Tag Archives: bakeries

Blue Dog Bakery, Louisville, KY

The more I heard about Blue Dog Bakery — from a waiter, a shopkeeper, a pastry chef, a far-away friend — the more curious I became about the home of Louisville’s best breads.

Gingerbread_Man_Logostory & photos by Bakery Boy

 

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Baguettes by the basketful at Blue Dog Bakery & Café in Louisville

I’d been in Louisville for only a couple of days, and everywhere I went I heard about Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe in the Crescent Hill neighborhood.

When I ate dinner at The Blind Pig, a European-comfort-food “gastropub” in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood, and raved about my sandwich, the waiter said without hesitation that the crusty-outside, chewy inside roll holding together my Ivory Bacon Sandwich (boudin blanc sausage, bacon, muenster cheese, and aioli) is a “pug,” short for pugliese, a style of bread from Southern Italy.  He added,  it came from Blue Dog Bakery.

Blue Dog Bakery anchors the rebounding Crescent Hill neighborhood

The next morning, during my second bakery visit of the day gathering material for future Bakery Boy Blog articles, the pastry chef I was interviewing said that if I’m a bread man (and I absolutely am), then I shouldn’t miss Blue Dog Bakery in Crescent Hill.

Later I was at Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market on Bardstown Road in Louisville’s Highlands area when an employee stocking shelves saw me inspecting the bread and volunteered that it was all good and all from Blue Dog Bakery.

Blue Dog’s levain gets its slight tang from a well-nurtured sourdough starter

Blue Dog’s levain gets its slight tang from a well-nurtured sourdough starter

Then she spoke, more to herself than to me, about needing to get back there soon for some poached free-range eggs, Serrano ham, spinach, and Parmesan on French sourdough levain, a brunch special she recited so perfectly it’s clearly a memorable favorite for her.

Intrigued by three recommendations from such different sources in such short order, a called my friend Wanda two states away in Alabama.  She is, as I am, a longtime (though now former) travel writer for Southern Living.  During the 20 good years of my writing life I spent at that magazine, Kentucky was nearly always Wanda’s “beat,” and she knows Louisville well.

With nine grains kneaded in and rolled on, this bread has got to be good for you

“Oh, yes, I remember that place,” she said, glad to reminisce about a favorite city.  “That’s the bakery facing the railroad tracks in a part of town that used to be really run down but has come back nicely.  Wood-fired oven, fresh local ingredients if they can get them, no preservatives, and I think the owners even raise their own hogs for the meat they serve.  Artisanal everything, especially the breads.  If you’re still doing your Bakery Boy Blog, you’re going to love Blue Dog Bakery.”

With now four recommendations in less than a day, I knew I was on to something.  So I headed to Crescent Hill (indeed come-back-story neighborhood strung along a rail line east of downtown), found Blue Dog Bakery, and was blown away by how good it is.

A classy sign that you’re in bread heaven

Tables outside and inside were filled with patrons visibly pleased to be there.  Everything was photogenic and, I soon learned, tasty too:  Crusty breads in wicker baskets, big cookies in neat rows, fruit tarts gleaming on chilled trays, muffins stacked on tiered platters, and on and on.

Raspberry chocolate ganache tarts at Blue Dog Bakery

Raspberry chocolate ganache tarts at Blue Dog Bakery

I ate an entire baguette immediately while taking it all in, then bought for later a plump round miche and a dark cranberry-walnut levain.  And a half-dozen flour-dusted white Italian “pug” rolls like the one I’d enjoyed at The Blind Pig the night before.  And a half-dozen densely multi-seeded “flute” rolls (see photo).

Even with all that, I nearly ran out before getting home the following day.  No, I didn’t eat all of it myself.  My two hungry teenagers, who were in town for concerts at the Forecastle music and art festival in Louisville’s Waterfront Park, ate their share during the drive home.  Yes, my car floor is perpetually crumb-covered!  In retrospect, I wish I’d also gotten a loaf each of Blue Dog’s pecan raisin, kalamata olive, and harvest nine-grain breads.  Printed on Blue Dog’s bread bags are handy instructions for freezing and defrosting any such oversupply.

