Live laugh loafPublished on July 2, 2008

  • "Our products are so popular because they taste delicious and are homemade. Looks are important too – I know many people buy our loaves, pies and squares to offer as hostess gifts. The organic breads at Bread and Roses have such wonderful flavours and the range of items we offer for those with special dietary needs are filling a significant, and growing, niche in Ottawa," says baker Chris Green, the owner of the Harvest Loaf Bakery and Bread and Roses Bakery. Photo by Scott Adamson

  • Bread and Roses Energy Bars. Photo by Scott Adamson

Baker extraordinaire Chris Green greets customers who enter his bakery with a huge grin and a cheerful "G'day," instantly alerting them to his Australian heritage. As proprietor of the successful Harvest Loaf Bakery on Wellington West and new owner of the iconic Bread and Roses Bakery in New Edinburgh, Chris loves being up to his elbows in flour every day. With a playful motto of "live, laugh, loaf," Chris is passionate about everything he and his dedicated team prepares, whether it's destined for your kitchen or served to heads of state at the Governor General's table. An avid baker since he was a child, Chris recently sat down with Ottawa At Home to discuss his love for the culinary arts and why being known as the neighbourhood baker is so important to him. 1. When did you begin cooking?

I started as quite a young boy; I remember my first big culinary triumph was making a full bacon- and eggs-breakfast for my family when I was eight. My first baking experiment was a few years after that. I wanted to make a chocolate peppermint cake; the only hitch was that I didn't know what to use for the mint flavouring, so I ended up using toothpaste! It actually tasted great - even my mom was impressed!

2. Do you have some interesting food experiences growing up in Australia?

My whole family is really into food, so it became a key element in our travels. In my early teens, we visited a very prestigious Hong Kong restaurant and watched as nearby diners were served cocktails that included a fluid being extracted, tableside, from a live cobra. Unfortunately, the cobra managed to escape the server's grasp and the entire restaurant freaked out until it was recaptured. Travel in Asia taught me that enjoying food should be a multi-sensory experience. I am mindful of this in my shops - to truly appreciate the pleasures of food it must look good and taste good.

3. How did you get started in the bakery business?

Our neighbours in Australia ran a bakery and I began hanging out there at night while they worked. I progressed from watching to participating, and I learned so much from them. When I moved to Ottawa 12 years ago, I ran a restaurant for several years, but came to realize I wanted to get back to what I truly love, which is baking.

4. What's your favourite baked item at the harvest loaf bakery and bread and roses?

It changes from time to time, but right now I'm really hooked on my "Country White Round Loaf," cut into thick slices and slathered with Nutella spread. Apple and mixed berry pie is a favourite, and I also adore hot cross buns - I eat one every single day.

5. What do you enjoy the most about baking? What do you enjoy the least?

Sourdough loaves are incredible - it amazes me to nurture and grow a living entity in the sourdough starter, plus I also love the distinctive aroma and taste of sourdough bread. I'd say making baguette is a very bittersweet experience. It's a tricky product to make well and it's so fantastic when it's fresh, but then it deteriorates more quickly because the slender shape of the loaf means it loses moisture more rapidly than a larger loaf. That's why a baguette should always be eaten as soon as possible.

6. Where do you get your inspiration for new recipes?

Sometimes I'll just have an idea, or I'll be flicking through a book and see something interesting that I just want to try. It's fun to create a new recipe. I know I have to base it on the common proportions of five parts flour to three parts liquid, but I also know that with every recipe, old or new, adjustments must be made to account for atmospheric conditions like air temperature. It's a very organic process.

7. What's the strangest request that's been made of you as a baker?

I had a group of ladies commission me to make bread shaped like a certain part of the male anatomy for a stagette. That was an interesting experiment - but the loaves actually turned out extremely well.

8. What would you describe as one of the best perks of your job?

Being a part of two village-like communities and forging a strong connection with my neighbours. Shopping each day makes procuring food a ritual, and allows people to develop a real relationship with food providers. In Australia, every neighbourhood has a bakery and I love the sense of connectedness that fosters; it makes my job a very social one as I get to see my friends every day when they pop in.

9. Are there any foods from Australia that you miss?

My favourite treat as a kid was a Lamington, which is a square-shaped piece of sponge cake covered with chocolate icing and dipped in coconut. I had one in my school lunch every day and when I realized I was missing them here, I decided to start making them. They've become really popular.

If you weren't a baker, what would you like to do?

It would have to be something involved with food, like operating a bakery boat, sailing around the Caribbean to provide fresh food to other mariners.

Bread and Roses energy bars

These treats simply fly off the shelves, says Chris Green. They're packed with many nutritious ingredients, with just enough sweetener to make them taste deliciously satisfying. Check your local health food store for the dry ingredients, usually available in bulk so you can purchase just what you need. 1 cup sesame seeds ¾ cup rolled oats ¼ cup sunflower seeds 1/3 cup flax seed 1/3 cup wheat germ ¼ cup soya flour 1/3 cup oatbran 1/3 cup raisins ½ cup dates 1/3 cup honey 2 tbsp. molasses 1/3 cup sunflower oil Soak dates in boiling water then drain well and chop. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving at least a one-inch overhang on all sides. Preheat oven to 250 F. Combine all ingredients thoroughly then press evenly into pan. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Let cool, then lift entire panful out by picking up edges of parchment paper. Cut into 2 inch by 3 inch bars (or smaller if desired). Store in a container with a tight lid or wrap bars individually in plastic wrap so you can grab one when you're on the go.

Did you know?:

All leftover bread is donated each day to Options Bytown, Ottawa Food Bank, Ottawa Soup Kitchen. Written by Paula Roy

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