Settling in to a cozy cottage in Redondo Beach over a pot of tea, Lisa Clayton lovingly slices a loaf of fresh, homemade spiced apple oatmeal bread.
“When I bake, I feel like I’m growing, nurturing and connecting with something,” she thoughtfully explains. “Something primal, earthly and live. That really appeals to me.”
Clayton operates The Beach Cottage Bakery out of her home, creating loaves of sourdough bread from absolute scratch.
After being inspired by a documentary on the elemental properties of food, the biology major cultivated her own starter—a combination of water, flour and time—and baked her first loaf from freshly milled grain in 2016.
“That was a turning point because when I ate it,” Clayton muses. “This is not bread as I have ever known it. It was just addictive and I love the process.”
After that fateful first loaf, Clayton dove into the world of artisanal sourdough bread creation with full gusto, continuing to maintain her starter culture, investing in a stone-ground mill to freshly prepare her flour and other tools.
She began attending workshops to learn more about the craft and connecting with other bakers on social media.
“I realized I saw some people who were being quite creative and decorative with their bread,” Clayton says, noting that baking allows her to combine her artistic and analytical inclinations. “So I started making more intricate designs and posting them.”
She says, at first, there was a trickle of interest as she would prepare two to three loaves a week and give them away.
That interest has quickly grown into a Instagram following of more than 45,000 people on her page @sourdough_nouveau and breathed life into a full-fledged home business.
Clayton now sells her creation through a Cottage Law license, which allows for the legal sale of home-prepared goods.
“I thought it would be amazing to be able to use food and bread,” she says. “Something seemingly so simple to be able to bring people together, connect people through food."
Clayton says the local community has played an essential role in turning what was once a hobby into a way of life.
“The South Bay is an amazing place,” Clayton elaborates, explaining she initially reached out through online community forum NextDoor to offer neighbors free loaves of bread while test-baking. “I’ve met a lot of people and some people now have turned into customers.”
Clayton shares an anecdote of how the owner of Marina Bike Rentals once asked to trade his home roasted coffee for a loaf of her bread.
“Small connections like that can accumulate and build into something nice,” she says.
The baker currently offers loaves for order, ‘breaducation’ and more at her website https://www.thebeachcottagebakery.com/.
In the future, she says she plans to host workshops to impart her knowledge of fresh bread preparation and hopes to facilitate further connections within her community through the “magical alchemy” of sourdough.
“You can bring together these really basic things and just produce something beautiful,” she says, likening the delicate interactions of the organisms within the bread to the people who create and purchase it.
“It’s just a complete web...I like thinking about that because that’s what’s lost in food production these days...that connection from where it started to where it ends.”
**Updated at 1 p.m. to use the owner's maiden name Clayton instead of married name Barnes.