Barak Olins spends two full days (and nights) a week in a sparse, modern barn on top of a knoll in Freeport making the kind of breads that his loyal customers are perfectly happy to shell out anywhere from $6 to $12 a loaf for (for $12 you get something that looks big enough to power a tricycle). Right now he sells only on Saturdays in Brunswick, either at the farmers market at Crystal Spring Farm (spring, summer and fall) or at the Brunswick Winter Market Fort Andross. If you’re lazy (like us) and don’t arrive until after 11 a.m., you might think he makes only two kinds of bread. Not so. He arrives with maybe a half-dozen varieties, classic biscotti and a load of pastries made from croissant dough. But don’t expect to see those pastries after 10 a.m. – they sell out.
HOW SATURDAY MORNINGS BEGIN: The 46-year-old is up at 5 a.m., baking pastries with raisins or almonds, pain aux raisins and pain aux amandes. “They’re still warm when I get to the market,” he says.
HOW THEY END: With Olins driving back home to wife and kids (ages 5 and 7) in Portland, the bread all but gone, but his car full of produce and the week’s worth of groceries from his friends at the farmers market.
THE FIRST SIGN OF A LIFE IN FOOD: When he turned 8, his parents gave him a fry pan and a Japanese cookbook. Not long after he had a subscription to (the long defunct) Cuisine magazine.
HOW HE GOT STARTED PROFESSIONALLY: He and friends owned a café in Portland (in the spot where Petite Jacqueline is now) in the 1990s. Olins did the baking. That’s where he began to think seriously about bread.
WHAT IS THE LATEST? A wheat bread with raisins. He mills his own whole wheat and rye flours, buying white flour only from Somerset Mill in Skowhegan. He’s survived the Atkins diet craze and is riding out the gluten-free era, his faith in the importance of whole grains intact.
ON HIS BOOKSHELF: Cookbooks by Marcella Hazen, Nigel Slater and Fergus Henderson. He’s drawn toward recipes for soups, stews, any dish that goes well with bread. Naturally. And he loves Jamie Oliver’s books for their simplicity. When he’s spent two days milling, mixing and baking and a third selling, the last thing he wants is more prep time in the kitchen at home.
WHAT HE DOES ON THE SIDE: He makes art, although parenthood and a busy baking schedule have cut into his studio time. The entry way to his bakery in Freeport is hung with paintings (ovens feature prominently) and a mixed medium piece.
WHAT HE WANTS TO DO NEXT: Move the bakery to Portland and expand enough so he could sell at other farmers’ markets. But he won’t abandon his stand in Brunswick. “Brunswick has always been an incredibly supportive community.”
THE ULTIMATE PAIRING OF HIS PRODUCTS: A slice served with cold butter and a glass of wine.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BAKING LOCAL: Ideally, he uses all flours and grains grown in Maine. He believes that’s how bread comes to be unforgettable, reflecting a place and its personality. But it’s a process. “I say that the very best wheat I ever used was Maine grown,” Olins said, as he watched a dough made with Maine rye grown in Aroostook County spin and take shape. “But probably the very worst wheat I have ever used was Maine grown.”
THE LAST TIME HE BOUGHT BREAD: He laughs. “Not that long ago,” he said. When the family is traveling, they’ll buy bread. “And sometimes we’ll buy bagels.”