It was moving to Austin in 2010 that started that journey. “I was 18 and needed a job, so I started working at Parkside in Austin. Then, I just fell in love with making everything by hand," he says.
While working as a line cook and sous chef, Rooney always had an eye on the bread station, working with bakers between busy shifts. He read what many consider the bread bible, Tartine Bread, and eventually enrolled in a one-week course at the San Francisco Baking Institute.
“Bread had been an obsession, then the pandemic hit, and so I had to refocus, and I just tried to stay employed.” He turned his kitchen inside his Oak Cliff home into a bakery, "and I started baking for the neighborhood."
The restaurant-work pause caused by the pandemic turned out to be a blessing for Rooney. He dedicated his time, house and energy to the craft and officially launched Oak Cliff Bread as a cottage business. He offers porch pick-ups on Fridays, free delivery in Oak Cliff and has a stall under the shed at the Dallas Farmers Market on Sundays.
Heritage Grains, Milled In-House
The real beauty of this bread starts with dirt and sun. Rooney uses only heritage grains for his wholewheat loaves, which are procured through Barton Springs Mill in Central Texas: Its founder, James Brown, applied for heritage grain seeds, which are stored in an underground vault by the state, then, in turn, handed them over to a few organic farmers across Texas who committed to growing pure varieties of wheat that haven't seen the sun in decades.
Rooney prefers their Yecora Rojo variety of wheat, which according to their site happens to also be a favorite of Tartine Bakery in California. This wheat is grown by Aaron Voegler Farms near La Mesa, at the bottom of the Panhandle in West Texas.
Oak Cliff Bread also has a selection of pastries available on its website and at the farmers market, including beautiful golden morning buns that look similar to kouign amanns; he uses pastry dough rolled up in a muffin pan that caramelizes on the bottom.
At some point in the future, Rooney hopes to open a bakery in the neighborhood. For now, he’s staying put at his cottage bakery in Oak Cliff serving his neighborhood and anyone else who wishes to place an order online or catch him at the Dallas Farmers Market on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oak Cliff Bread, OakClffBread.com, Dallas Farmers Market, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays