If you’ve been meaning to learn how to bake bread, now is the time. Sarah Owens, author of the brilliant Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More, will be teaching a series of workshops at The Castle in Rockaway Beach. This isn’t your usual space: The guest house offers up bay views, a sauna and locally made Goldies toiletries. A visit for a bread-baking workshop sounds like the perfect semi-staycation, right? (Tip: It would also work as an excellent Mother’s Day gift.) Here, we learn a bit more about Owens’s history as a teacher and how this collaboration came about.
Edible Brooklyn: How long have you been teaching?
Sarah Owens: I have been teaching sourdough workshops in various locations since 2013 when I started writing Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More. I now use this volume as a textbook for hands-on learning and will also reference my upcoming title, Toast & Jam, in workshops so that participants can get a direct experience with the recipes. I love traveling and have become accustomed to taking my show on the road, but am really excited to finally have an easily accessible workshop and production space!
EB: When did you get involved with The Castle?
SO: When I moved to and fell in love with the eclectic community of Rockaway Beach last year, I was introduced to David Selig by a mutual friend. Growing up in Paris, he developed an insatiable appetite for crusty bread and so of course we became fast friends. My quest for a more permanent location to bake and teach led me to he and his wife’s property, The Castle. Truthfully, though, I think David’s motivation for facilitating my roots in Rockaway stems from wanting unlimited access to quality baked goods!
EB: Why is this a great place for the workshops?
SO: The Castle is an ironic name, but serves as an edifice to Tuscany and its farm fields lush with grains and other edibles; The Castle came from Italy by barge in 1912 and was rebuilt where it now stands on Beach 117th Street with stunning views overlooking Jamaica Bay. The Castle’s enduring walls have housed meals for centuries on two continents! As someone who folds timeless tradition into my recipes, it is not only an appropriate venue but also a pretty romantic place to bake naturally leavened bread.
It is now tastefully appointed as a guesthouse that feels so relaxed and breezy yet is situated only an hour from Manhattan or Brooklyn by subway, car or the new ferry. I often get requests from people in other states or countries to offer workshops and, thankfully, The Castle is also in close proximity to JFK. Guests can come for the day or rent the comfortable rooms for a longer stay.
The Baking Atelier in The Castle is nicely appointed with custom fabricated maple-top work benches, a large sink, plenty of heirloom and stone-ground flours, an oven that can accommodate up to 12 loaves in a single bake, and soon a mill. This setup is perfect for small groups wanting to learn the process from scratch or for more experienced bakers who wish to hone their craft.
EB: Who should be taking your classes?
SO: The curious, the hungry and those willing to invest a little time into knowing how their food is produced. Bread made with quality ingredients and communal intention is such a basic staple of any society. When we turned it over to factory farms and mass production, we unfortunately lost connection with its flavor, digestibility and nutrition. Everyone should know how bread is made and those of us who want to eat foods made by the most trusted hands can glean a better appreciation for its process through a hands-on experience at The Castle. My workshops are geared toward the home baker who is excited to make bread for themselves or their family with mindfully sourced ingredients. I am offering a wide range of experiences this summer and fall, from more introductory one-day workshops to weekend-long immersive getaways. Private classes for groups of friends are also available upon request. All experiences will be filled with meals made with locally sourced produce from Edgemere Farm.