Spotlight: Fervere: Baking with fervor
Fervere is the infinitive form of the Latin verb meaning, literally, "to ferment," or figuratively, "to have passion," and is the source of the English word "fervor." Fervere is also the apt name of one of the country's best small bread bakeries. Proprietor and baker, Fred Spompinato, is the embodiment of the passionate baker, and fermentation is central to the quality of the loaves that he peels from his custom brick oven at Fervere, near the corner of 17th and Summit in Kansas City, Missouri.
Fred is no newcomer to bread. In 1987 he left his work in retail to work in production first at Monterey Baking and then at Pacific Baking, making natural sourdough bread on a factory-scale in Kansas City. In 1991 he and Mark Friend joined to form Farm to Market Bread Company. At first they baked off-hours in a restaurant kitchen, but soon moved into their own production space, and added a French hearth oven and began producing European-influenced artisan breads. Fred left Farm to Market in 1999 to devote a year to bread travel and study, with the idea to open a craft-centered neighborhood bakery in Kansas City.
Since opening Fervere in May of 2000, Fred has strived to keep to the fundamentals of artisan bread. He buys only organic flour, uses natural levain or yeast preferments in all the breads, and maintains the tradition of using long fermentation to improve flavor and overall quality. The single-arm German mixer is as gentle as a pair of hands. The dough is hand-scaled and hand-shaped. All Fervere breads are baked directly on the hearth of the brick and limestone retained-heat brick oven.
Fred has also endeavored to keep the baking schedule workable. Most bakeries today are open seven days a week and small bakery owner-operators are notoriously sleep-deprived. At Fervere, bread is baked fresh for sale only three days a week, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Fred or an assistant mixes doughs in the late afternoon and evening, divides and shapes loaves several hours later, and bakes the loaves late night and early morning to have them ready for morning and afternoon sales.
By limiting the days of opening as well as the scale of operation, Fred is able to remain excited about his work, and finds he can focus on the craft of baking while providing an urban neighborhood with exceptional traditional bread.