From left: peanut butter, chocolate chip, and oatmeal molasses cookies

On the advice of customers who graciously let me squeeze in between them to photograph things, I ordered a chilled raspberry chocolate ganache tart and a warmed morning glory muffin for immediate consumptions, plus two each of the  peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal molasses cookies, also for on-the-road snacking.

Crusty outside/chewy inside “pug” rolls are small versions of Italian pugliese loaves

A table opened up, so I took a seat and ordered that poached free-range egg on levain item the Rainbow Blossom woman had mentioned.  It was a fine but difficult choice, considering the options included exotic sounding “octopus tartine with potato, chorizo, tapenade, and smoked paprika oil,” and “bacon, Tillamook cheddar, cheese curds, cider vinegar onions, and spicy mayo,” and “pastrami Reuben, gruyere, kraut, and thousand island,” among other temptations, each on a wide choice of breads.  Next time.

I see poppy, sesame, and fennel seeds on the “flute” rolls (there might be others too)

I am now officially a fan of Blue Dog Bakery.  My one regret is that I never met the owners, Bob Hancock (who does, indeed, pasture-raise Red Wattle hogs, hormone-free and antibiotics-free, as a sideline) and Kit Garrett.  That’s poor planning on my part for not scheduling an interview, even on short notice after hearing so much about the place.  Add in bad luck as well, for not running into either of them during three stops over the course a long weekend.  Next time.

For now, I’ll let my photos tell the rest of the story.  Enjoy the slideshow, and if you get to the Blue Dog Bakery on my recommendation, let me know what you tried.  Together, apparently with a lot of word-of-mouth help from others, we’ll spread the news.

Blue Dog Bakery is frequently teeming with satisfied customers

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A tasty “blue” island in a leafy green neighborhood

Blue Dog Bakery

2868 Frankfort Avenue

Louisville, KY 40206

502-899-9800

www.bluedogbakeryandcafe.com

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For more about Louisville: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau  www.gotolouisville.com

For more about Kentucky: Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism www.kentuckytourism.com

 

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Allergy-friendly Annie May’s Sweet Café, Louisville, KY

Allergen-free treats dominate Annie May’s menu because Annie May is on a mission.

Gingerbread_Man_Logostory & photos by Bakery Boy

 

“I’m allergic to corn gluten and about 50 other things,” says Annie May McGill, the founder, namesake, head baker, allergen-free-ingredients missionary, and generally smiling owner of Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville, Kentucky.

Annie May McGill develops allergen-free baked goods at Annie May's Sweet Cafe in Louisville.

Annie May McGill develops allergen-free baked goods at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe in Louisville.

You might think her multiple allergies got Annie May started in allergen-free baking, but the way she tells it, her motivation first grew from baking for someone else.

“I have a nephew who is allergic to nuts and eggs and wheat, three common ingredients in a lot of baked goods,” she says.  “To make him a birthday cake, I had to find things he could eat.”

So Annie May studied up on substitutes for various ingredients, eventually discovering useful things like brown rice flour, tapioca starch, rice milk, palm fruit oil that works like a soy-free shortening, and other gluten-free, allergen-free, and non-dairy items good for replacing traditional foodstuffs.  Through experimentation, she eventually converted a neighbor’s basic cake and icing recipes into allergen-free versions for her nephew’s birthday cake, no doubt earning favorite-aunt status as a welcomed side effect.

But she didn’t stop there.  Repeating that same basic process of converting recipes in order to avoid ingredients many people are allergic to, she added more and more goodies to her baking repertoire.  The hobby grew into a career track that blossomed when she opened Annie May’s Sweet Café, billed as “Louisville’s only dedicated gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free bakery,” on Frankfort Avenue east of downtown Louisville.

Annie May's Window_Bakery Boy photo“I’m a totally self-taught baker,” Annie May says.  “I like figuring out ways to make treats people with allergies can enjoy.”  Her lineup now includes a wide variety of cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, bars, cheesecakes, banana bread, pizza crust, crescent rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, blueberry muffins, and by the time you read this most likely a few more as well.

