Carolin Boodhu

Carolin Boodhu uses a bread peel to place a garlic loaf into her dirt oven, while the freshly-baked hops, photograph at right, are ready to be removed from the oven and sold to customers.

CAROLIN Boodhu is one of the top bread bakers in La Brea Village, Guayaguayare. Despite recent increases in flour costs, this bread baker is determined to keep her company running. According to Boodhu, a hike in flour costs impacts not just her bread but also all the other items at her bakery.

Boodhu and her family own and operate Dove’s Dirt Oven Delights. Her freshly made signature loaves, which she keeps rolling hot from her earth oven, draw customers from near and far. While other bakeries have professional ovens and cutting-edge technology, Boodhu and her family have opted to keep things simple by using a wood-burning oven.

A company that began with Boodhu and her husband, Sanjid, has grown to encompass their two children, her sister, and her two neices. Boodhu says their bakery has two popular items: coconut drops and garlic loaves. They also bake sweet bread, molasses loaves, pizza, fruitcake and pone as well as other goodies. Despite only being open three days a week, Boodhu claims she can provide high-quality meals with a homey flavour without sacrificing her small-town charm.

The mother of seven told the Express Business that she had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur.

“I’ve always loved being outside, so spending hours indoors behind the stove cooking and baking was the polar opposite for me. I worked as a farmer. I adored being in my garden and living off the earth. Jobs were hard to come by a few years ago when the country’s economy tanked, and all of the oil corporations relocated to La Brea. I realised I had to act to preserve the life of my family, “Boodhu said.

“The company has been in operation since 2017. My Dove’s Dirt Oven Delights was named after my father, Alfred Pope. Dove was his nickname. He was known as the “dirt oven-man”. As a prominent member of the community, it was easy for customers to locate the shop by simply asking taxi drivers, “Drive me to where Dove lives.” He died in January of this year. This is my way of carrying on the family heritage, “ she remarked.

“All I ever knew about cooking and baking was done in a dirt oven growing up with my family. I wanted to preserve the tradition.”

While she has not completely abandoned modern technology, she does prefer to cook and bake in a wood-burning oven.

“At home, I have a gas stove, although it is more for convenience. I’ll utilise it to make small-scale goods, as well as enable my girls to explore with their culinary inventions, “ Boodhu said.

Dove’s Dirt Oven Delights is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays but despite the shorter work week, Boodhu claims that they have enough orders and walk-ins to keep the business afloat.

“Because everything is prepared from scratch and by hand, the preparation takes some time. My parents taught me how to make bread. I’ve enhanced it and made it my own throughout the years. When we initially opened our doors in 2017, it was the very first item we sold. It was a hit, and the business grew from there. Now that our girls are grown, my husband handles most of the business’s administrative obligations,” she said.

When it comes to what makes their cuisine, particularly their bread, so delicious, Boodhu guards the secret recipe just like Colonel Sanders’ KFC. Her family all know the bread recipe by heart and can measure out ingredients automatically based on sight and touch.

“What we do here at Dove’s is not something I can teach in one lesson,” she said. “Food is more of an art than a science for us. It’s not only about measuring cups; it’s also about how food looks, tastes, and feels. The utilisation of fresh ingredients is what makes our garlic loaves so wonderful. We use fresh garlic rather than garlic powder.

While the bread-making queen couldn’t go into great depth about some of the stages involved with the wood-burning stove, she did provide some insight into the business’s operations.

“Our process is old school; it isn’t flashy, but it produces high-quality baked goods.”

She explained how the oven works: “You would need to fill the oven with wood and then burn it inside. I can’t tell you how we stuff the oven or what else we put in it since it’s a trade secret.

“You would next sweep out the oven and load it with all of the food you wish to bake. Everything is cooked simply with heat, and our pans are bottomless since we use a mould for all of our bread and baked items. The bread takes just a few minutes to bake at the proper temperature (that too is a secret). It takes 25 minutes for the oven to heat up, and we have our method for packing and spacing the bread. It’s a tradition in our family. We all do it. We can bake roughly 30-35 loaves in one oven with 10 bakes. The baking time is 5-7 minutes, and the loaves are 10 to 15 minutes. It saves time and tastes great,” she said.

According to Boodhu, the flavour of bread or other food items differs between conventional and wood-burning ovens.

“I can’t define precisely what it tastes like,” she remarked, “but I do know that I prefer the flavour I grew up with from having a wood-burning oven.”

Boodhu says her business has also been hurt by the recent rise in flour prices. She had to raise the price of her baked products by two to three dollars to keep her company afloat.

“It’s not something I wanted to do, but it was necessary due to the ripple effect of higher flour costs.” Not only did the price of wheat, cheese, butter, and other food products increase, but also the whole cost of preparing these foods increased, she said.

Boodhu said, “I strive to keep my pricing reasonable for my clients.” I sincerely believe in providing high-quality products, so clients can be confident that a loaf from me will serve their whole family and then some.”

Although she realises she cannot satisfy everyone, she values consumer input and acts on it appropriately.

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