There’s that iconic scene in the movie Ghost, when Patrick Swayze sits behind Demi Moore at the pottery wheel as they sensually shape a lump of clay into an obvious metaphor. I remember watching that movie and thinking two things during this scene.
- I hate this movie so much.
- That should be bread dough.
Maybe it’s my sensory issues, but there’s nothing sexy about wet clay. It’s just going to dry up and crackle debris all over the floor, but not before you slop it all over the place as bits drip off your hands and arms. But bread: that would have been something. If you’ve never made bread, you ought to try it at least once. A properly formed dough will have a similar feel and elasticity to bare flesh, and you don’t just work the dough: you knead it. It’s primal and basic in all the right ways, and you’ve got to put your whole body into the motion, leaning into it, massaging it while the aroma of flour and yeast wafts its way into your nostrils. The pleasure of the act itself isn’t decreased a single bit, whether you get a bun in the oven or not. And while you might be thinking that my comparison is here is a bit overwrought, when you read through the story of Sydney’s Sonoma bakery you start to notice a few things in the choice of language. It’s no coincidence that owner Andrew Connole uses words like “burning passion,” “deep intensity,” and “desire” as he describes his family’s journey from people who loved bread to artisan bakers crafting delicious sourdough loaves by the car-load.
Sonoma was born of Connole’s father’s nostalgia for a bakery he’d hung out in as a child. Though his dad wanted to restore the bakery and get to work making and selling bread, Andrew convinced him to take it a step further and go with sourdough, which is different than your standard yeasted bread. An ordinary loaf of bread is a straightforward process of science: add everything in the right proportions and the yeast will do its thing to make the dough rise. Sourdough, with its reliance on the yeast that naturally occurs in the flour and in the air, requires a lot more experimentation, more give and take between baker and dough. To continue the analogy, then, yeasted bread is something you’d learn in your high school sex-education class, while sourdough requires you to read through the Kama Sutra. To learn from the masters, Connole traveled to San Franciso in 1998 and, as he put it, “immersed [himself] in the sourdough baking community,” a phrase which sounds ridiculous until you remember that he was in San Francisco, where they’ve got a community for every type of artisanal endeavor you can think of. There, Connole studied the process from a guy named Chad Robertson, the Vatsayana of sourdough bread. Fast forward 16 years, and Sonoma bread operates 6 stores in Sydney while also delivering directly to restaurants, specialty food shops, and cafes.
The Sonoma cafes each carry more than a baker’s dozen varieties of sourdough bread—from classic boules to baguettes and ciabattas—as well as pastries, sandwiches, muesli, and coffee. And while all of the deliciousness they serve is the result of old world techniques, patience, and time, the front end experience at Sonoma is entirely modern. As we’ve learned, Andrew Connole does not take his business lightly; for him, Sonoma is a very personal undertaking, wrapped up in family, nostalgia, and love of the craft. His decisions aren’t typical bottom-line justifications. “We’ve never aimed to be Sydney’s biggest sourdough bakery,” he wrote on their website, “just the most respected.” That’s why it’s so validating for us that he chose Kounta to be his Point of Sale. There’s something tremendously rewarding about his looking at our software and seeing it as an ideal fit for the vision he and his family had for Sonoma, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of their extended family.
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