Signal Fire Bread is a one-woman project, propelled by Erin Detrick, and supported by family, friends, and neighbors. The bakery currently operates out of my home-processor-registered kitchen in Cold Spring.
In 9th grade, my chemistry class science fair project was on the effects of ingredient variables on the outcome of a loaf of bread. What happens if you don't add the salt? Use milk instead of water? Before my presentation, I baked loaves to demonstrate some of my findings and brought them all in to class. The scientific rigor was dubious, but everyone sure did enjoy my project.
I started baking bread somewhat more seriously at home when I moved to New York City to pursue my career in non-profit theater and literary management. A few years into my dream job in the non-profit theater world, I started to realize I couldn't see a future in theater that was very fulfilling to me. My work was all about support, and I wanted to make tangible things. I gave my notice and took an internship on the weekends with Runner and Stone bakery/restaurant. One week before my last day in theater, I got a full-time job at the bakery for Daniel Boulud's restaurant group.
I worked harder there than I ever had, failed constantly, and slowly started to learn how to move in a kitchen, how to touch dough, how to shape it, mix it, cut it, bake it. And despite a schedule that upended my familiar routines, low pay, and some repetitive stress injuries, I knew I'd found my thing. A combination of craft, practice, science, aesthetics and artistry, in an environment that requires fast-paced moving and thinking, all day long. I joined She Wolf Bakery a year later, where I became sous chef, and worked and co-led the team in all areas of production over the course of three-plus years. After five years of baking professionally, I moved out of the city and up the Hudson River to live in a community that's reminiscent of my childhood home in Kentucky, and brings me closer to the farmers and millers supplying the grain I work with.
Baking bread combines my love for work that has a physical outcome with science and observation. The moment you stop paying attention, that's when the dough stops working with you. The moment you think you have it figured out, something changes. And every day you build it from scratch, the preferment that you feed daily acting as a connecting thread. Every day offers a new opportunity.
I get crazy joy from making something that's beautiful to hold, delicious, and nourishing. I love sharing bread with people. I love that it's one of our oldest, bedrock foods as humans, and I love the magic of seeds, grains of wheat manifesting themselves in this wholly altered, gorgeous way. There's so much transformation in the baking process: grains milled into flour, flour mixed with water and salt, long protein strands forming the matrix that is gluten, huge tubs of dough divided and shaped into uniform loaves, ovens turning raw dough into majestic, fragrant bread. I love reawakening people to what real, fresh bread is, and seeing how deeply people connect with it.