by Remy Tumin
Inside the Scottish Bakehouse, Olivia Pattison is washing dishes, waiting for her breads to rise. A song by Journey blasts in the background and the kitchen crew is finishing up for the day. But Olivia is just settling in for the night in the back corner of the kitchen, pushing her clear-rimmed glasses up her nose with her shoulder as she plans out the baking schedule for the evening. Floured notes on green calendar pages list the day’s prep sheet on the counter nearby.
Welcome to the “Cinnamon Starship” headquarters, where Olivia’s new bread business is taking shape. (Cinnamon Starship is what she’s named the bread she bakes.) On this particular Sunday, Olivia is making 50 baguettes, 12 oatmeal buckwheat loaves, and 24 pain de lodève, her favorite–an unshaped baker’s bread.
“It’s simple, uninvolved, and fluffy,” says Olivia. “The whole point and tradition of the bread is that you’re meant to break it with friends. I like that idea.”
It’s also the first bread Olivia learned to make when she began baking.
“When I started here I didn’t have any baskets to shape the bread into,” she says. “It was a good problem solver, but it’s also a style of bread I think is really beautiful.”
The oatmeal buckwheat bread gets shaped into a round boule and the baguettes are shaped by hand. Both of these breads are 100 percent sourdough based; they use the same starter Olivia made three years ago at the Beach Plum restaurant.
“I haven’t fed my starter yet because I thought you might want to experience it,” she says, sticking her face into the quart container that was once full and now only has an inch or so of the starter left. “Stinky, powerful,” she says with a smile.
Olivia feeds the starter the day before a bake and again the morning of. Weather and environment are always a contributing factor in bread baking, she explains, and make every batch different. A bread starter is a mixture of water and flour; in order to keep it active and expand it for baking every day, Olivia’s starter eats a blend of white flour, wheat, rye, spelt, and water every day.
“The whole magic of the bread thing is there’s yeast everywhere, which is great, and we try to harness that but we also try to control it using time, temperature, and then salt,” Olivia explains.
Originally from Troy, New York, Olivia grew up in a family of Swedish bakers (her great-grandmother even taught cooking in Sweden). She learned to bake alongside her mother and grandmother.
“It flew down the women’s side of my family, really independent Swedish women, a long line of them,” she says. “They’re so bossy, and I’m so one of them.”
Olivia landed on the Vineyard a little more than 10 years ago. She worked an assortment of odd jobs including farming, scalloping, and landscaping, but eventually returned to baking.
“I got into baking professionally pretty much accidentally. I wanted to get into food in general because it felt like I had every job and food was the one thing I was really interested in,” she says.
Soon, she joined the Beach Plum team as the pastry chef and began making focaccia at the restaurant. During the winter after her first summer at the Beach Plum, Olivia decided she wanted to get better at this bread-making thing.
“I knew my ideas were good and I knew where I was going, but there were a lot of efficiency tricks to learn that could make my life way easier,” Olivia says.
So she headed west to California, where she interned at The Mill and Tartine Bakery. (She’s also spent time at the Berkshire Mountain Bakery and Il Buco Alimentari in New York City, where she learned what it meant to spread “the gospel” of bread). Now she too wants to help people eat better bread.
“If you think about the function of commercial yeast, that rises in one hour,” she says. “This bread is going to take three hours and a lot more of the gluten is being broken down in that time. Not to say it’s gluten-free, but it has been digested more. The first step your body goes through has already been done for you.”
This fall she’s working with Island-grown grains from Mermaid Farm, developing new flavor variations on the pain de lodève bread. She’s also working on the perfect rye and a 100 percent spelt bread.
“It’s hard finding balance between what I really want to eat and what people want to buy,” Olivia says. “With spelt, I love the flavor and it feels better.”
For Olivia, baking and bread making are both a science and an art.
“Once you understand a few key elements you can have as much fun as you like,” she says.
Olivia left the kitchen around 2 a.m. and headed home to her dog Milton. She ends every day the same way: drawing a different animal for her Tumblr page, Animal a Day.