Building on her original success with her nephew’s birthday cake, Annie May’s features about a dozen different kinds of cakes and about twice that many kinds of icing, nearly all of them featuring allergen-free and vegan ingredients.  Consider her carrot cake:  It includes brown rice flour, tapioca starch, sorghum flour, carrots, carrot juice, palm fruit oil, eggs, cinnamon, baking soda, cream of tartar, xanthan gum, and sea salt.  Only the eggs present a potential allergy problem, so she also developed a second version, a vegan carrot cake, by substituting flax seed for eggs.

Other cakes, some with vegan versions and some made only seasonally, include pumpkin, red velvet, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, mocha, lemon, and spiced beer cake.  For the spiced beer cake, the title ingredient is gluten-free beer that contains only sorghum, buckwheat, honey, water, and yeast.  Between layers and atop these cakes, she spreads her host of icings, each one built around butter cream (using palm fruit oil for shortening), cream cheese (with rice milk), or whipped agave nectar.

Among Annie May’s assortment of allergen-free cookies, which range from chocolate chips and snicker-doodles to pumpkin spice, lemon, and oatmeal, one version has risen to become this bakery’s signature item.  Annie May calls them Allergen Free Supercookies (see photo).

Allergen Free Supercookies are a signature treat at Annie May's Sweet Cafe.

Allergen Free Supercookies are a signature treat at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.

An Allergen Free Supercookie involves dairy-free chocolate cream cheese filling smashed between two thick chocolate chip cookies that are vegan and allergen-free, with no eggs, no gluten, and no dairy, Annie May explains.  After a Supercookie is assembled, one end is dipped in a vegan chocolate coating for accent.

As a service to her allergy-prone customers, who are intensely interested in every detail about what’s in their food, Annie May posts ingredient lists online for all of her baked goods.  Here is a breakdown of what’s in the Supercookies:

  • Cookie: brown rice flour, tapioca starch, sorghum flour, palm fruit oil, brown sugar, chocolate chips (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liqueur, non-dairy cocoa butter), egg replacer (potato starch, tapioca flour, calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, cellulose gum, modified cellulose), water, vanilla, salt, xanthan gum
  • Filling: powdered sugar, palm fruit oil, agave nectar, salt
  • Coating: chocolate chips (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liqueur, non-dairy cocoa butter), palm fruit oil, agave nectar, salt

Annie May's exterior_Bakery Boy photoAnnie May McGill has followed her baking muse from that early interest in making a birthday cake for her allergic nephew to making all kinds sweet treats for all kinds of people with all kinds of allergies.  Her constant quest to develop new allergen-free items even leads to creations such as spiced beer cupcakes, which she fills with a homemade caramel that includes a dose of beer from the nearby Apocalypse Brew Works, an enterprise that must be like-minded because it offers a gluten-free beer among its craft-brewed selection.

“It’s fun coming up with new things,” Annie May says.  “All of our desserts are made fresh, from scratch.  We never use wheat, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, or soy in our recipes.  We also segregate other allergen ingredients and use different baking areas, different utensils, and different cooking devices to avoid cross-contamination in our vegan and allergen-free items.”

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Annie May sign_Bakery Boy photoAnnie May’s Sweet Café

3110 Frankfort Avenue

Louisville, KY 40206

502-384-2667

www.anniemayssweetcafe.com

store hours: Tue-Friday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

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For more about Louisville: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau  www.gotolouisville.com

For more about Kentucky: Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism www.kentuckytourism.com

 

WildFlour Pastry, Charleston, SC

“Sticky Bun Sunday” has such a nice ring to it. Join the happy crowd smacking sticky fingers at this neighborhood treasure in historic Charleston.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

The main attraction on Sticky Bun Sundays at WildFlour Pastry in Charleston, SC

Friends meet up at WildFlour Pastry

The Sunday morning line at WildFlour Pastry stretches out the door and down Spring Street, but nobody standing in it seems to mind waiting. In chatty groups or as cuddly pairs or alone, people laugh and talk or read newspapers or thumb iPhone keypads in the shade of breeze-ruffled palmetto trees as they anticipate the treat ahead.

