This baker’s fermentation fascination is feeding Long Beach one loaf at a time

It’s a Thursday night in Belmont Shore, a kitchen door cracked slightly to let out the sweltering air. Kristin Colazas Delfs works swiftly, shaping one formless heap of dough after another into spherical mounds. With graceful sweeping motions—a choreographed dance perfected over five-plus years baking professionally—she coaxes the dough into shape with a bench scraper.

Three hours later and running on little sleep, Delfs heads home for a nap, but will soon make her way back to the kitchen to finish baking. At the close of a busy production day, she’ll have made about 40 loaves of bread and 100 to 150 pastries to be sold at farmers markets and various coffee shops throughout Long Beach.

Delfs, 27, is one of the only women running a bread and pastry business in what is a burgeoning artisanal bread-making scene in Long Beach: There’s Gusto Bread, Arturo Enciso’s cottage bakery selling his stone oven-baked goods out of his Long Beach home. There’s also Hey Brother Baker, a nascent bread venture that held one of its first pop-ups earlier this month.

And then there’s Colossus Bread, Delfs’ operation which she moved back to her native Long Beach and launched in early April. Her loaves of Walnut Levain and Olive Levain with Cumin Seed regularly sell out at five locales throughout the city.

“I love it because it’s something that’s alive,” Delfs said. “The parallel between everything fermented is really interesting to me, like how I can talk to winemakers and we’re kind of speaking the same language.”

Delfs also makes country, sesame and sunflower flax seed loaves. Her whole wheat loaves are a mix of fresh-milled wheat, walnuts and cranberries, another favorite. Alongside her pastries—which include an apple brioche bun with thyme pastry cream and a berry almond brioche bostock—she’s currently working on a collaboration with Primal Alchemy, a local catering company, for a new take on a ham and cheese croissant.

The practice of making bread, said Delfs, is “constantly evolving and I’m still learning even though I’ve been doing it for years now.” She mills her own grains, sourced from the Tehachapi Green Project, gets her tomatoes from her dad’s garden, grows most of her own herbs and picks up produce and ingredients from the three farmers markets in Long Beach where she sells her loaves.

“I was always really interested in grains and gardening and farming and just that whole agricultural connection,” said Delfs, describing her early beginnings. “I remember someone saying, ‘Oh, I’m really into bread,’ and just thinking, ‘That’s crazy—how does that even happen? I can’t imagine.’ I think at some point it just seemed like a challenge.”

After graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a history degree, starting out in the realm of carbs was not Delfs’ original plan for life after college. A short-lived attempt at community organizing, including stints spent working at a women’s services center on Skid Row and with Code Pink, a women-led, anti-war grassroots organization, left her craving a career outside of an office.

It was time for a change in direction, a different way to foster community.

She scrambled for what felt familiar and what wouldn’t require paying for another education, and that was working in pastries. After a minimum-wage pastry gig in Los Angeles, Delfs moved back to Long Beach to continue as a barista at a few coffee shops, including Rose Park Roasters, jobs she’d had through college.

Knowing she wanted to gain more experience outside of the city and eventually move, she was driving back and forth to the Bay Area to stage (a term used to describe working in kitchens for free, essentially the begrudged unpaid internship of the culinary world).

Delfs’ hustle was real, and it still is.

“It’s one of those things that you just have to do all the time, and I truly think anyone can do it, anyone can make bread,” said Delfs. “If you’re working in a commercial bakery or professional setting you’re doing multiple loaves all the time which just makes it easier to see where you’ve gone wrong.”

After moving to and working in multiple pastry jobs in Northern California, Delfs landed a job at Petit Crenn in San Francisco, award-winning chef Dominique Crenn’s more casual version of her two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn.

There she started out as a pastry assistant, made pastry sous, then became pastry chef, all within 10 months. During some of her time at Petit, she was also doing bread at Outerlands, one of San Francisco’s most popular spots to brunch with its focus on using seasonal, sustainable ingredients.

Over the years, Delfs has learned and honed her craft on the job, her kitchen as the classroom. The journey has never been easy, and like any pursued passion, sometimes you hit a few bumps in the road.

“I remember when I first started at Petit Crenn I remember getting in there and it just being awful,” Delfs said. “All the bread was flat and I was like, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ and you just start second guessing yourself and [thinking] maybe I can’t do this, and it was kind of like that when I started back down here again. It’s humbling.”

But bringing those ups and downs, that wealth of experience, back to Long Beach has kept her incredibly busy since launching Colossus this year, with Black Ring Coffee and Rose Park Roasters the first to sell her pastries, while she recently moved operations to renting a kitchen, is considering teaching classes and is already looking to hire an assistant.

She’s also created the Colossus Bread Club, offering regular bread deliveries to subscribing customers.

“I just always dreamed about coming back and being able to create a space and a product to give something back to Long Beach,” Delfs said. “I feel like bread gives me that human connection, I’m able to make something really special and give it to people and have a relationship with them, but it’s also helping me give back something that’s healthy and nutritious to my community.”

You can pick up Delfs’ pastries at Lord Windsor Coffee on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; at Rose Park Roasters on Mondays; and daily at Viento y Agua, Olives Gourmet Grocer and Black Ring Coffee.

The bread is on the menu at Taste wine-beer-kitchen and can be picked up Mondays at the Houghton Park Farmers Market, Fridays at the one in Downtown Long Beach and Sundays at the Long Beach Marina farmers market.

Learn more about Colossus Bread via the website here and Instagram @colossusbread.

 

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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