Over the summer, baking wizard Jared Allen sold his brand, Proof Bread. Proof had a hard-won reputation for excellence. Allen crafted bread by way of laborious, old-school techniques such as natural leavening and long fermentations. Proof was bread the hard way. Following news of the sale, repeat Proof customers worried how quality would fare under new non-Allen ownership.
Well, new owners Jonathan Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid are doing Allen proud.
The husband-and-wife team — themselves longtime Proof customers — have continued to adhere to ancient bread-making traditions. Following the sale, Przybyl spent four weeks at Allen's side. He observed. He baked. He learned bread the hard way.
Proof 2.0 isn't all that different from its original incarnation. The new owners embrace the hard way, use Allen's starter, and still bake in a chaotic garage.
On a recent morning, flour hung in sunbeams coming into Proof's garage in Mesa.
Przybyl was busy moving from refrigerator to dough to oven, all while overseeing the workings of two other bakers. One was bagging sliced loaves. Another was baking vegan burger buns, putting ciabatta on cooling racks, and shaping a duffel-bag-size mass of dough into raisin-walnut loaf portions. The portions would proof in baskets before baking.
Przybyl eventually moved to his main task: rolling dough for 81-layer chocolate croissants.
It was almost 10 o'clock on Thursday morning. Proof was in the ninth hour of a baking spree that wouldn't end until the next morning, when loaves would arrive at Saturday farmers markets warm from the oven.
"This is the way bread was always made," Przybyl says of his methods.
There will be a few different Proof baked goods available at farmers markets. Sourdough. Chocolate croissants. Proof sells at the Phoenix Public Market, Gilbert Farmers Market, and at Agritopia on Wednesday nights. New as of Proof 2.0, the bakery distributes to three retail locations: Tempe Farmers Market, Mezona, and The Uprooted Kitchen.
Proof will be selling 20-plus baked goods at each of these groceries.
When you consider that sourdough's journey from starter to dough to rising to forming to proofing to baking lasts 30 hours, and when you consider that sourdough is just one baked good Proof offers, it's clear that putting out 20-plus old-school products will take a lot of time and coordination.
The garage operation is controlled chaos. The three bakers are busy, ovens hum, new dough is being shoved into the world at a rapid rate, and burnished loaves deck the cooling racks.
The first few months were spent mastering the processes, recipes, and techniques Allen had left. Since, Proof's new owners have settled in. They've gained a few restaurant accounts. They've expanded what Proof does in terms of offerings and availability.
Proof now has five bakers. (Somehow, Allen had worked alone.) Each was brought on following an extensive interviewing gauntlet with a doozy of a final exam: a pre-market dawn-to-dusk baking marathon.
Przybyl and Abot-Eid are baking a new line of rye bread sticks coated with caraway seeds and salt. They are doing three kinds of breadsticks with fruit and nuts: apricot-pistachio, cranberry-walnut, and chocolate-cherry-pecan. These are ideal for nibbling at farmers markets.
Przybyl and Abot-Eid have expanded into savory croissants and seasonal pastries.
They are experimenting with flours. They want to find a new local provider by year's end.
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They'll be upping the ingredient ante in other areas when possible. For one, they're swapping out mass-made chocolate for bars from DNA Chocolate in Chandler. DNA sources, roasts, and stone-grinds cacao. The provider even makes bars of a custom size to fit the folds of Proof's croissant dough.
How does that 81-layer chocolate croissant taste? I can't say. I only saw the rolling, cutting, folding, laminating, and very beginning of the proofing.
Proof's new owners are in the market for a brick-and-mortar spot (beyond a garage, that is). "We are exploring options for a place to call home, whether for retail or production," Pzrybyl says. It will be interesting to see how, given the slow, hard nature of good bread, Proof 2.0 will continue to grow.