BREAD baking interestingly began as a stress-reliever for Vanessa Orig-Pacheco when she worked as a construction coordinator in Toronto, Canada.
“I was using my interior design skills making sure floor plans were correct and had the right dimensions and materials. I also had to do site visits and dealt with a lot of contractors. It was surely a stressful time for me!” recalls Vanessa, a University of the Philippines-Diliman Interior Design graduate who was based in Canada for 17 years.
So, about once a week, Vanessa would make her homemade pan de sal. “If you can imagine a stress ball you can squeeze with one hand, a two-kilogram piece of dough is an even bigger and better stress ball you can squeeze and knead with two hands. The more stressed I was, the better the pan de sal came out!” the proud Dabawenya giggled.
Eventually, Vanessa found herself enjoying the art and craft of baking breads more than interior design that she took certificate courses in Baking Arts and Artisan Bread Baking from George Brown College in Toronto.
“Our mom and Lola Mary are very good cooks. I’m pretty sure we took after them. Growing up, my siblings and I were always in the kitchen. It felt natural to us being in there. When we got hungry, we made snacks for ourselves. And, when we were feeling adventurous, we would invent things,” says Vanessa whose family restaurant, Café Andessa, serves their treasured recipes.
Bread baking really wasn’t part of their repertoire back then, but Vanessa just knew when she had exceptionally good bread. “It leaves a lasting taste memory in my brain,” she said.
For example, Vanessa reminisces that the first time she ever had homemade bread was at the house of a Costa Rican friend in grade school. “It was just so good with its thin golden crust and soft fluffy white interior and that delicious yeasty smell coming out of the warm bread. Back in university, I got a summer job at the French Baker in SM Annex where I enjoyed employee discounts. So, I was really stuffing my face with all the breads I could manage to eat!” she chuckles.
Another bread experience that was an eye-opener for her was during a trip to San Francisco. She visited Boudin Bakery which is famous for their sourdough breads in the Ghirardelli Square, and after tasting them, it blew her mind. “It was malty, chewy, and tangy, and overall just delicious. That’s how I started getting curious about sourdough breads,” said Vanessa.
Dough your best
So fascinated was Vanessa with baking breads that when she and accountant-husband Robin Pacheco, who happens to be the grandson of the Reyeses of The Artistocrat Restaurant in Manila, decided to settle back in Davao, she was certain that this was the line of business they would establish. “I’m the talent in this partnership and Robin is the analytics, accountant, manager, sales, and everything else in-between,” she said.
Craft Breads and Pastries mainly focuses on European-style breads as well as a couple of Filipino favorites with a European twist. They currently make sourdough loaves, focaccia, babka, brioche, panettone, and cheese rolls while pastries are still on the research and development stage. “We don’t use preservatives and dough improvers. Our only preservatives are salt and sugar. We focus on the taste and texture of the breads, and not just with how it looks,” highlights Vanessa.
At the recent “Bread Appreciation” talk organized by Park Inn by Radisson Davao last Thursday, Vanessa took the stage and discussed the differences among sourdough, straight dough, and other European-style breads to an enthusiastic audience.
“All breads have a place in this world. What I consider good might not be good for other people. But I’ll try and narrow it down to the characteristics I like. I love enriched breads where I can taste the real butter, egginess, softness, and chewy texture. Enriched breads shouldn’t just taste like cotton that melts in your mouth. On the other hand, the lean bread’s crust should be golden to mahogany (but not burnt). Inside should be soft, tangy, malty, and chewy,” she differentiated.
“You only need five ingredients to make a decent loaf of bread: flour, water, salt, yeast, and time. Just like life, good breads cannot be rushed. Let time take over and you will be rewarded for your patience,” Vanessa waxes poetic.
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