Mahogany Browne is a poet, writer, organizer and educator. Recently, she became the first-ever poet-in-residence at the Lincoln Center in…
Award-winning baker Bryan Ford on drawing from his Honduran roots
Geoff Bennett: Time now for our weekend spotlight my conversation and some time spent in the kitchen, with award winning Baker and author Bryan Ford.
Bryan Ford catapulted to prominence during the pandemic's bread baking frenzy, inspiring millions with his blog and Instagram account full of innovative twists on sourdough bread baking, all while celebrating the baking cultures of Latin America. Bryan invited us into his home in Queens, New York. His kitchen is a baker's treasure trove complete of course with vats of pungent sourdough starter.
Bryan Ford: The most important part is just getting a nice whiff of it. So you got to don't be scared.
Geoff Bennett: Oh, wow. I got a little too close.
Bryan Ford: You got shook.
Geoff Bennett: Man.
His first cookbook released in the summer of 2020 New World Sourdough sold out its first printing that led to starring in his own cooking show baked in tradition on Chip and Joanna Gaines Magnolia Network.
Bryan Ford: All of a sudden, yes, like, people was just started baking and like, you already know, I only have to tell, y'all kept up with the news. It just became a whole thing. Everyone was baking bread.
Geoff Bennett: Bryan says he's been cooking and baking for as long as he can remember, ultimately finding his calling after leaving behind his career as an accountant.
What about baking sort of drew you in?
Bryan Ford: Man, baking is romantic. Baking is like -- it's like a meditation. It's simple. It's, you know, you don't have to be so precise. I mean, the dough is a living creature too. I mean, every single time you bake is different even if you use the same recipe to the tee. Every single time it's going to be different.
I mean, the temperature, variables and your emotions, your mood, how you feel gets translated into the dough. If you're having a bad day and you bake, you're going to make some bread that's probably not great. When you're having a great day your bread is going to be great.
Geoff Bennett: The child of Honduran immigrants, Bryan imparts lessons learned from cooking in his mother's kitchen.
Bryan Ford: My parents worked so hard and they came to this country and my mom put herself through school, she put herself through three different colleges to ultimately get her accounting degree when she was like 46.
Geoff Bennett: Wow.
Bryan Ford: During those days, when she was working hard, especially in the summertime, I would be home taking care of my little sister and I will cook for my mom, you know, because she was -- she wake up, she go to internship, and then go to school at night. You should come home exhausted.
Geoff Bennett: Yes.
Bryan Ford: Well, you know, and so I learned quickly from what she taught me how to cook.
Geoff Bennett: I read somewhere where you said that, you know, you go into any bakery across the country, and you're going to see croissants and baguette.
Bryan Ford: Yes, man. I love it. I love it.
Geoff Bennett: Why can't the same be true for --
Bryan Ford: I agree. 100 percent. And the reason I have that sentiment is not because I don't like the taste of croissants and baguettes. I think they taste great. Like most bakers, when I started, I was obsessed with making those things. When I was an accountant, I was like everyday perfecting croissants at home. It was like I've got to learn how to make croissants. That's like the, right, the gold standard.
Geoff Bennett: Yes.
Bryan Ford: But the fact remains that this kind of Western European ideology seems to permeate people's thoughts when they want to open a bakery and I'm trying to be more in touch with, you know, the indigenous people of the New World Latin America.
I mean, we are very, very beautiful people. We have beautiful baking traditions as well. I grew up in Sanitas, Rosqia (ph) is like you know I'm saying like delicious Dunkin coffee but everyone wants to just make some burritos. So we don't play when no burritos.
Geoff Bennett: But alfajores are a different story.
Bryan Ford: We're going to make some alfajores.
Geoff Bennett: OK.
Bryan Ford: Which is essentially one of the most popular cookies you'll find in Latin America.
Geoff Bennett: The recipe is simple cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks.
Bryan Ford: You can see here it's creamy, smooth. That's kind of the base.
Geoff Bennett: Incorporate the dry ingredients.
Bryan Ford: I've got a little bit of salt, some baking powder, I've got white flour, I've got whole grain flour and most importantly, I have cornstarch.
Geoff Bennett: Lastly, add some vanilla extract and lemon zest, roll the dough, chill it and bake the cookies until they're barely brown.
Bryan Ford: We're going to check the bottom very carefully. That's a beautiful color.
Geoff Bennett: Spread on some dosa de leche, sandwich them together and roll them in shredded coconut.
Bryan Ford: And now we have --
Geoff Bennett: That's great. Oh, wow, that's great.
Bryan Ford: Yes.
Geoff Bennett: I'm wearing it though.
Bryan Ford: You make them for the kid. I'm saying making quick, some fun you can do.
Geoff Bennett: Yes.
Bryan Ford: Teach a little bit about some history, some Latin American history and he's something --
Geoff Bennett: Yes, absolutely
Through his baking, Bryan encourages explorations.
Bryan Ford: I think people just focus on the wrong aspects of baking aesthetic stuff, instead of focusing on flavor, focusing on the fact that you made something with your own two hands that you should be proud of, like focusing on sharing what you made with your friends and family. Those things should be first and foremost. Then you can start like oh well it doesn't have the big air pockets and you know all that kind of thing. People get obsessive about crumb structure, which is just crazy. This is bread.
Imagine like ancient civilizations when they started making bread that you imagine them sitting down be like damn inside don't look good, man.
Geoff Bennett: Throw it out and start over.
Bryan Ford: What did I do wrong?
Geoff Bennett: It takes some trial and error as Bryan Ford to redefines what artisan baking can and should be.
Bryan Ford: I'm just saying I tried to focus specifically on Latin American baking, tapping into my culture and my experiences and trying to make the best possible breads and pastries around and just a lot of patience. A lot of time down here in the kitchen. And a lot of messes to clean up.
Geoff Bennett: Bryan show baked in tradition can be streamed on the Magnolia app Discovery Plus and on Apple TV.