All You Knead: The Simplicity of Bread

December 15th, 2023
Lauren Leone
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Meet Simply Bread Co customer Kevin Grenz (@MeloBread)

All You Knead: The Simplicity of Bread

December 15th, 2023
Lauren Leone
Read Time: 5 Minutes

On a seven-acre farm in Readington Township, New Jersey, Lisa Allen is providing bread to her local community. She’s a self-taught artisan baker, and her micro bakery, All You Knead, is everything she could ever want.

Bonding Over Bread

Lisa, a wife, mother of five, and new grandma, started her micro bakery in 2020, but her love for baking started in her childhood: “My mom is a big baker, and both my grandparents were from Italy,” she said. “I grew up with bread being the centerpiece of all Sunday Italian dinners, which were very much part of our lifestyle growing up."

When her son expressed interest in learning how to bake bread in 2019, Lisa took the opportunity to learn herself. She gifted him beginner baking books and a banneton and purchased herself all the baking essentials. “He was living far away at the time, so I thought it’d be kind of a fun thing to do over FaceTime together,” said Lisa. “I just fell in love with the whole thing, I loved the process,” she said. “I loved working with my hands because it felt creative”.

“There’s something about the dimpling of the dough and adding fresh ingredients that’s therapeutic,” she said. “I love shaping and scoring anything, that’s repetitive and meditative,”. Like many other cottage bakers, Lisa began making so much bread while practicing that she started giving it away. As a result, people kept coming back, asking for more.

When it came time to name her micro bakery, Lisa took the question to her family text chat to get their input. When someone suggested All You Knead, she knew it was perfect for her micro bakery, capturing the essence of simplicity and quality ingredients. “I just loved it because all I needed was simple ingredients, nutritious ingredients,” said Lisa.

Farm to Oven

Lisa began to bake pizza dough, sourdough loaves, sourdough focaccia, morning buns, and even pretzels. Her secret to all these recipes? Not cutting corners when it comes to using the freshest organic ingredients. And many of those fresh ingredients are coming straight from Lisa’s farm.

“If you order a jalapeno cheddar sourdough loaf, you’re gonna get a sourdough chock full of fresh jalapenos and freshly shredded cheddar cheese,” said Lisa. “I feel like that level of care and attention is what sets my products apart from what somebody else’s doing,”.

Inspired by her husband’s family's organic vegetable farm, Lisa added her freshly baked bread to the family’s self-serve farmstand at the end of the driveway. She set her breads up on the stand once a week and watched them sell out within an hour. To meet the growing demand, Lisa increased her output and started selling her bread two days a week.

“I started receiving orders over Venmo and email, and it’s just grown from there,” she said.

Rising to New Heights

To handle her growing orders, Lisa follows a set schedule to keep her micro bakery running smoothly. On Monday and Tuesday, she feeds her starters and grocery shops for ingredients for her weekly menu. Wednesday, her alarm is set for 6 am, and her day is spent prepping, shaping, and folding all of her dough. Thursday has another early start and is spent baking and packaging everything.

Relying on the equipment of her home kitchen, Lisa completed her orders three loaves at a time in her oven for almost three years.“I was making about 100 loaves a week, and during the holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, 100 a day,” she said. It wasn’t until Lisa noticed that the labor of baking was taking a toll on her body, that she decided she needed a change. With three weekly chiropractor appointments and surgery on her thumb, Lisa started looking into lessening the load on her body and investing in some baking equipment.

“It was the pivotal moment where I had to ask myself, ‘What is this? How long do I want to do this?’, and I really had to think about it,” she said. With some encouragement from her husband and family, Lisa researched different ovens before purchasing the Simply Bread oven.

“I love my Simply,” she said. “It’s allowed me to bring my bake times down by 75%,”.

Finding the balance between her home kitchen and micro bakery kitchen has been the least of her worries. Lisa’s biggest challenge so far has been learning the micro bakery business model. “I’m not a businesswoman,” said Lisa. “I’ve never owned my own business, and I’ve never really worked for a small business,”.

“I really created this entire brand from scratch with no background or expertise in doing it,” she said. “Feeling a little imposter syndrome has been a bit of a challenge as well,”.

For every challenge that’s arisen, Lisa has also seen success with her micro bakery, like getting her loaves into a local restaurant and elementary school. “It’s always a success when I blow past a market sales record, right?” said Lisa. “Those are the things that always wow me,”. But the most rewarding and fulfilling thing for Lisa has been gaining the community she shares with her customers, centered around the thing she loves most.“Especially my customers that have been with me from the beginning, I know their names, I know things about their family and I like to greet them on my front porch,” she said.

She shared it’s the feedback from her customers that she appreciates the most. She enjoys seeing the excitement as her customer's children come running up to her porch eagerly awaiting her loaves.

A memorable customer interaction was receiving a pretzel ornament for her Christmas tree last year, or the many tiny gifts her customers will give her as a way of saying thanks for all she does. “All You Knead customers are the best customers,” said Lisa. “I’m sure all cottage bakers feel that way,”.

Baking Wisdom

When asked about giving advice to aspiring micro bakers, Lisa offered her words of encouragement and some of the life lessons she’s picked up along the way. “Don’t get caught up in your head that it seems overwhelming,” she said. “Reach out to people online because cottage bakers are so willing to share tips,”. She also stressed the importance of patience, letting go of perfection, and embracing the messiness of bread making.“Your dough acts differently every day, so you have to be accommodating and flexible,” said Lisa. “It really gives you good life lessons if you listen to it,”.

As for the future, Lisa hopes to one day pass down her micro bakery to one of her children to carry on the All You Knead legacy. But for now, she’s focused on connecting with her customers and staying true to her dedication to quality ingredients and quality products.

Lisa’s journey from a self-taught baker to the owner of a thriving micro bakery shows the endless possibilities that unfold when you follow your heart. All You Knead serves its community not just with its crusted loaves but with the local community Lisa has cultivated. All You Knead is a testament to starting small, staying true to one’s passion, and embracing the community that blossoms around it. What more could a micro baker need?

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