Meet Our Members | September 2021

Name and Occupation: Sönke Dornblut, Owner

Business: Juniper Cottage Bake Shop

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Sönke Dornblut didn’t start out planning to be a baker. Born in Germany, he came to the United States to study political science and philosophy. An interest in baking led him to apprentice at Bread and Chocolate in Concord NH for three years. The hours were demanding and didn’t allow for much of a social life for a young man, so he went on to grad school at Southern New Hampshire University to study community economic development. He eventually worked at UNH’s Institute on Disability as a researcher.

In his 40s, he became frustrated with his career in community development and decided to start a homestead bakery. He added onto his kitchen, installed a brick bread oven, and named his business Juniper Cottage after his house.

“Germany has a strong bread culture,” Sönke explains. “The neighborhood of Hamburg where I grew up had two bakeries—one bread and one pastry. I loved the bread shop. The memory of those delicious smells have stayed with me. I feel drawn to it. “

“I operate on a two-day cycle, so working at home allows me to use my time well. Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are my prep days. I make the starter in the morning and then mix the dough in the evening. Then I refrigerate it for twelve hours to ferment. I bake on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”

Now after eight years, Sönke still bakes only wood-fired-oven bread. All of his bread is naturally fermented like sourdough. His wheat-based breads are baked as hearth loaves right on the oven floor without pans to give them better flavor. His rye breads are baked in pans so they hold their shape.

“My favorite part of baking is scoring the loaves and loading the oven,” he declares. “Scoring is done with a razor-sharp tool called a lame. It controls the release of gases in the loaves and is done right before loading them into the oven. It’s the last time I spend with the loaf and also allows me to make designs on the top of the loaf. It can be a real art.”

“The most challenging part is keeping the loaves consistent for my customers. Flours vary based on their blend and ferment differently. Baking in the summer is different than baking in the winter because the cultures are not as active in cold weather. I want my customers to rely on dependable quality week after week. Some inconsistency is fun for customers, but consistency is my goal. Every loaf is touched by me.”

“If there were no challenges involved in baking bread, it would not be as fun for me. There are only so many ways to cut the cake. The same principles apply in every bakery.”

Sönke’s ingredients are all organic. He sources the flour and seeds as locally as possible, so that his bread is part of a local economy that benefits the people and the ecosystem. He uses as much whole grain flour as possible and offers 100% wholegrain loaves.

“Baking with organic ingredients is important to me,” he continues, “ because organic food is real food and because organic growing practices focus on sustainability, building soil and leaving the land in better shape than we found it.”

“There is real potential for a strong local food network here in New Hampshire based on loyal local relationships. The future lies in better connectivity, creating a more robust food network and communicating the multiple bottom lines that small producers offer to their communities.”

“I love the immediate feedback I get when making something by hand. The feel of bread, the smell of bread baking and the taste! I feel very lucky to be able to make food for others to enjoy.”

—Interview and Article by Karl Johnson, Board President

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