There's a certain magic to a really great loaf of bread--the crust is crackly and dark, the inside both chewy and airy, with a creamy tartness that signals a long-risen dough. Baker David Norman knows good bread--he's punched dough at the Michelin-starred Bouley in NYC, run a Hill Country resort and spa with his wife Paula Disbrowe where he baked loaves in a wood burning oven, and now brings his considerable talents to SFC Farmers' Market shoppers hungry for crusty, tangy sourdough; golden baguettes; levain studded with toasty walnuts or chewy olives; flaky croissants and pastries; authentic old-world sourdough rye; and hand-twisted, freshly-baked, soft pretzels that rival the best in Bavaria, as well as inventive sandwiches for eating at the market or tucking into a picnic basket. And he values local food, shopping many Saturdays along with the rest of us, filling a basket to overflowing with greens, strawberries and pastured meats. With a busy schedule and two little ones, we were lucky to catch up with him recently to talk about the journey that brought him to the bake shop at Easy Tiger and to our market.
What led you to the life’s work you are doing now?
In college, I studied German Literature and spent my junior year in Munich. When I came back home, the two things I missed the most were the bread and the beer, so I started making both. I came across an opening in a small French bakery, and turned a hobby into a job. As I continued baking, I found the craft deeply satisfying and it evolved into my career, a career that has taken me many places including Seattle, New York City and the Texas Hill Country.
If you weren’t a baker, what would you be doing?
When we first moved to Texas, we were running a guest ranch in the Hill Country, where besides helping with the hospitality side (and baking in the wood-fired brick oven we built when I arrived), I got a taste of farming and ranching. If I had the land to do it, I would happily be taking care of animals and growing food.
What is your earliest cooking or food memory?
I remember making scrambled eggs at about the same age as our six-year-old daughter. But she and her younger brother have already had their hands in plenty of dough. I am hoping their food memories start with the breads, biscuits, or cookies that we have made together.
What’s your favorite ingredient?
I love spelt and use it in place of modern whole wheat in several of my breads for its unique flavor.
Where do you get culinary inspiration?
Mostly through reading. I don’t cook directly from recipes very often, but I will read about a dish, or unusual combination of ingredients, and then I will cook my own version.
Also, I have been fortunate to work in several bakeries that are connected to or associated with great restaurants and some inspiring chefs, so I have learned a lot about cooking through them.
Tell us about a meal you will never forget.
Bringing pork chops, potatoes and gravy to my father in the nursing home when he was near the end of his battle with cancer. We found a private spot down the hall and enjoyed a proper, home cooked meal together. He fed me and our family passionately and so very well through the years; to be able to give that gift back to him was deeply important to me.