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Bringing home the dough, one loaf at a time

Sourdough is the new trend, but these ladies are more than a trend

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February 21, 2024

CRIVITZ — When Ashley Siegel and Rebecca Kostreva met two years ago through homeschooling and homesteading, little did they know they would one day start a business together.

The pair, describing themselves as instant best friends, said they hit it off right away and have been inseparable since.

Kostreva said she learned how to bake sourdough last summer.

Both women said eventually, they started baking so much bread their families started to get tired of eating it with every meal.

Rather than slow down and bake less, Kostreva said they opted to open Rustic Rise Bakery — which got its official start at the beginning of the year.

With a passion for all things fermented grain and a healthier way to live and eat, Kostreva said all of their products are made as natural as possible.

Rustic Rise Bakery falls under Wisconsin’s cottage law, meaning they bake at home and sell from home — relying on custom orders, deliveries, local business pickup locations and soon-to-be farmers’ markets for sales.

A learning curve
With just three necessary ingredients — flour, water and salt — sourdough sounds simple ñhowever, the duo said it is one the hardest breads to make well.

Last year, Kostreva managed to get a starter from her sister-in-law, and from there, the baking commenced.

“The first month was filled with failures,” she said. “It’s an intensive process, especially when you’re learning it. And then once you get that first successful loaf, you’re proud of it.”

Ashley Siegel and Rebecca Kostreva are the owners of Rustic Rise Bakery. Submitted Photo

Admitting that they practiced “a ridiculous amount” to get where they are now, Siegel said they were baking 10 loaves of bread daily.

Because sourdough “has a mind of its own,” Siegel said it can be a difficult process — noting that one day it may work, and the next it may not.

She said they can use the same process, measurements, everything — but if the starter decides it doesn’t want to work, it’s not working.

The friends-turned-business-partners said homesteading and sourdough go hand-in-hand.

Kostreva said though they found several people selling sourdough online, they didn’t have an actual business set up.

“It was more the case of people selling a few extra loaves here and there,” she said. “Starting, we don’t have a whole lot of competition, which is nice.”

Part of that, Siegel said, likely has to do with the complicated process — a labor-intensive and time-sensitive undertaking.

Yet, Kostreva said the process can also be meditative practice.

“It forces you to slow down,” she said. “I could be having a bad day, but as soon as I start mixing the dough, I feel better.”

Siegel and Kostreva said for them, it goes beyond trends and making money.

The pair said baking has become a passion for them, so much so, “that we can’t wait to get to bed, wake up and start baking.”

Siegel and Kostreva said it has also created opportunities for family bonding.

Kostreva said she has converted a whole room in her house into her bakery — with her husband and kids serving as great taste-testers.

It’s a similar situation in the Siegel house — with her oldest daughter, who she said is artistic, occasionally doing the scoring (the process of cutting a slash or design in the surface of bread dough before baking) on top of the loaves.

Getting into it
Starting a business — specifically an at-home business — the duo recognized that a certain entrepreneurial spirit is often a necessity.

From homesteading to baking bread, Siegel and Kostreva said they aren’t afraid to take chances, over and over again as evidenced by their routine of baking 10 loaves a day.

Inspired by a goal to add something new to her life every year, Kostreva — who is also an avid reader — said learning how to bake sourdough and then making the decision to start selling it began with hours of research.

“I had a lightbulb moment late one night after baking where I realized I could probably sell this to a larger crowd than friends and family,” she said.

Kostreva said though there are many different ways to make sourdough, it comes down to the good old scientific experimentation — finding what you like and what works for you.

Becoming business partners
Not only does its self-classification as a micro-bakery make Rustic Rise Bakery unique, Kostreva said so does its rural location.

“I’ve seen how successful the other micro bakeries were and thought we needed something like that around the Crivitz and Northeast Wisconsin area,” she said.

Originally starting things as a small homesteading business — called Little Things Bakery — Kostreva said she didn’t think it would take off as fast as it did and quickly realized she couldn’t do it alone.

It was then she reached out to Siegel.

