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Lynch makes bread that’s worth the dough

For Pat Lynch, making bread is more than just baking dough. It’s a science.
Over the years, the Erwin native has found that even the slightest alterations in oven temperature, moisture in the dough or quantities of ingredients can make a huge difference in the way the bread turns out.
Lynch’s various tweaks to her dough recipes and the way that she bakes the breadhave made it “a fun journey,” she said.
Lynch has been cooking for as long as she can remember. She began baking bread after she and her husband were married in 1966.
She and husband Johnny, who happens to serve as the mayor of their town, own a business called Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens on their farm in Unicoi where they host and cater special events, including weddings, private parties and corporate events.
In addition to cooking for these events, Lynch is chef for her own family, making most of her meals from scratch.
“We have three kids and I’ve always cooked family meals and we’d always have dinner every night as they were growing up as long as they were living at home,” she said. “I’ve pretty much cooked all of my life. I’d like to just have a nickel for every biscuit that I’ve ever made.”
The Lynches have lived on their farm since 1976, but have always enjoyed “the farming type atmosphere,” she says.
Prior to opening Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens, they had a variety of different agricultural operations.
At one point, they owned a beef cattle operation with about 60 head of cattle.
After that, they maintained a hog operation, marketing nearly 1,000 hogs each year. They also grew about 50 acres of corn and would keep a half-acre to an acre of garden, Lynch said.
For about 15 years, Lynch baked bread in her commercial kitchen, but when her husband built an outdoor brick oven in an old log cabin that the town of Unicoi restored, Lynch – along with the town of Unicoi’s history group – began baking bread in the wood-fired oven as a fundraiser for the group.
“I enjoyed baking bread so much in that wood-fired oven that while [my husband] was in that mode, I got him to build one for us. We added it to our kitchen since I was already baking bread at home all the time, anyway,” Lynch said. “We added that as another part of our business and it’s worked out really, really well.”
In that brick oven Johnny built about a year-and-a-half ago, Lynch has been baking artisan breads that she sells at the Jonesborough Farmers Market.
Working with the brick oven has been a learning experience, but Lynch has had help along the way.
“I’ve had a lot of fun,” she said. “I learned from a book and from trial and error. I’ve had people who’ve helped me through the last year-and-a-half. We have all enjoyed the learning and we just have a good time when we’re baking.”
The dome portion of Lynch’s oven is about 13 inches thick and is shaped like a beehive.
The day before she bakes the bread, she builds a fire in the oven and allows it to heat overnight.
As the fire slowly burns, the walls and base of the oven soak up the heat.
In the morning, Lynch rakes out the fire and wipes the bottom of the oven down with a damp rag to remove as much of the ash as she can.
When she puts the dough in the oven to bake, the radiant heat emitted by the walls and base of the oven bake the dough.
“You can take that same loaf of bread and bake it in the brick oven or bake it in a convection oven or a regular oven and it’s just the world of difference in the way it looks, and I think, too, the flavor,” she said.
In addition to baking bread, the Lynches have raised peacocks on their farm for about four years.
So when Lynch decided to come up with a name for her bread-baking business, she chose the name Peacock Artisan Bread, “because it just kind of fit,” she said.
Just as she likes variety on her farm, Lynch also likes to experiment with various breads.
In addition to making plain bread, Lynch rolls dried fruits into her sourdoughs, makes cinnamon raisin breads and uses the sourdough base for myriad other flavors.
Her endeavors have been successful, and she sees a lot of returning customers.
Lynch can bake 12-15 loaves at a time in her oven, and she normally makes 200 loaves per week.
Although learning to bake bread has been a process, Lynch has learned quite a bit along the way.
“It’s just been a real experience and I’ve learned a lot about the science of bread baking,” she said. “When you open that oven door, it’s a surprise every time.”