“You see paintings from 300, 400, 500 years ago, and the person at the front of the table has a giant loaf of bread. That’s the bulk of the meal.”
So says Jim Osborne IV of Rosch Bakehaus, a bread and pretzel baking service he runs out of his house off of Perkins Road.
He’s right, even farther back in history, bread was a staple. Just take a look at the table Jesus sits at in Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Bread is everywhere.
“Cultures all over the world survived feast and famine on bread,” Osborne said. “It’s only recently that bread has become this kind of side cart to the meal.”
One loaf at a time, Osborne is seeking to change that dynamic. He’s from New Orleans, but part of his father’s family is from southwest Germany, a place known for its delectable baked goods. A few years ago he visited the country and came back with an urge to make bread.
Over the years, he’s gotten pretty good at it. So good, that in 2014, he started Rosch Bakehaus. Rosch started out as a custom bakery for chefs, and now the business bakes traditional French baguettes, wild sourdoughs and new creations Jim thinks up. He hopes to explore the world of King Cakes next.
Osborne said he’s the only man in Baton Rouge who can make pretzels right. When people pass by his pretzel stand at local events, they’re always concerned that the twisted bread is burnt. If Jim can catch up to them, he’ll tell them that they’re wrong. They’ve just never had an authentic pretzel before.
“You can’t find an authentic German pretzel anywhere that I’m aware of here,” Osborne said.
There are three elements that separate a traditional German pretzel from the kind you’re used to getting from the mall: good ingredients, a long fermentation process and lye.
“[Lye is] a very toxic chemical and it’s a little dangerous to work with, but we poach everything in lye because that’s how it’s supposed to be done,” Osborne said.
Poaching dough in lye induces the Maillard reaction chemically, which browns food without heat. Then, when the dough is put in the oven, it speeds up the reaction. So just because pretzels are heavily browned doesn’t mean they’re burnt.
“Traditional bread making is only the highest quality, very simple ingredients. It’s all about process, it’s all about love of craft that make these things taste delicious.”
Though he makes pretzels, a fun street food, Osborne wants people to look at him as a bread baker. But it’s only a side project for now, as he holds a job as a photographer for Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry.
Rosch Bakehaus operates under the Louisiana Cottage Food Law, which exempts low-risk foods from the state’s sanitary code. The law lets people who make foods like baked goods, spices and pickles in a non-licensed kitchen. Jim said taking advantage of this law allowed him to try out bread baking before making it a commitment.
“It’s an excellent vehicle for startups like this, for proof of concept, to be able to see if a community wants a thing like you’re trying to do before you invest heavily in a brick-and-mortar, which have a very high mortality rate.”
Osborne said everyone has their own strength in the bread making process. Some are sculptural artists and are great at shaping, some are good at finding the middle ground between detailed pastry making and free-form cooking. Some are best at being a sales person.
What is Osborne best at?
Photo by Sean Gasser.