It’s Sticky Bun Sunday at WildFlour Pastry, a weekly tradition just three years old, like the bakery itself, but about as established as any upstart tradition can be in city as steeped in them as is historic old Charleston, South Carolina.

Sticky Buns arrive at one of WildFlour Pastry’s window tables

The line gradually moves forward each time someone emerges sporting a satisfied smile or toting a to-go box, disappearing on foot or by bicycle or in a car that has been idling nearby or circling the block.

Once inside the close quarters of this narrow storefront operation, I find a tiny seating area including a pair of tables wedged into twin alcoves with broad windows facing the street. There’s a somewhat roomier courtyard just out a side door with more tables tucked among garden greenery. Finally reaching the service counter at the front of the line, I trade $3 for a red plate bearing a fine specimen of Sticky Bun Sunday’s glorious signature pastry: a WildFlour Sticky Bun.

Courtyard dining at WildFlour Pastry

It’s a delightfully gooey (because it’s loaded with butter) sweet roll coated with cinnamon-sugar and topped with about as many pecans as can fit. It’s served warm and with an optional thick blob of creamy white icing on top.

Looking around as I eat, I spy a few neatniks approaching this delicacy with a fork and knife, performing a sort of culinary surgery and carving off small bites like they’re savoring fine steaks. Others, like me, just pick it up and let the sweet ooze drip, happy to lick sticky fingers later. I even see a few quick tongues tidying up sticky plates, messy chins be damned.

All Hail Pastry Chef Lauren Mitterer

Behind the counter leading her small team of fellow bakers (currently WildFlour has four employees) is owner and sticky-bun queen Lauren Mitterer.

The WildFlour crew, hard as work

A Chicago native and former Seattle-area resident, Lauren went to the University of Virginia on a rowing scholarship (earning a seat on the U.S. Rowing Junior National Team), took a degree in studio arts, and went on to develop her creative bent in the food world, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2004. She has worked as a pasty chef at Tavern on the Green in New York City, Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, Colorado, and Red Drum Gastropub in Mount Pleasant across the Cooper River from Charleston. She’s been nominated twice for awards in the pastry chef category from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, once while working at Red Drum and once at her own WildFlour Pastry.

Lauren struck out on her own by opening WildFlour Pastry in September 2009, leasing a 700-square-foot space on the first floor of a petite two-story cottage in Charleston’s Cannonborough/Elliotborough area, a delightful old neighborhood tucked between the city’s bustling King Street commercial district, the Medical University of South Carolina, and The Citadel — The Military College of South Carolina.

Come on in, the pastry’s fine

She introduced Sticky Bun Sundays soon after opening, and at last count was making around 200 of the hefty sweet rolls for the occasion each week, frequently running out of them before the 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. serving hours end. (Hint: go early!)

The walk-in retail side took off quickly enough, but to bolster the operation Lauren also set up a catering business, creating wedding cakes and setting up dessert bars at special events. Through WildFlour Pastry she also supplies baked good to such noteworthy Charleston restaurants as The Macintosh nearby on King Street, Next Door in Mount Pleasant, and her former employer Red Drum, also in Mount Pleasant.

But Wait, There’s More

Like most of the Sunday morning crowd, I was at WildFlour for the always-satisfying Stick Buns. But many other choices crowd the showcases. Such as:

Double Chocolate Brownies at WildFlour Pastry

• Apples caramelized in brown butter and spiced sugar, nestled into phyllo pouches, baked, garnished with caramel sauce, and topped with aged cheddar

• Double chocolate cookies made with cocoa powder and dark bittersweet chocolate

• Double chocolate brownies, likewise combining cocoa power and dark chocolate and cut into large squares

• Scones, both sweet and savory varieties, in a constantly changing lineup that recently including strawberry jam, blueberry lemon curd, ham and cheddar, pesto and mozzarella, goat cheese and roasted red pepper

• Plus a host of biscuits, cookies, cupcakes, custards, turnovers, tarts, cakes, sweet breads, croissants, and more

Last Word

A glimpse into the WildFlour sense of humor

What does Lauren love most about running her bakery? “Everything!” she says. “It’s been such a challenging and rewarding endeavor. The people I encounter on a daily basis are probably what I appreciate the most, and also the freedom to create menu items and just play around with pastry ideas at my leisure.”

