Imagine your college semester abroad inspiring your entire career. Well, for head doughpuncher David Norman of Austin's Easy Tiger, that's exactly what happened. "I spent my Junior year in Munich, and when I came back I really missed good bread and I really missed good beer," he explains.
Although he loved the hearty German carbohydrates he discovered abroad, bread did not become the catalyst for his career until he left college. What was once a hobby, shortly became a passion. "So I was done with school and I found a job at a bakery and I turned a hobby into a job and I ended up liking it."
It wasn't until he had years of bread baking under his belt, however, that he decided to relocate to Austin. Why the capital of the Lone Star State? Norman states simply, "It's what I like, and it's what Austin needed."
Following An Intense Love of German Bread
But not just any bread will do for this baker; Norman's first love still remains German bread. He loves the heartiness of its crumb as well as all the variation that you can literally knead into the dough.
The subtlety of the graduated taste is a sliding scale, and something Norman would love to introduce to the Austin community. "They [the Germans] have a chart. You can have Weizenbrot, Weizenmischbrot, Rogenmischbrot, rogenbrot."
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Surprisingly, at Easy Tiger, "Most of our bread is French or Italian." This was an unexpected admission after he had waxed on about his passion for coaxing a robust, German bread out of a pile of flour and yeast.
A moment later he glanced over his shoulder at the wooden bread racks and added. "We do pretzels and we do one rye bread." For this bread baker though, one German bread is not enough.
For Norman it will be a relief when Easy Tiger opens its second location and he is able to bake more rye. "I love the rye bread in the morning for breakfast."
Although he claims that it is not necessarily his favorite variety: "It's like asking me to choose my favorite kid. It depends on what I'm eating and when I'm eating it."
It's All About the French Gluten
In the meantime, patrons will have to be content with some of his other varieties, all of which were developed in an authentic European fashion. A few loaves, Norman even learned how to bake in Europe. "I spent a week at a French bakery. I can't really call it a stage because he wouldn't let me touch the dough very much, but I at least watched him," he concedes with a chuckle.
Regardless of how the recipes ended up in Central Texas, they are working magic on those who sample the result, and Norman's crusade to turn Austinites into a bunch of gluten-loving converts is working. The wooden pegboards that line the exposed brick wall of the historic building are impossible to keep laden.
By lunchtime, you're lucky if they have two baguettes left. Most of this has to do with his insistence on hand-producing each individual loaf. Easy Tiger clings to manual baking methods because Norman claims that it is ideal for creating the consistently imperfect appearance that is required for perfect texture and taste.
And this unparalleled taste is why Norman says, "I love to bake bread." I'm sure his customers would encourage him to continue.
This interview was originally published on March 23, 2017.