Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor

November 24, 2019

Going Against the Grain with Bread Club

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Correction: The Sun previously wrote the Bread Club’s founding was a mystery. This is not true; Jordan Greissman, a previous Bread Club president, responded: “Bread club was founded in January 2012 by Abby Golub, Sophie Griswold, Sara Hutchenson and Ben Feinson. Abby loved bread and had been baking a lot, so she figured she would invite people to join her and form a club. Originally they actually baked in her house’s kitchen before getting access to Stocking Hall. In ’14, Jeanne Powell took over, then me in ’17, Kevin Juarez-Leon in ’19, and now Elise.”

Roughly every other Wednesday at 5 p.m., a dozen or so Cornellians gather in 158 Stocking Hall. This room, however, isn’t your ordinary lecture hall. It’s a fully decked-out kitchen supplied with baking tools from loaf pans to whisks and furnished with four ovens. Every two weeks, Bread Club meets to bake a new type of bread from scratch.

The members of Bread Club aren’t always consistent, except for Elise Kronbichler ’21, the club’s president and a junior majoring in computer science. Elise picks each meeting’s recipe, which often hails from a different culture. In the past, she’s chosen to make apple kolaches, Mexican conchas, challah bread and most recently, pumpkin babka. The environment is low-key and students can come as often as they want.

“Every week, I just get to choose every type of bread I want to make. It’s a lot of power! I do take requests into consideration, though,” Elise said. When asked why she chooses the recipes she does, Elise added, “Occasionally I do like doing seasonal things, like pumpkin babka, but sometimes it just comes down to what I or other people in the club want to make.”

On average, the bread takes three to four hours from start to finish, which means that members — freshmen and seniors alike — often do work at the open seating next to the Dairy Bar while the bread is proofing or baking. So, if this club requires a proper time commitment, what motivates Cornellians to come?

Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor

Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor

Alara Dinc ’21, a junior in AEM who came to the pumpkin babka meeting, had made a goal to try new things at Cornell and wanted to meet new people outside of her major. For Alara, “the reaction, joy, satisfaction, the feeling of sharing something with someone and also seeing a tangible creation” is the most rewarding part of baking.

Like most sweet bread recipes, pumpkin babka calls for yeast, warm milk, butter, flour and eggs, among other ingredients. After making the basic dough, the bakers leave the bread to proof for at least an hour. The dough is then rolled out, filled with canned pumpkin and a variety of fall spices (cinnamon, cloves and the like) and is then twisted into a figure eight. The bread is then left to proof again before finally being brushed with an egg wash and being popped into the oven for another hour.

During the warmer weeks of Bread Club, a sizable portion of the bread was made to be sold. Elise explained, “[Bread Club] doesn’t receive funding for ingredients, so during the Farmers Market, we make a bunch of extra bread. We give out free samples and sell it on the Ag Quad. That’s basically how we fund our meetings.”

Despite the dedication that comes with running Bread Club, the club’s founding is a mystery. Having joined the September of her freshman year, Elise does not know how or when the club was created. After being asked why she became president, Elise said, “I really like that it’s a nice wholesome way to get rid of some stress; I stress break and procrasta-bake. Obviously eating [bread] is nice too but I just like the process and trying new recipes.” She then simplified it down to, “I just really love bread!”

Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor

Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor