It started with a desire for a hobby and a little help from the folks at Boulted Bread. And now, it has grown into, well, a more refined hobby. For Sean Malone, it’s simply about baking sourdough bread and giving it away to people who appreciate it.
“I’ve only been doing this for not quite a year,” says Malone, who, in his day job, is president and CEO of the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy, the nonprofit which supports fundraising efforts for Dix Park. Standing in his kitchen, dressed in a blue apron with a wooden Lazy Susan standing by, Malone is waiting to take the next step in his baking process. “Part of why I love it as a hobby is learning everything from scratch.”
Malone, who didn’t know anything about baking sourdough at the beginning, found help and inspiration from the Instagram community. He watched what bread influencers did, copied their methods and eventually created his own Instagram handle, @sean.of.the.breads. Through tips and tricks from his online community, Malone’s bread-baking skills have grown.
“I started scoring with a knife, which was terrible,” says Malone about the patterns he creates on the tops of his breads. “Then, I tried holding a razor blade, but then I was holding a razor blade by hand,” he laughs. Malone found his way to the page of a Connecticut bake shop, Wire Monkey, on Instagram and discovered a bread lame, a simple tool to hold the razor blade. With the lame and a box of 100 razor blades in his cabinet, his scoring became a lot easier.
“I started finding out all of these great things about sourdough home baking and I wanted to be part of that conversation and join the community,” Malone says.
Today, Malone is on day three of his baking, a process some may consider tedious. The first day is dedicated to feeding the starter, the ingredient that breathes life into the bread. Day two is all about building the dough, which requires Malone to mix it all by hand, let it sit, stretch and fold, and then shape it over 7-8 hours. The last day is the baking day, two loaves at a time in his oven. Malone bakes five loaves of sourdough every weekend; he gives four away to those on his bread rotation, or waiting list, and he keeps one loaf for his family. His rotation of bread recipients has grown from about 35 to close to 80.
“I love the giving away nature of it and it’s a great way to share with all of our Triangle pals,” says Malone.
Indeed, much of Malone’s life has been centered around giving. From his years in philanthropy to his current position with the Conservancy, he loves engaging with the community.
“I get to spend all of my time with people dedicating themselves to something important,” says Malone. “All of the places I have worked have been focused on place. Places around ourselves shape who we are, as a person or as a community.”
While Malone baked New Year’s Day bread for the Conservancy and likes to throw a Hot Brown sandwich party the day after Thanksgiving, where friends bring Thanksgiving leftovers and throw them all together in sandwiches made from his bread, Malone doesn’t have any lofty plans for his sourdough. He’s simply working on growing his knowledge of the process.
“People said it was complicated,” says Malone. “It’s not as complicated as they said, but there’s so much to get your hands around and so much to learn. I’m still far away from being anything but a home baker who’s having a good time.”