A toast to toast

A barista’s nerdy approach to crafting sourdough bread


This is my idea of the perfect a.m. trifecta.

First, an exceptional cup of freshly made coffee that fits the mood: light and fruity or dark and moody.

Next, expertly toasted, thick slices from a crusty loaf of hearty, hand-kneaded and baked bread, lightly buttered.

The coup de grâce is jam, fruit butter, marmalade and preserves, preferably made with local fruit.

And, a comfortable seat and something to read.

Many Colorado restaurants, cafes and bakeries serve toast — sometimes topped with almost everything — but far too few appreciate toasting as a craft.

Brice Young, co-owner and chief barista of Louisville’s Precision Pours, gets it. “If you look in big cities around the country, in Europe and Japan, there are these shops that basically offer just great coffee and great toast,” he says.

At 7:30 a.m. on a recent weekday, Precision Pours saw a steady line of bicyclists, moms and locals crowding into the odd, tiny building near the railroad tracks on South Boulder Road. The place is so small the storage area is in the rafters, accessible from a drop-down wooden ladder.

Since opening in Louisville more than three years ago, Young and his partner and fiancée, Amy Newman, have gotten a reputation for a geeky, detail-oriented obsession with making coffee. The name of the place says it all.

“A nerd, yup,” Young says. The Boulder native graduated from Fairview High and studied biology at CU, so he’s a process-oriented guy.

He wants to know which one coffee you want among the nutty, chocolate-y, wine-y, and dark beans he has on hand at any given time. Instead of using one roaster, Young sources beans from boutique roasters across the country. “We’re always up for new, interesting coffees that no one else has,” he says.

He brought that focus on craft to bread when he decided to add sourdough bread and homemade jams to the menu and put toast front and center.

By the way, that doesn’t mean Precision serves sandwiches, and it certainly doesn’t sell that ubiquitous hipster menu item, avocado toast. “We’re not about charging four bucks extra for a few slices of avocado,” he says.

72 hours to sourdough

Young takes a minimalist approach, mixing and kneading one loaf at a time and baking it in a moist cast-iron pot in a small convection oven. It’s strictly sourdough with only naturally occurring wild yeasts. “It’s a 60- to 72-hour process — really there are 11 processes involved including folding and proofing the dough,” he says.

The lengthy wait develops a wonderful, clean, tart sourdough flavor. The crust is fantastic with roasted, caramelized crunch and occasional crunchy char.

His classic sourdough is the most popular choice, but my favorite is the sprouted seeded bread with tons of flavor. Other loaves incorporate fresh local pumpkin or dried blueberries with just a hint of sweetness.

“I like to go to local gardeners and farmers to get organic produce of different kinds that will go well in the breads. I’m seeing the great things chef Kelly (Whitaker of Basta) and Andy (Clark) at Moxie Bread Co. are doing with local heirloom grains. It’s just a matter of time before we source local flour for our loaves,” he says.

There is usually a whole loaf or two available to take home, but it is first come, first served bread-wise every morning.

Jam and jelly today

When you order your toast at Precision pours, you need to specify exactly how you like your toast. Some like it lightly toasted, others prefer golden, dark and caramelized. Me? I like a moderate toast, a little butter and a lot of jam.

When I visited Precision Pours, the selection included chunky, roasted nectarine preserves; spiced, silky apple butter with thyme; and dark plum jam.

“A lot of Europeans come in — especially Brits and Germans, and they are really happy with coffee and toast, usually with no butter, just toasted,” Young said.

Local food news

“It’s tough to pin down the ‘thing’ that really defines Colorado food-wise — it’s kind of a mish-mash of Western influences that’ve migrated from elsewhere (they’re big on green chile) with a heavy dose of meats like buffalo and Colorado lamb. Also, it’s hard to discover that Rocky Mountain oysters are actually delicious without a little metaphysical courage,” writes Thrillist, which recently ranked Colorado No. 19 on a list of states ranked by their food scenes. … Japanese baked goods have been scarce in the metro area. Now, Tokyo Premium Bakery has opened at 1540 S. Pearl St. in Denver offering authentic milk bread, matcha tea-cream-filled pastries, savory curry-filled pastries, sausage rolls and baguettes with cod roe. … The annual Hard Cider Festival Oct. 27 at Delicious Orchards in Hotchkiss features one of the state’s largest tastings of hard ciders from Colorado and elsewhere. northforkcreative.org/events/hard-cider-fest

Colorado wine for Thanksgiving

The annual Colorado Governor’s Cup Collection is a great way to see how far wines made with Colorado grapes have come. Among the judges’ picks are two wines from Boulder’s Bookcliff Vineyards: a 2016 tempranillo and a 2015 cabernet franc reserve. Other winners include: 2016 petit verdot (Colterris, Palisade), 2016 cabernet franc (The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Denver), 2017 riesling (Whitewater Hill Vineyards, Grand Junction), and 1999 port (Colorado Cellars, Palisade). The grape exception is a Carlson Vineyards wine made from Grand Valley plums. The Colorado Uncorked tasting of all the winning wines is Nov. 8 at History Colorado Center in Denver. coloradowine.com/governors-cup

Words to chew on

“All you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich and you haven’t broken any rules.” — Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces

John Lehndorff is a prep cook. Listen to his Radio Nibbles podcasts at: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles. Comment: nibbles@boulderweekly.com

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