With everyone stuck at home, baking has become a popular activity. Shoppers are searching for flour and yeast with an intensity that rivals the search for toilet paper. Facebook posts are filled with queries for these hard-to-find ingredients.
Arturo Enciso bakes and sells Gusto’s artisan breads and pastries from his Long Beach home, but he also sells his flour and sourdough starter to individuals. Enciso said he loves having customers explore the craft; he said their experiences help them appreciate the time and work involved in baking.
“I’m happy to answer questions and help others learn,” Enciso said. “I’m a self-taught baker, so I understand the challenges and I want to be there to support them.”
Long Beach resident Kristin Colazas Rodriguez, who runs Colossus Bread + Pastry, has Michelin-star experience. She trained with Nancy Silverton at Mozza and worked as the pastry chef at Dominique Crenn’s Petit Crenn. Having shifted from storefront sales to delivery, she too has customers clamoring for baking supplies and advice. In addition to baked goods, Colossus now offers yeast, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sourdough starter for sale. Sourdough instructions are posted online.
“We are trying to support people in their baking projects at home,” Rodriguez said.
No longer operating as a sit-down brewery, Long Beach Beer Lab has pivoted to take-out, with curbside sales of baked goods, groceries, and beer.
“Before COVID, we were an experiential place,” said LB Beer Lab chef and co-owner Harmony Sage. “We wanted people to sit for hours and meet their neighbors over a beer and sourdough. Now we have turned our model into a grab and go experience.”
When customers pick up pizza and beer, they can also buy flour, eggs, yeast, and sourdough starter. In addition, they can purchase pre-packaged bread kits or pizza kits with all the ingredients needed for successful baking.
“Before I was a professional baker, I was a home baker and home brewer,” Sage said. “I think educating the public on how to do these things is very important.”
The brewery owners have also instituted a “Pay It Forward” program for healthcare workers. Customers can pre-pay for workers’ coffees, pastries, and breads at the Long Beach Bread Lab Café (on the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center campus).
“Every week, we are able to give out approximately 500 coffees, 300 pastries, and 100 breads,” Sage said.
Restauration also is working to support the community, with twice-weekly free lunches for the staff of closed bars. In addition, the restaurant helps home bakers by selling flour, eggs, yeast and bread kits.
“People of all ages are having fun with it,” owner Dana Tanner said. “Some people are even using bread-baking as a home-school activity.”
All-inclusive baking kits at Michaels Downtown have a distinctly Italian focus: pizza. Customers can also buy eggs and yeast for other baking projects. Executive chef Giuseppe Musso said he enjoys answering questions from anyone who wants to cook at home.
Pizza makers are also flocking to DiPiazza for dough.
“We go through quite a bit,” owner Steve Guillen said. “People are making pizza, but they’re also using our dough to make calzones and cinnamon buns. They’re really being creative with it.”
Bread bakers might be deterred by shortages in other parts of the country, but the lucky residents of Long Beach can find everything they need right here at our local restaurants.