Idlewylde resident Jane Chase rises extra early on Saturday mornings to start the oven and the coffeepot. With the week’s planning done, it’s time to get baking.
When the oven is hot, Chase adds a tray of water to create steam for the bread loaves to come. Throughout the morning she will bake crusty sourdough breads, savory focaccias, chewy bagels, and sweet gingerbread bars. Her husband, Gerry, helps her package the goods for eager neighbors who will stop by later to pick up their orders.
Chase’s Heart in Hand Bread bakery is a creative outlet, a labor of love, and a welcome silver lining stemming from the forced downtime of COVID closings.
“Pandemic bread-baking started as a way to keep my hands and mind busy,” recalls Chase. “Always a baker, I rarely strayed from making cakes and cookies. Baking bread intimidated me. When COVID-19 changed ‘normal shopping,’ I dug deep into all things sourdough to see what I could learn. My older sister and I obsessed, studied, and baked [remotely], exchanging our successes and fails. Taking a leap of faith, I baked six basic sourdough loaves one day and offered a free loaf of bread to interested takers on our neighborhood social media.” All six loaves were claimed within an hour, and the recipients were mightily impressed with Chase’s baking skills. “I was excited and curious by the strong response. Now what?”
Bolstered with new confidence, Chase found the Instagram community of bakers and began researching how to run a home micro-bakery. In June, 2021, she launched Heart in Hand Bread. Chase’s naturally-leavened, preservative-free goodies may include sourdough breads with fig and walnut; roasted garlic and rosemary focaccia; cranberry and pistachio biscotti; apple and cardamom preserves; assorted bagels; granola; spicy rye crackers; cinnamon rolls; and more — the menu varies. Check out the offerings on Facebook or Instagram, or visit www.heartinhandbread.com.
“It’s a simple structure: The week’s menu is open Tuesday-Thursday; orders are placed and paid for online; pickup is Saturday afternoon,” explains Chase. “We follow Maryland’s cottage laws for sales and strict kitchen sanitation guidelines. Today, we have a core group of regular customers, growing by several each week. Old enough to know the joke about making plans and the universe laughing, Gerry and I take it one bake at a time, week by week. Our joy and passion for the work keeps us going, and we are loving every minute.”
Chase’s favorite thing about this venture is the connection it has fostered with others in the community. “An Idlewylde resident for 20-plus years, I meet more of my neighbors now than ever before,” she says. “Young kids with big smiles run to our house with parents in tow. We hear about surgeries, new babies, and ‘next job’ interviews. We share recipes, laughs, and tears. We are truly checking in with each other. The opportunity to bake every week for our community of friends, neighbors, and loved ones is a gift we never saw coming. I am exactly where I want to be.”