When Amarillo Community Market arrived in downtown Amarillo this summer, one of the first stops for most visitors was the Our Daily Bread booth operated by Kristi and Gary Aragon. From one Saturday to the next, the couple’s handcrafted loaves of crusty, delectable bread sold out within the first hour. Kristi is a professional chef with Two Knives Catering – Our Daily Bread is a spin-off of the catering company – and says artisan bread has much greater depth of flavor than regular home-baked or mass-produced bread. That deliciousness comes at a cost, though. The artisanal baking process is much more complex. And every loaf at Our Daily Bread is baked in a special high-temperature bread hearth – the only one of its kind in Amarillo.
Artisan or not, Kristi believes bread makes a wonderful Christmas gift. “For me, a gift is best when it’s something that you made with your own hands and, in some cases, from a recipe that has been passed down for generations,” she says. “I truly believe that things taste better and you can tell when things are made with love.”
Bread has played a prominent role in human diets for centuries, and Aragon believes it should always be featured at the Christmas table. History is on her side. “If we go all the way back to biblical times, bread is one of the main things people did have to eat,” Aragon says. Back then, “breaking bread” together didn’t just refer to dining, but to the connections made between family and friends during mealtime. And in a pre-mass-production world, that relationship-building bread was always made by hand.
For this Christmas, she offered us a recipe for a versatile, soft yeast roll called Pan de Mie. Unlike Our Daily Bread’s artisan products, this kind of bread is much simpler to prepare. Aragon suggests using it for round rolls, clover rolls, or braided rolls.
Pan de Mie 994.75 grams all-purpose flour (about 8 cups) 24.85 grams kosher salt (4 teaspoons) 39.8 grams sugar (about 3 tablespoons) 49.75 grams dry milk (about 3 ½ tablespoons) 9.95 grams instant active yeast (about 3 teaspoons) 596.85 grams water (about 2 ½ cups) 179.05 grams butter (about ¾ cup)
Remove butter from refrigerator and pound with a rolling pin until soft. You won’t need to strike it more than 10 or 12 times. Make sure it can take the impression of your finger. Combine all ingredients except butter in bowl of stand mixer. Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes. Increase speed to medium, add half the softened butter, and mix for 1 minute. Add remaining softened butter and mix for an additional 5 minutes. All the butter should have disappeared into the dough, creating strength and suppleness.
Cover dough and let it ferment for 1 ½ hours, folding once after 45 minutes. Spray two cookie sheets; set aside.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and, with bench knife, cut dough into 80-gram pieces. (You will need a digital scale.)
Then roll them with your hand (tightly cupped) into balls to make round dinner rolls. You can also twist 80-gram pieces into ropes and braid dough to make a braided roll.
Or take 80-gram pieces cut into three smaller, equal-size balls and place into muffin tins to make clover rolls.
When you have all of the dough on greased cookie sheets in the shapes you desire, put them in a warm, draft-free area to proof for 1 hour to achieve full volume. If you wish, you can also egg wash the tops for shine. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (not on convection). Watch rolls as all ovens are different. When rolls come out of the oven, brush melted butter on tops. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Makes about 2 dozen rolls
Meet the Cook: Kristi Aragon of Two Knives Catering and Our Daily Bread
After 15 years in the medical field as a mammographer, Kristi Aragon began thinking about trying something different. She had always been into cooking and food – she describes herself and her husband, radiologist Gary Aragon, M.D., as “big foodie-type people” – and had taken a number of public cooking classes. Deciding to pursue a new career path, she enrolled at the acclaimed Cook Street School of Culinary Arts in Denver.
Upon finishing the program, Kristi joined forces with her long-time friend and neighbor, 17-year catering veteran Becky McKinley of Dining by Design. The two combined their skills to form Two Knives Catering, which they describe as a specialty “boutique” caterer that offers everything from custom menu planning to invitation and table design. Two Knives Catering operates out of a commercial kitchen at 5500 Bluebird St.
When Becky and Kristi first entertained the idea of a partnership, they considered what each would bring to the table. “We said, ‘What are the things we think are really important?’” Kristi remembers. “For me, it was artisan bread. You’ve been to restaurants and tasted really good bread and you wonder, ‘How do they get this bread?’ Any really, really good bread I thought was amazing and had the crustiness and depth that we really appreciated – it was artisan bread. That’s basically why I wanted to do it.” She laughs. “It was for a selfish reason. I wanted some good bread.”
Within a few weeks of opening Two Knives Catering in April of 2016, Kristi and Becky saw a new outlet for introducing the city to “good bread” – the launch of Amarillo Community Market. “[Baking artisan bread] is a long process and we were busy with several big events,” says Kristi. “So we really hadn’t been able to start on the bread yet.” Enter Gary Aragon. “My husband just really loved it and said, ‘I’m going to start making more bread.’” They came up with the name Our Daily Bread, reserved a booth at the market and, with Gary putting in long hours apart from his regular job, sold fresh-baked bread all but two weekends over the summer. “We were really excited that people received us so well. You wouldn’t believe the feedback. People would say ‘We haven’t had this kind of bread in Amarillo before. Where can we buy it?’ We just hadn’t thought that far yet.”
But they have today. Though plans are still being finalized, Two Knives Catering plans to open an Our Daily Bread storefront in early 2017. “Artisan bread has no preservatives. You maybe get two days out of it. But people eat it so fast you don’t have to worry about that,” she explains. That reality is baked right into the name – and the business model. “We like ‘Our Daily Bread’ in the biblical sense, but also because truly you have to go buy it every day to get good, quality bread.”
To prepare for Christmas, Our Daily Bread is assembling holiday gift baskets that will contain artisan bread, homemade soups, and various sweets – all packaged in beautiful hammered bowl sets. “That way, after the goodies are gone, you still have a beautiful bowl to keep and use for years to come,” Aragon says.
by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.