Though sourdough is made with three necessary ingredients — flour, water and salt — the owners of Rustic Rise Bakery said it is one the hardest breads to make well. Submitted Photo

When asked to jump in, Siegel said it didn’t take long for her to get involved.

“I mean, honestly, who wants to work alone?” she said.

Though the extra hands helped, the duo admit it hasn’t all been easy.

Siegel said the first week they took pre-orders, it ended up being a heavy baking week — which made her question if this was the right move.

However, by taking a small step back, the duo said they recognized that learning and doing everything at once was adding to their stress.

As stay-at-home moms, Kostreva and Siegel said though they enjoy making bread and contributing to their families financially, it’s also important to them to have a balance.

“We don’t want to work a 9-5,” Kostreva said. “We want the freedom to be with our families and run a business.”

Bringing home the dough, literally
Siegel and Kostreva said they bake and package everything as fresh as possible the day before an order is due.

Siegel said it can make for long baking days — but they don’t quit until they are done.

This begs the question — how do they bake so much bread with regular-sized ovens made for a home?

Siegel said in the beginning, they were only able to bake two loaves at a time — each of which took roughly 45 minutes.

Recently, however, she said they have figured out a way to bake four loaves at once.

“That either cut our loaf bake time in half or doubled our orders,” she laughed. “We would love to get a bigger oven, but being such a new business, until we’re more consistent in sales and other things are set, (we’ll stick with what we have).”

For now, Siegel and Kostreva said what they have now works, and like any other homesteader, “where there’s a will there’s a way.”

The baking duo said they didn’t expect to be doing as well as they have been, so quickly.

“I knew after the holidays people probably weren’t going to be spending as much, and going on diets and such,” Kostreva said. “But in January alone, we resulted in more than $2,000 in sales.” This equated to 200 loaves of bread and 40 bags of bagels.

The partners said they are excited to see where things go.

Kostreva said they have received a lot of support through social media.

“As a community, social media helped (us) pinpoint and hone in our skills, which ultimately led us to create our own recipe,” she said.

Bread can be healthy, too
Siegel and Kostreva said they recognize society’s recent interest in knowing more about what they are putting into their bodies.

With just three ingredients, Kostreva said what goes into Rustic Rise Bakery’s sourdough is pretty straightforward — especially compared to bread options available in stores.

“You can’t even pronounce some of the ingredients — that’s a little scary,” she said.

Though bread sometimes gets a bad rap because of its carbohydrate content, the pair said they are on a mission to show that bread isn’t bad.

“Some of our customers have been saying they’re now spoiled, and they only want this fresh homemade bread,” she said. “It’s real bread, it’s what humans have been eating since the beginning of making bread, and people want to get back to their roots.”

Additionally, Siegel said of all the bread options to choose from, sourdough is one of the few that science backs up as the best you can eat — provided, she said, it’s made from natural ingredients.

Making sourdough, Ashley Siegel said, is a labor-intensive, time-sensitive and complicated process. Submitted Photo

Each Rustic Rise Bakery offerings, the loaves are round, and there are two size options available for purchase:

Big Mama — meant for families and weighs in around 2 pounds, $16Little Mama — half the size of the Big Mama, and closer to the weight of a normal sandwich loaf you find at the store, $8
In addition to the original, the bakers offer cheddar jalapeÒo, garlic parmesan, cinnamon raisin, blueberries, cherries and chocolate chip.

Siegel said they plan to offer seasonal flavors, too.

Rustic Rise has bagels available for sale as well, 4 for $10.

The baking duo said their best seller so far has been the cheddar jalapeÒo and garlic parmesan Little Mama loaves.

Siegel said her favorite is cheddar jalapeÒo because the crust gets softer — she thinks it’s also more relatable for people coming from store-bought bread exclusively.

She also suggests for those who are fans of garlic bread to check out Rustic Rise’s garlic parmesan.

“It’s the best garlic bread I’ve ever tasted,” she said.

Orders can be placed through the bakery’s Facebook page or by calling the business line at (715) 229-3173.

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