By Johanna Sommer
Inside the kitchen of an apartment tucked in the back corner of Alumni, a 50-pound bag of flour is immediately visible, along with other ingredients like starter and filtered water scattered across the kitchen island. Two loaves of sourdough, adorned with rustic designs, are out on a rack waiting to be picked up that evening, as more dough is being made.
In case finishing up an undergraduate degree, completing his senior project, and figuring out what to do after graduation isn't enough, senior music production major Neil MacLeod Stiskin is also running his own bread-baking business.
Stiskin, who also records music under the moniker Little Cliff, has turned his Alumni apartment into the campus’s hottest bakery, making homemade sourdough bread from scratch and selling it to students. After getting a sourdough starter from his partner over winter break, Stiskin started baking bread, practicing enough until he realized he could turn his hobby into something more.
“When I was home, I was looking for a way to continue baking and also a way to monetize it,” he says. “And there is nothing like going to someone’s apartment and seeing them smile when you bring them bread on a cold day. That’s rewarding, for sure.”
Stiskin sells his bread through his Instagram page @sunysourdough, where he posts pictures of his bread along with weekly schedules of delivery times for orders. The page was created Feb. 1, and has already amassed 250 followers.
While Stiskin is new to baking sourdough, he has professional experience as a baker, working for a year as a cook often deployed at the pastry station. It was there that he learned how to make hamburger buns, brioche bread, and focaccia, along with cakes and other desserts.
“That was where I learned most of my culinary knowledge in baking stuff,” he says. “I didn’t used to like it when I first started, it was kind of complicated and the margin for error was kind of large, but through practice I feel like I started to really enjoy baking.”
Currently, Stiskin is selling six loaves a day, five days a week, on a pay-what-you-can sliding scale of $8 - $12.
“It’s delicious bread, shockingly good for being made in an Alumni apartment,” says Cally Mansfield, a senior screenwriting major.
“I loved it, I think it’s the best bread I’ve had in a long time,” says junior painting major Nick Paul.
On days where Stiskin is making dough, he needs to be in his apartment for four hours, folding the dough every 30 minutes. The day after, he bakes the dough, spending two to three hours baking two loaves at a time. “It’s a tighter schedule than I’m used to,” he says with a laugh.
Stiskin’s days may be busy, but the reactions to his sourdough are loaded with positivity and even gratitude, due to the fact that Starbucks is the closest thing to fresh-baked goods on campus. Because of this, Stiskin is considering also selling banana bread and sandwich bread, so that students can have more on-campus options. He is also selling starter and considering hosting baking sessions for students if he can find the facilities.
While Stiskin is aware he may need to slow production once his senior project becomes more demanding, and tries to be conscious of his command over a kitchen shared among four people, it seems like the rewards of his baking will keep his operation going throughout the spring.
“I just love the smell of it, I love the process, I love getting the result I’m looking for, and then I love other people picking up on that,” Stiskin says. “It’s a beautiful thing.”