Johnny VanCora’s love of bread emerged at 14 years old, when he began baking and selling it out of his parent’s kitchen. He kept up his baking business throughout high school, before leaving to pursue a degree in hospitality at Cornell University. Today, he is the owner of Bread by Johnny, a naturally leavened sourdough bakery in Jupiter that caters to residents and businesses such as The Breakers, Subculture Coffee, and Spoto’s Oyster Bar.
VanCora starts his workdays at 3:30 a.m. and serves customers in-store from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. He bakes his loaves in a Polin four-deck, steam-injection electric oven that keeps the temperatures of each compartment independent. Because he uses freshly milled organic flour and a sourdough starter—which he started eight years ago—his loaves are ideal for those who are diabetic or sensitive to gluten.
“A sourdough starter is a mix of lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast,” he explains. “The wild yeast is what makes the bread rise, and the bacteria break down the wheat berries and make them easier on our body to digest.”
While spending a summer at Don Guerra’s Barrio Bread bakery in Tucson, Arizona, VanCora learned the importance of forming a network of chefs, farmers, millers, and other bakers. As a result, he has made an effort to engage with more regional and local suppliers, especially when it comes to spices. His cinnamon raisin loaf, for example, is made with Vietnamese cinnamon from a merchant he met at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket.
The baker and his team mix, shape, and bake a variety of other breads, including pane arioso, Brooklyn rye, sesame, focaccia, and heritage whole grain. Seasonal loaves range from pumpkin pie sourdough in the fall to panettones at Christmas and prosciutto bread around Easter. “One that customers affectionately refer to as my ‘stoner panettone’ has rum-soaked bananas, hazelnuts, Nutella, and dark chocolate,” he notes. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, patrons can try his new black pepper Parmesan bread, which is equally as wonderful as the rest.
Three Tips for Achieving the Perfect Loaf
- Use freshly milled, high-quality flour. Southern wheats, which have a lower gluten content and make for flatter breads, can be ordered online from Lindley Mills and Carolina Ground, both out of North Carolina. Farmer Ground flour from upstate New York is stronger with a higher gluten content, resulting in higher breads.
- Use a scale to measure flour. A cup may result in overflow and variation in your loaf, while a scale will help to ensure consistent results. Use ounces or grams when measuring.
- Don’t cut down on time. Making bread is a slow process, and time is one of the most important ingredients. Allow enough time for the bread to properly rise and develop, which will result in a tastier loaf.