It took a little over a year for Stephen Robinson to grow from an amateur baker to an emerging mini bread mogul. At the start of the pandemic, he and his wife fled Brooklyn for Water Mill, and like millions of other unattached souls, he began baking bread for his family and friends. You can now find his Newlight Breadworks at five Hamptons Farmers Markets (Southampton, Easthampton, Springs, Sag Harbor and Montauk) and over 30 grocers across the East.
There is a big and beautiful sourdough ball, plain or covered with seeds, a crackling baguette, a rye with seeds that Robinson describes as “a cross between Jewish and Danish”, buns for the burgers, rolls for the rolls. of lobster, a multigrain bread, a brioche bread and a tender “Japanese milk bread” used for the sandos of the moment, Japanese-inspired sandwiches on thick bread.
What Robinson doesn’t have is his own bakery.
The 32-year-old advertising director grew up in the Pacific Northwest, an epicenter of sourdough. His mother used a sourdough starter from celebrity Seattle chef Tom Douglas, and it was part of that starter that Robinson used when he made his first Hamptons sourdough. “Hampton Sourdough” was the name he used when, last spring, he started touring the East End with a few loaves of bread in the back seat of his station wagon, trying to interest local merchants. . Tom Babinski, a farmer at the watermill, took a flyer and started selling the loaves at his stand and, according to Robinson, “in May we were selling 30-40 loaves of our original sown sourdough, olive bread, baguettes. every week”.
By the time he had obtained a home processing license from New York State (so his bread was “legal”), he received a call from Topping Rose House, the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in Bridgehampton: Could- does it provide samples? He could, he did, and on June 29 he woke up a photo of its sown leaven on Vongerichten’s personal Instagram. (Over 1,000 people loved it.) When Topping Rose ordered 100 baguettes for July 4, Robinson knew his own kitchen was not up to the task and moved the operation to the commercial kitchen of the ‘East End Food Institute in Southampton.
In Southampton, Robinson has stepped up its home baking operation. Like those millions of hobbyists, he baked his breads in Dutch ovens – a covered, preheated pan resembles the action of a steam injection deck oven – and each of the four convection ovens could accommodate eight ovens. Dutch at the same time. Its production was further limited by the requirements of the new facility. “At the Institute, it’s a common kitchen. We were only able to bake bread after 4 pm”
Orders were on the rise and Robinson had only himself to blame. With more bread in the back, he started selling at farm stalls such as Round Swamp and Balsam Farms, restaurants such as Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and Almond in Bridgehampton, grocers such as Schiavone’s in Sag Harbor and IGA in Greenport. To this he began to add farmers’ markets. After just five months, production had overtaken Southampton.
In December, Robinson moved to the Stony Brook University Food Business Incubator in Calverton, which provides space and support to local producers such as Peconic Escargot, Divine Brine, North Fork Donut Co. bake over 1,000 loaves a day. (With more shifts, they could send as many as 5,000 people.) Robinson, who has his hands full with his day job and sales and marketing for the bakery, has also hired a head baker. Carlos Barbosa, whose professional background includes Union Square Hospitality Group of Danny Meyer and Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo (creator of Cronut) leads a team of six.
In the midst of it all, Robinson learned that he couldn’t easily copyright the name “Hampton Sourdough” and so he came up with a name that honored his first customer’s address, Babinski Farm, at 160 Newlight Lane; on May 25, Hampton Sourdough became Newlight Breadworks.
For a complete list of Newlight Breadworks locations, visit newlightbread.com.