When the rest of the South Shore is sleeping soundly in the earliest hours of Saturday mornings, Alec White is rising to start his day.
By 1 a.m. on farmers market weekends, White is up with a mission in the kitchen of his family’s home on Holly Hill Farm: to bake bread. Using two conventional ovens and a specialty bread oven he bought last year, White can bake up to 16 loaves of country white, cranberry walnut or Kalamata olive bread at a time, but that barely makes a dent in what he needs to produce.
“In a busy week, one with pickups and farmers markets, I can sell 250 loaves of sourdough, 300 baguettes and maybe 300 pastries,” White said on a recent day in the kitchen. “It’s all locally, artisan made.”
White, 29, is the baker, delivery driver, web guru and business manager for Alecco Bakery, a 2-year-old endeavor that has quickly wormed its way into the hearts of South Shore, Mass. bread connoisseurs. The White family has owned Holly Hill Farm for generations, but White grew up all over the country as his father traveled for work.
Trained in baking at the Culinary Institute of America and the San Francisco Baking Institute, White was working as a bread-maker at L’imprimerie, a French bakery in Brooklyn, when the pandemic hit. He came home to Cohasset and said he was “doing nothing” when his brother challenged him to try to sell a few loaves of his bread.
He started with a classic loaf of country white bread, and sold eight loaves in his first week. From there, he created his own sourdough starter, began milling his own flours and experimented endlessly with different recipes and add-ins. He introduced pastries to his lineup, started selling at farmers markets and started doing order-ahead pickups at local businesses. It wasn’t long before his bread was selling faster than he could make it.
“I make it all by hand, right here,” White said. “Everything is so processed in America today, and people don’t get to really see how bread should be made. I don’t have any magic tricks. It’s just fresh, artisan bread.”
White’s journey to the kitchen was about a decade in the making. The baker, who is severely dyslexic, said he always struggled with traditional learning. He was in special programs for language through his time in school before going to Lynn University to earn a bachelor’s degree in history. He said even in culinary school, he didn’t exactly shine in a classroom setting.
“(My dyslexia) made me think outside of the box. I had to think about things other than sitting in a cubicle and looking at numbers or writing all day,” he said. “I was itching to be done with school. I felt like I was doing better when I was at work than when I was in the classroom.”
He left New York’s Culinary Institute of America without finishing his program, saying the one bread class he took at the school immediately sold him.
“I didn’t want to be making cakes anymore,” he said.
He did several weeklong intensives at the San Francisco Baking Institute and immediately started working in any bakery that would have him, starting as a busboy and a line cook.
After all this time, he said his passion for the craft is as strong as it ever was.
“I like the science behind it, the touch and the feel of it,” he said. “I’ve learned that doughs are challenging. Yeast is a living organism, and it acts differently every day. I love that about it.”
These days, White does weekly order-ahead pickups at Board 143 in Scituate and Ralph’s wine store in Hingham. He sells at the Hingham and Plymouth farmers markets, through Peggotty Provisions and Market 2Day, and will occasionally bring fresh loaves to the Holly Hill Farm stand on the weekends.
His naturally leavened country loaf is still on the menu, but Alecco Bakery now offers five other loaves, baguettes and pastries including croissants and morning buns. Breads are $5 to $9 and pastries are $3.50 to $4. Ordering takes place at aleccobakery.com.
Ultimately, White said he’d love for Alecco Bakery to have a storefront.
“I love making bread and I’m very thankful and very lucky that people like and want to buy my bread,” White said. “I think a lot of people struggle to find what they love and with how to do it for a living. I feel very lucky.”
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.