By Becky Lee
Every Sunday, William Fenimore bakes more than 100 loaves of bread in his kitchen. He wakes up before the sun rises and is out the door by 8 a.m. His stand at the Outer Sunset Farmers Market sells out on a weekly basis.
William is the owner of Driftwood Bread Co., a home-bakery in the Outer Sunset that specializes in 100% whole grain bread.
As the sole employee, Fenimore is both the face and hands of the operation. He mixes, shapes, and bakes each loaf himself.
He taught himself to bake six years ago, using the famous Tartine Bread cookbook. Eventually, he decided to focus solely on whole grain bread.
When grains are refined to make white flour, the bran and germ – the most nutritious parts – are removed. With whole grain flour, all parts of the grain remain intact, including the nutrients and antioxidants typically stripped out by processing.
Whole wheat flour may be more nutritious, but it is notoriously difficult to bake with and often leads to dense, heavy loaves.
“You’re getting nature in its entirety,” Fenimore said. “Whole wheat baking is almost like wearing your heart on your sleeve in that way.”
After years of experimentation, Fenimore began selling his bread through Other Avenues Grocery in 2019, just after Marla Bakery closed its Outer Richmond location, leaving few bakeries in the avenues.
While having his loaves carried on the shelves of a local retailer was “extremely humbling,” the obligation to consistently produce high-quality loaves felt overwhelming at first. Some days the bread was great. Other days he dropped off his supply and rushed out as quickly as possible.
“It was a long process,” he said. “Giving myself permission was probably the biggest lesson.”
Fenimore is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. One of the things that drew him to baking was the “opportunity to be perfect.” Over time, he realized that the dissatisfaction over a less-than-perfect loaf wasn’t about the quality of the bread, but a reflection of his feelings about himself.
“That’s what the bread taught me,” Fenimore said. “Do it because you enjoy it. Don’t compare yourself to other people.”
Now, he only needs to bake a new recipe a few times before it tastes “good enough.”
Driftwood staples include a classic whole wheat batard and baguettes. Fenimore also creates more adventurous offerings, like roasted garlic loaves with nori dukkah, or olive and roasted red pepper. He even makes whole wheat pita.
Driftwood has a monthly subscription program that delivers a different baked good every week. Fenimore, an avid cyclist, personally delivers all orders by bike. His generous delivery radius includes the Sunset and the Richmond districts.
Fenimore grew up in a military family, moving from Alaska to Texas to Ohio before landing in the Sunset.
“I’ve always felt like an outsider,” he said. “I don’t think I ever solidified a home base anywhere until I moved here.”
In addition to a thriving business that allows him to bake full time, Fenimore has also found community through baking.
“It’s little interactions, like at the market, that are most meaningful to me,” he said.
Fenimore’s kitchen looks out over 46th Avenue. Two full-size standing ovens sit in the front corner, with towers of bread baskets on top. Every morning, his dog Lola curls up around his feet as he makes a pot of tea and feeds his starter – what he describes as a “devotional of sorts.”
Starter is a mixture of flour and water that ferments into an active, live culture. Fed regularly, the same starter can be used for years. Portions can even be passed out to neighbors and friends. Loaves upon loaves, made by many hands in many places, all come from the same original starter.
“The giving of the sourdough starter is like the sharing of communion wafers,” Fenimore said. “I haven’t had anyone interested, but if you want some, there’s enough to go around.”
Driftwood Bread Co. is available at the Outer Sunset Farmers Market, Other Avenues Grocery and online at www.driftwoodbreadco.com. Follow along on Instagram: @driftwoodbreadco.