This year, before I made my annual (at least) road trip down to my old home, Asheville, NC, I made sure that on our lengthy list of places to see in our short 2-day stay, paying a visit to Tara Jensen in Marshall, NC was at the top of the list.
Tara Jensen is the face behind the ever-so-inspiring, Smoke Signals Baking -- a small wood fired bakery specializing in naturally leavened breads, and pastries/pies using all organic and seasonal ingredients -- all done by hand. Back in December when I was seeking out a baking apprenticeship for the coming year, I discovered the beginnings of her amazing project -- combining visual arts, writing, photography into her practice to create a beautiful thriving culture around bread and baking -- and I've been following along ever since.
Set amongst tall green mountains, a nearby winding stream, and the pastoral charms of Marshall, arriving on the Smoke Signals property was immediately enlivening -- I was snapping photos within the first 3 minutes, using up nearly an entire roll of film.
Our visit with Tara was short, a strong, sweet spirit, she gave us a brief tour, and then trusted us with her space as she ran into town to drop off her breads at the nearby market. In the meantime we explored the space -- the beautiful brick oven complete with rocking chair and string lights, the kitchen table spread with pie, bread samples, fresh herbs, linoleum cut prints hanging to dry in the front, and a rack full of fresh bread. We sat in front of the fire and split a slice of the most delicious sweet potato pie, leaving money for the one and only Plowman's loaf-- a hearty naturally leavened bread made with pastry wheat, 90% hydration and 25% culture, which I'm still sure is my favorite bread I've had on this coast to date. After eating naturally leavened bread nearly everyday during my time in British Columbia, I didn't realize how much I missed it until I got a taste of this soft, sour bread, with a perfectly crusty crust.
Tara returned, gave us directions to a swimming hole nearby, and that Plowman's loaf sustained us from the nearby Marshall stream to the remainder of our road trip back up the east coast.
If you're ever in the Asheville area, be sure to stop by and pay a visit! You can find details for openings, and other lovely gatherings such as pizza nights and decorative pie making classes on her site!