A bakery, like a secondhand bookstore or woodwinds repair shop, is something you do because you're drawn to it.
The underlying principle is the preservation of spirit, not accumulation of profit. Durham has a panopoly of successful craft bakeries—Daisycakes, Monuts Donuts, Scratch, Loaf, Ninth Street, plus many fantastic panaderías and pastelerías. The Bull City's eminence as undisputed title holder can be a sore spot for Raleigh.
"Why do I have to go to Durham for food?" you hear residents complain, rightly indignant that their smaller neighbor has so effortlessly lapped the capital city.
While the opening of Oakwood's Yellow Dog Bread Company was a beachhead for Raleigh, now comes a new challenger, Boulted Bread, lest Durham get complacent.
Hidden on the fringe of Boylan Heights beside a Muhammad Study Group and a car-detailing place, Boulted has a rolling garage door front entrance and a cute community garden spanning the length of the parking lot.
Although it opened just three months ago, Boulted is already supplying some of the best restaurants in Raleigh—Stanbury, Fiction Kitchen, Gravy, Mandolin, 18 Seaboard and Capital Club 16, among others—proof that the city takes care of its own. Even though Boulted doesn't have regular hours yet (it will open five days a week in mid-August) the bakery is building a loyal base of customers. Some order online and buy its goods at Raleigh's Wednesday City Farmers Market. Others are curious pedestrians who pass by the slick storefront.
Raleigh has become an attractive place for boomerang millennials to return home. Boulted's three owners Sam Kirkpatrick, Fulton Forde and Joshua Bellamy, grew up in Raleigh, took the long journey of prodigal sons, and now in their early 30s, have finally returned to put down roots.
Kirkpatrick, a former English teacher at Broughton High School, runs the business side. Forde and Bellamy are bakers.
Forde and Kirkpatrick went to middle school together and were living in Asheville when the Boulted plan began to take shape. "We were having lots of fun," Kirkpatrick says, "But it was time to leave. Our girlfriends wanted to go back to school. We were very excited about reconnecting with this idea of what home means, we wanted to work on community."
Forde, bearded, with a tattoo of North Carolina on his bicep, learned how to bake while volunteering on an organic farm in Brittanny, France.
"I was out there fucking around with sheep, and the people running the farm had a little bakery. It wasn't very good bread. But it was a good place to learn the basics."
- Photo by Justin Cook
- A portrait of Boulted’s bread, Raleigh
From there, he refined his skills at the lauded Farm & Sparrow bakery in Candler. Forde met Bellamy at a bread festival, and hit it off with him when he found out they were both from Raleigh. Bellamy had gone to culinary school in Vermont and had worked at Vermont's Elmore Mountain Bread, which had a relationship with Farm & Sparrow. "They both had this certain oven. And they would commiserate over the details," Bellamy says.
Bellamy had a kid and ended up in Hillsborough, working the night shift at Weaver Street Bakery. "It was rough. It was always going to be someone else's bread. You had to work in this corporate structure."
Bellamy started coming to Raleigh on weekends to help the two old friends hunt for a storefront.
Eventually, they found a cheap, rundown spot on West South Street that had been for rent for two years. People said they needed an architect, an urban designer, that they needed to hire consultants and contractors, but they built out the place themselves. Now people come by and tell them the neighborhood is "up-and-coming."
"We're not underneath a ton of money. We're going to build slowly," Forde says.
They have an "insanely limited amount" of machinery compared to most bakeries, he adds. "It's like the 1400s in here, except for our spaceship oven."
They even have a mill—yes, an old-timey mill, like something out of medieval England, so they can grind their own flour and rye. Forde is quick to point out its not a hipster gimmick. "You can taste the difference between the flour that's been sitting in a sack for a couple of days. We can grind it and use it the same day."
Boulted does just five, very distinct breads—a levain (a kind of sourdough), rye, seeded levain+ (sourdough), ciabatta, and a baguette. They use locally sourced, heirloom ingredients—heirloom meaning a strain of wheat that has been used to make bread for hundreds of years. Boulted also uses wheat called red turkey, imported from Kansas—the grain was one of the first in the U.S. cultivated for bread. "We use it not because it's old and artisanal, but because it just tastes better," Forde says.
The Kansas import will suffice until they grow their own heirloom grains—they currently have a field planted with a wheat called red fife in Tyner, near Edenton. They hope all the ingredients in their breads eventually will be grown in North Carolina.
It takes Boulted around 40 hours to make a batch of bread. "It's an old, slow process. It's passive," says Bellamy. The owners seem happy and laid back, doing what they love—the process is clearly therapeutic for them.
I am not a professional food writer suited to lengthy description of the quality of their products, but I will say that their bread is very, very good. When Boulted goes to five days a week in August, with coffee and pastries, it's easy to imagine the bakery being the harbinger of gentrification in the neighborhood—which they seem mixed about. But they do seem very happy having taken a risk on their dream.
"It's something you can work on over the course of days. It teaches you to be patient," Bellamy says. "Seeing how the simple ingredients, flour, salt, yeast and water, can be turned into this living, delicious thing that people enjoy."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Slow rising."