Rockaway Resident Named World’s Best Bread Baker

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Rockaway Beach resident, Sarah Owens, is definitely not loafing around. This radical baker, award-winning cookbook author, and proprietor of wholesale locally-based, Ritual Fine Foods, went against the grain, and won the first-ever Tiptree World Bread Awards, a competition, organized with the British Food is GREAT program and supported by American Bakers Association (ABA), that gathered the stars of the bread-baking world, contending for the throne of upper crust.

Owens beat competition from loaves sent in from around the U.S., delivered by courier and in person on the morning of the judging at Brooklyn’s Dumbo Loft on November 14. She won both her wholemeal/wholewheat category and the overall competition for best bread, and walked away with a Tiptree hamper, a trophy and $1,000.

The award ceremony was hosted by Stephen Hallam, master baker, managing director of Dickinson & Morris in England, and chair of the judges. “The field was incredibly competitive,” says Hallam, whose fellow judges, more than 30 of them, included legendary bakers Zachary Golper of Bien Cuit, Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread, and David and Tracey Zabar of Zabars, the historic NY food emporium.

Owens launched Ritual Fine Foods (RFF) in 2010. RFF’s website (www.ritualfinefoods.com) states: “Owen’s enthusiasm for sourdough stems from her own digestive intolerances and fond memories of baking with the women of her family. By using extended-fermentation and soaking methods to activate enzymes in the seeds, whole grains, and stone ground flours, she can not only eat, but also enjoy her own breads.”

Originally a professional ceramic artist and trained horticulturist at the New York Botanical Garden's School of Professional Horticulture, Owens founded RFF as a way to bring back nourishing, wholesome, and craveable bread using stone ground heirloom grains and heritage ingredients whenever possible.

In 2015, Owens wrote, “Sourdough: Rustic Recipes for Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories and More.” In 2017, her second book, “Toast and Jam: Modern Pairings for Rustic Baked Goods and Sweet and Savory Spreads,” won the James Beard prize, an accolade given out to those in the cuisine, culinary education and culinary writing arenas. Her next book “Heirloom: Time Honored Techniques, Nourishing Traditions, and Modern Recipes” will be released in September 2019.

As quoted recently in an article on QNS.com, Owens said, “Obviously there is some skill by the baker…but I have to attribute (the win) to using very, very good northeast stone-ground flour and that is what I think makes my bread good enough to be an overall winner…It’s a testament that in the northeast, we have the ability to make really great bread because we have an incredible community of talent behind us,” Owens said. “It’s not just me, it takes a lot of people to make a loaf of bread.”

If you want to grab your hands on Owens’ tasty bread, visit Cuisine by Claudette and Edgemere Farm. Also note that RFF also specializes in an assortment of baked goods, seasonal jams, and holds workshops sharing methods of natural leavening, fermentation and preservation.

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