The original Vermont model for the double life in the worlds of academe and baking is Jules Rabin of Plainfield, a Goddard College professor who traded in the lectern for the oven in 1978, starting the hearty artisanal, sourdough wood-fired oven revolution that transformed the bread landscape of Vermont. He’s now a spry 90, but Rabin and his partner in prandial delight, Helen Rabin, along with daughter Nessa, are back at it, reprising the Upland Bakers breads that once had to be rationed because they were so remarkably tasty and in demand. (One store in the 1980s had a sign that said: “To prevent RIOTS and acts of TERRORISM, we ask you to please limit your purchase of Upland French Bread to no more than three loaves.”) The Rabins show up with 80 loaves of sourdough French, wheat and rye every Friday from 4-7 p.m. at the Plainfield Farmers Market in the village, and the breads still draw raves and longtime fans, who walk away with several loaves for the week. The Rabins were the first to go back to the future, baking their breads in a massive, wood-fired brick and fieldstone oven, weighing 75 tons and modeled on a design of an authentic French peasant oven that Helen Rabin copied down on a visit to France. Using only the simplest ingredients, flour, water, salt and sourdough starter, their crusty breads introduced to Vermonters and tourists an amazing depth of character and flavor. Their breads also inspired and tutored a host of bakers around the state to go off and start their own bakeries and sourdoughs, and to build the now-ubiquitous wood-fired ovens that fire up in bakeries and restaurants statewide. The impetus for a summer bakery revival, says Nessa Rabin, came four years ago when her teen-aged son Julian Sobeano couldn’t find a summer job. They hadn’t baked for seven years at the time. “We also wanted to support the farmers’ market,” adds Jules, who says his role is, “I’m the oven man.” He fires up the wood-fired oven starting at 4:30 a.m. and the whole family pitches in to mix and shape the naturally leavened bread, a slow process that begins the day before. The folks who come by do more than buy bread: They chat, exchange hugs with the Rabins, talk politics and family, reflecting the fact that Jules and Helen Rabin are themselves beloved institutions in the central Vermont community. How long they’ll keep at their eight-week summer revival isn’t certain, so if you want the original Vermont sourdough from the folks who started it all — not to mention divine bread which arrives at the farmer’s market still warm to the touch — drop by the market. But get there early — sometimes they sell out.

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