Tuesday mornings mark baking time for Jimmy Jones and his bakery on Sycamore Farms.
This locally owned bakery strives to use natural ingredients in all of its products.
“Something is wrong with the world today,” Jones asserted. “Our food chain has been compromised. You go grocery shopping, and the aisles are loaded with food products and no food.”
His baking began with a desire to “get back to basics.”
“My wife Robin (Jones) has always baked and wanted to know if I could build her an earth oven,” said Jimmy Jones.
Earth ovens are made only of building materials created from earth, such as brick mud and sand.
“I had always admired the earth ovens that the indigenous tribes in the Southwest had used for (thousands) of years,” Jones explained.
Many bread varieties
Jones began selling the baked goods he and his wife make last fall at the Arkansas City Farm and Art Market.
“We actually came close to selling out and have developed a following of really nice people (who) like our bread,” he said. “So Sycamore Farms was born.”
Since the farm and art market ended for the year, the baked goods can be found at Two Rivers Co-op, located at 300 South D St.
“I deliver fresh bread to the co-op on Wednesday morning around 8:30,” Jones said. “We have been doing all sorts of thing at the co-op.”
There are many items baked by Sycamore Farms. Among them are sourdough bread, baguettes, whole-wheat bread and Amish white bread.
“Sprouted wheat berry (bread) is our number-one seller,” Jones said. “We sprout locally grown wheat for three days (until) it gets a tail.
“It’s very time-consuming to do it, but we like the nutty flavor it adds, not to mention the nutrition benefit from sprouting the wheat berries.”
“Usually, Robin does cinnamon rolls for the co-op, as well,” added Jimmy Jones.
Earth oven learning curve
The construction of the earth oven took place last summer, but the art of cooking in it took a bit more time to fine-tune.
“The earth oven has over a ton of sand in it,” Jones said. “Instead of digging clay, I opted to mix fire clay with sand to make the clay.”
The inside dimensions of the oven are small — just 3 feet, room enough for only loaves of bread. The outside of the oven grows warm, but never hot.
It takes two hours to get the oven up to temperature and some additional time for the inside to burn off so the oven is ready for baking.
“Because of its dome shape, the name ‘Chernobyl’ has stuck,” Jones said.
“Robin’s stuff was perfect from the start — mine, not so perfect. It took me two months to get a fairly edible loaf of sourdough.”
“We fell in love with the whole experience of baking in the earth oven,” Jones concluded.
Staggered baking schedule
The oven then needs to cool down a bit before baking, but the temperature remains stable for a long period of time.
“On warmer days, I have a five-hour bake window for bread,” Jones said. “On these cold days, I am getting a three-hour window.”
After the baking window closes, the Joneses have an opportunity to practice other kinds of cooking in the earth oven.
“After the bread baking is complete, we then have a 24-hour window when we can cook slow-bake items like brisket or roast,” said Jimmy Jones.
“For the next 24 hours after that, the temp is usually at 180 degrees or lower. So you have another 24 hours to dehydrate berries, veggies and beef jerky.
“All in all, if your ducks are in a row, you can get almost three days of baking from a single firing.”
Sycamore Farms breads are made with all-natural products.
“When I say ‘all-natural,’ I am saying no preservatives or chemicals,” Jones said. “We do not go organic because that would make us have to sell our bread at a noticeably higher price point.
“We do use premium ingredients, such as sea salt instead of iodized, olive oil instead of vegetable oil, Vietnamese cinnamon and so on.“
Selling their products locally, both at the farm and art market and at the local co-op, has been a part of that experience, too.
“We love the whole experience, from baking to interacting with our people in the community,” said Jimmy Jones.
“Good people are still in the majority and I am happy to call Cowley County my home.”
Sycamore Farms can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Sycamore-Farms-117300765649167.