Like most new moms, Katonah’s Anne Mayhew believed that to give her twin baby girls the best possible start in life, she would have to pay close attention to everything that went into their tiny bodies. And, as ambitious and nutrition-conscious moms often do, Mayhew chose to forgo the convenience of jarred fruit and vegetable purées in favor of homemade baby food. That, in turn, got her thinking about what may be the most fundamental building block of a person’s diet: bread.
So, like any Fulbright scholar worth her salt, Mayhew got a book on the subject. It was a cookbook, so while her girls napped back then in 2015, she played in the kitchen. “It’s very addictive,” she says. “You take three ingredients — flour, water, and salt — and it’s like magic, somewhere between science and art.”
Having studied painting and drawing at Parsons Paris and in rural India, and working as a milliner and costume designer at the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway in her late 20s, that kind of alchemy was right up her alley. But that was before this creative and energetic artisan originally from Northern Michigan started baking 200 or so loaves per week in a home kitchen that would become the headquarters of the now popular LMNOP Bakery.
The more Mayhew tinkered with bread making, the more she read about the early beginnings of her newfound medium. She devoured a life-altering book about the importance of grain to ancient communities and local economies and acquired eye-opening information about conventional flour. “It’s milled about two years prior to sale,” she says, “and it’s stripped of all its nutrient-dense germ, to make it shelf-stable.” She became consumed with the idea of baking with the freshest and heathiest flour she could get her hands on, as the white stuff at the supermarket was no longer cutting it.
Mayhew discovered that fresh grain was available at the Union Square Greenmarket, so she started making trips to Manhattan, filling her backpack and using a small mill to grind rye and wheat berries herself. Soon after, she signed up for fresh-flour deliveries, and her husband, Jesse, born and bred in Westchester, built an extra oven in the backyard.
Still not able to satisfy her hunger to create, with a growing desire to support local grain producers, Mayhew made a pilgrimage to Wild Hive Farm, about an hour north, in Clinton Corners, NY, where regionally grown, organic grain is milled in small batches and made into flour. She finally had enough of the resource she’d been craving at her fingertips, so her passion for the lost art of bread making really began to take shape.
“There are so many variables to the ingredients… the flour, water, and salt, and I kept messing around with time and temperature,” Mayhew recalls. She also began experimenting with different varieties of bread — some with oatmeal stout, others with spent brewhouse grains — but the essence of her loaves was, and still is, simple sourdough. “It’s not the sourdough you buy commercially,” she explains, and it doesn’t taste sour either. “It just refers to the oldest way of making bread, where you rely on natural leavening present on the grain and in the air, instead of adding yeast.”
Mayhew calls this “the lazy way of making bread,” as it requires just a few minutes of hand mixing, followed by 12 to 36 hours of rising and fermenting. “The longer it ferments, the more flavorful it is,” she notes, “and easier to digest.”
With her craft continuing to refine, her young girls now in school, and word spreading about what she was doing on a serene, wooded street in Katonah, she and Jesse expanded their kitchen to accommodate two large bread-baking ovens and a walk-in refrigerator.
Visits to Wild Hive Farm increased, to the point that she now travels there every three weeks, loading up her minivan with around 600 pounds of newly milled flour per trip. This allows her to whip up an average of 50 loaves a day for farmers’ markets, local gourmet shops, and individuals (some from Connecticut) who order online and pick up at a number of drop spots throughout Northern Westchester or at her doorstep.
Jesse goes the extra mile, making deliveries to loyal customers, like NYC’s Patricia Rogers. “LMNOP is pure bread-joy deliciousness! I’m obsessed,” says Rogers. As for Jesse, he couldn’t be prouder of his wife. “It’s been amazing watching this small business develop,” he says.
Mayhew, who just turned 40 in June, sits on the advisory board of the Northeast Grainshed, which is committed to building a local food chain by connecting regional farms, mills, and malthouses with craft food and beverages. She also hosts workshops at her home every few weeks, and there’s usually a waitlist for those.
Even with everything on her plate, “I’m still a mom from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” she half jokes. Her family has grown; her girls now have a brother in preschool, and when asked what she does in her downtime, she responds like the typical mom: “I clean the house!” However, she enjoys being outdoors whenever possible, on local hiking trails or the beaches of Montauk, and wishes there were more time for a vegetable garden or to try new recipes with Jesse, the way they used to.
In her solitary moments, her apron dusty with flour, she dreams about opening a bakery in Katonah or reviving the community oven of old, in which folks would bring homemade dough to the village center to be fired alongside that of their neighbors. “Perhaps a mobile oven,” she considers.
Mayhew recognizes that taking LMNOP Bakery to the next level will result in less time with her kids, but she admits she’s “kinda ambitious” and longs for them to be proud of her. “I want to show my kids that they can do anything they put their minds to,” a fresh, wholesome goodness that should be within everyone’s reach.