The quarantine provided former Jackrabbit Filly chef Colin Perkinson with extra time — hours he spent developing the blueprint for Void Baking Co., turning out bread, pastries and a new full-time job.
"After COVID, I started baking immediately and within a week I posted a menu," said Perkinson. "I really expected to make a couple loaves of bread here and there for friends and it really took off from there. It kind of grew into something I wasn't expecting and was super happy to see."
Initially, Perkinson was mainly baking sourdough and focaccia, both of which are made with fresh-milled flour. He later added milk bread, sesame seed buns and several desserts to his menu, which he posts on Instagram.
But it's the sourdough that really challenges the chef, offering him a chance to "nerd out about flour and yeast." By definition, this type of bread begins with a sourdough starter, a flour and water solution that allows the bread to develop wild yeast and gives it a distinct flavor.
"For my sourdough, I [experiment] with hydration, which affects texture, and the percentage of whole wheat relative to white flour," he said. "Currently, it's somewhere around 40 percent whole wheat, a little bit of rye and then the rest is white flour. You can view the different flours as flavorings to bring different elements to it."
For the sourdough especially, he needed the spare time. "From start to finish for a loaf of bread, I'll feed the starter at say noon on one day, and that loaf from that starter won't be ready to bake until 10 a.m. the next day," he said. "So it's more or less a 24-hour process to make a single loaf of bread."
Perkinson first worked with naturally leavened dough in the kitchen at Edmund's Oast Brewing Co., where they use a sourdough starter for their wood-fired pizzas. Since then, his experimentations have even wandered into dessert territory.
At first, Void sold miso brown sugar buttermilk pie, an occasional special at Jackrabbit Filly. Then it was rye millet brownies and miso dark chocolate chip cookies made with Geechie Boy Mill cornmeal. Now, he's adding seasonal touches, like his peach and blueberry mini-galettes using local fruit from Schuler Peach Company. All of Perkinson's desserts are elevated versions of familiar treats.
"I liked the idea of adding the whole grains," he said. "Like the millet in the brownie. It adds this kind of weird, nutty crunch that people might not be expecting. I always want an element to be different or special in everything I make."
Local restaurants have taken notice. Brooks Reitz, whose portfolio includes Leon's Oyster Shop, Little Jack's Tavern, Melfi's and Monza Pizza Bar, used Void Baking Co. sesame milk buns during Instagram recipe videos that caught the eye of quarantine home cooks. Perkinson's bread also appeared at Nikko Cagalanan's Filipino Workshop stall Mansueta's, starring in a dessert toast with ube meringue.
"It's been awesome to see the support from others in the industry," Perkinson said. "I'm super grateful that the people I respect and look up to have been loving it as well."
With all the buzz, Void Baking Co. is now Perkinson's full-time gig. Still, the process of improving his product never ends.
"That's what I love about bread. It's intensely complex for something that at the end of the day is just flour and water. And that's also why I'm truly happy doing this project, because it gives me the opportunity to feed the community with a product that I care deeply about."
Find weekly selections and place orders on Instagram (@voidbakingco) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.