Oak Cliff bakery takes Dallas' sourdough bread game to new heights
There's more fantastic bread coming out of Oak Cliff, this time from Kuluntu Bakery, a startup from a young baker who has traveled continents to sharpen her skills.
Founder Stephanie Leichtle-Chalklen runs Kuluntu as a cottage food business, selling breads, pastries, and how-to classes through her website. She does not yet have a brick-and-mortar location. To buy her goods, you must go online, and you must place your order at least 48 hours in advance by emailing email@example.com.
Her menu includes breads such as the signature country sourdough; a "seedy" sourdough with sesame seeds, flax seeds, oatmeal, and sunflower seeds; and a seasonal sourdough.
Nearly a dozen varieties of tarts and pies include Key lime, passion fruit meringue pie, and fruit tarts. There are double-chocolate brownies, layer cakes, and specialty cakes in dozens of varieties.
Part of the mission at Kuluntu is to foster a community, and she also teaches classes most weekends, themed around sourdough baking, pastries, and holidays. A typical weekend might see her teach her "brunch & baking class on pastries" on Saturday, followed by a company team-building class on pastries on Sunday.
A native of Dallas, Leichtle-Chalklen was living in New York when she first started baking, selling her own pastries out of her home while simultaneously working at bakeries, learning skills from some of the city's top pastry chefs.
She moved to Cape Town with her husband, a native of South Africa, and continued her journey of learning local recipes and ingredients, and teaching bread making classes, before moving back to Dallas in 2018.
She wasn't originally a fan of sourdough bread, pursuing it only because it represented a challenge.
"I could make cupcakes and brownies, but bread was a challenge," she says. "Sourdough is a huge challenge. It can take years to figure out the science and the technique. I fell in love with good bread."
Her skills are amazing. She has a starter — the building block of good sourdough — which she has been hauling around from place to place. Her bread is substantial but not kludgy, with a crust that's crisp and firm, but not brutally so.
One of her current seasonal breads is a fig-fennel combination, with chunks of fig folded throughout the loaf, dropping little bites of sweetness that contrast with the sour tang of the loaf. At $12, it's not cheap, but this is real food, possibly even life-changing if you like bread.
Dallas has a ways to go in its embrace of good bread, with most people still buying whatever's at the supermarket.
"In New York, there's a strong culture of going out for a nice loaf of bread, and that hasn't quite hit here yet," she says. "That being said, I think Dallas is changing."
She's noticed that particularly in the Utopian territory of Bishop Arts where there is more interest in small businesses and artisanal goods.
"You're seeing more people doing breads and pastries in Dallas, receiving more support of high-quality bread products," she says.