Rose Lawrence, the 29-year-old co-owner of Culver City’s new Red Bread bakery, talks about sourdough with the dramatic flair of a former law student—one who has the same passion for human rights work as she does for a damn fine loaf. “I love sourdough bread—the crust, the crumb. It’s so elemental.”
Lawrence was drawn to the oven by the art of natural fermentation, a process that sourdough purists, eschewing commercial yeast, rely on to enhance the bread’s distinctive tang. She lets the dough rise for a leisurely 24 hours before baking—a long period, even for a sourdough aficionado. “But if it’s too sour, the dough is overproofed,” she says. The result is a subtle, earthy loaf that shows off the interplay of toasted organic grains and a malty taste.
Yet Lawrence’s sourdough devotion is not solely flavor driven. Her boules hint at a new era of artisanal baking in L.A., one that embraces the age-old idea of a guildlike community. That means not just breaking bread with customers, but also sharing expertise. Patrons eager to embark on their own experiments can take home a free nub of Lawrence’s “mother”—the bread’s wild-yeast starter. The graduate of the University of California’s Master Food Preservers extension program also hosts after-hours classes.
Lawrence and her husband, David, launched Red Bread in 2012 as a Venice-based online bakery with a hyperlocal bent. (They still deliver to Westside neighborhoods by bicycle.) When they decided to open a storefront, the community rallied, raising about $25,000 via the fund-raising site Kickstarter. The couple’s brick-and-mortar shop, which opened in July, is akin to a neighborhood grocery, with sundries, dairy products, and produce.
“If I use the same ingredients to make bread in Venice and Hollywood, the loaves are going to taste different,” she says, referring to the way a starter reacts to microclimates. “That’s the true beauty of really good local sourdough.”
Red Bread, 13322 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, 424-272-5752 or thebreadisred.com.