incorporate it all into a creamy consistency. [2] Now you have three choices in what to do next: 1). Leave it and enjoy as a spread, 2). Spoon it into a cheese cloth and refrigerate over night to allow all moisture to come out, or 3). If you have a dehydrator, pop it in a mold and dehydrate for 6 hours on 115 degrees, then it will have a rind.

Sweet Corn and Black-Eyed Pea Dip

1 red pepper
1 small tomato
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Chop red pepper and tomato into bite size pieces. [2] In a separate bowl place peas and smash them just a bit. You want them semi-creamy but enough whole for texture. [3] Add all the ingredients to the peas … easy and healthy! Season to your taste. [4] Serve with toasted Sprout Momma baguettes or over greens — yummy!

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