Baking will always be a work in progress. Jim Challenger began in 2016, and, as bakers do, became obsessed with baking the perfect loaf. What started out as an expression of love—making healthy food for his family—grew into a commitment to learning the craft of baking bread. Challenger Breadware grew out of Jim’s daily baking practice, and his personal goal to help more people bake better and eat more healthfully, one delicious loaf at a time.
As a family, the Challengers always find themselves centered around food. Lisa and Jim include their own fresh baked bread with every meal. It’s not just for the wonderful flavor and satisfying crunch, but also for the health benefits of bread baked with nutrient-rich ingredients.
There’s nothing better than starting your day with fresh baked bread slathered with butter—even if it doesn’t look quite right at first. When Jim first started baking bread, he learned quickly that even if his bread didn’t look the way he wanted, it always tasted great.
When you embark on a baker’s journey, there’s always more to learn. The mystery of not knowing exactly what’s going to happen when you throw your loaf in the Challenger to bake is exhilarating. The pursuit of this beautiful loaf, the perfect loaf, is satisfying and meditative, and always gives you something delicious to eat.
Beyond feeding family and friends, Jim and his wife Lisa Challenger started sharing fresh bread with their local community. The Challengers set up a home-based bakery and today continue to give away dozens of loaves each week.
Jim found the broader baking community to be a source of constant support and inspiration. Learning from other bakers locally and online (looking at you #bakersofinstagram), and receiving encouragement and support from other bakers, has helped Jim grow as a baker. Beyond Jim’s own experience, it was listening to the needs and wants of the baking community that started Jim down the road to making the The Challenger Bread Pan.
Not enough steam, inconsistent heat, burned hands. And repeat. Every bread baker knows this struggle. Frustrated by the seeming impossibility of achieving the perfect loaf, and unsuccessful in finding the equipment he needed to do so at home—an ever-optimistic Jim decided to create exactly what he wanted and what the baking community needed: a cast iron pan specifically designed to produce bakery quality bread, baked in a home oven.
Jim found a mentor in Sara Dahmen of House Copper, and she introduced him to a great product designer, Julia Behm of Design Between. After iterating the design for a year, the first pan prototypes went into production in July 2018, at that time known as #jimsbreadpan.
The ever-growing community of bakers were enthusiastic product testers. Their feedback and positive response propelled Jim, along with the help of Trevor Wilson, to make the first great pan prototype into an even better second design.
By October 2018, the updated plan was ready and shipped to a 3D printer for prototyping. The new model was just plain sexy as hell! The tooling and the molds created to shape liquid cast iron, was completed in December 2018, followed by the first four samples of the improved pan the following January.
Challenger Breadware officially launched on August 1, 2019. By October the pan had been purchased and shipped to over 45 different countries.
We partnered with a second US-foundry to keep up with demand of the sold-out new design. All of our pans are still hand crafted in Wisconsin and hand seasoned in Indiana.
In the near future, Jim envisions more baking, more Challenger products, and the expansion The How of Baking, our resource for bakers around the world.
Jim & Lisa Challenger live just north of Chicago at Blue Moon Farms—their home and the Challenger Breadware headquarters. With five children, Jambo the Bernese Mountain dog, and their local community of friends and neighbors, there’s always someone in the Challenger kitchen.
On the farm you’ll also find two horses named Charlie and Jackson—named after Jim & Lisa’s two favorite cities in the US: Charleston, South Carolina, where they were married; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is surrounded by the most beautiful mountains in the country.
Jim and Lisa love hosting bread making workshops and other events at Blue Moon Farms. Lisa has recently launched her own website, Challenger Journal, where you can read more about the farm and the beautiful events that Lisa creates with an eye for style, a penchant for fun and a whole lot of love.