Sticky Bun Sundays

Don’t miss Sticky Bun Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every week at WildFlour Pastry. Bring friends to hang with or something to read in case the wait gets long, but don’t let the prospect of a delay deter you from a popular, worthwhile, tasty experience.

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WildFlour Pastry

73 Spring Street

Charleston, SC 29403

843-327-2621

www.wildflourpastrycharleston.com

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Tellico Grains Bakery, Tellico Plains, TN

Why does Tellico Plains, a very small town in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, have such a terrific artisan bakeshop—Tellico Grains Bakery?

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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Small town Tellico Plains harbors a big time bakery

Tellico Plains, Tennessee is one of those tiny towns (population around 900) you half expect to just blow away someday. Located 60 miles southwest of Knoxville and 75 miles northeast of Chattanooga in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounded by farms and forests, it amounts to a few homes and a couple of blocks of one- or two-story stores. A trickle of recreational travelers passes through while driving the area’s scenic highways or going biking, hiking and white-water rafting.

A wood-fired brick oven is Tellico Grains' glowing centerpiece

So how does Tellico Plains—which earns only the briefest of mentions in accounts of 1500s explorer Hernando Desoto passing through, 1700s Cherokee trading paths, 1800s Civil War skirmishes, and the heyday of logging—come to have a world-class artisan bakery? Complete with a handcrafted wood-fired brick oven and a devotion to classic Old World baking techniques? Cranking out all manner of pastries, pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, crusty breads and even pizzas?

"We love it here," say bakers Stuart and Anissa Shull

The simple answer: “Because we love it here!” says baker Stuart Shull, co-owner of Tellico Grains Bakery along with wife and fellow baker Anissa Shull.

“We looked at places all over the country and then decided to come here in 2002,” Stuart says while stirring starter for bread dough and eyeing the temperature in their prized wood-burning oven.

Simone, age 3, is growing up in her family's bakery

“The cost of living is low. We found the perfect building where we can live right upstairs from work. Our neighbors have been very receptive to all the things we’re baking,” he says.

“We both like to hike and ride bikes, two things this area is perfect for,” Anissa adds. “And it’s a great area to raise a family. We had our two daughters—Anja, who’s 6, and Simone, who’s 3—since moving here.”

LONG ROUTE

Big, crusty, aromatic loaves fill rustic shelves

Herb Flatbread bears a strong salty flavor

The couple zigzagged their way to Tellico Plains. Stuart, originally from Kansas, discovered an interest in foods during high school when he signed up for a cooking class because it sounded easy. Baking pies and breads and cooking steaks and lobsters turned out to be more fun than he expected. At Kansas State University, he studied baking sciences and restaurant management before slipping off to ski-resort-intensive Crested Butte, Colorado, to work as a line cook in a restaurant, where he met pastry chef Anissa.

Anissa folds apple turnovers

Anissa, an Iowa native, came to pastry through, of all things, artificial insemination of hogs. “I was a lab rat with a degree in animal sciences, and I worked with hogs at the University of Missouri for three years before becoming a baker,” she says with a slight smile, knowing how odd this must sound, as she rolls dough for turnovers. “I also worked in a veterinary molecular biology lab at Montana State University, making vaccines used on bison in Yellowstone National Park,” she adds, checking on the progress of a browning quiche.

Fruit-laced scones

“I discovered the comfort of baking at home while I was still in college, but I never thought I’d do this for a living,” Anissa says. “In Bozeman I worked part time at two bakeries—a coffee-and-scones place called The Daily Coffee Bar and later On the Rise, where they bake in a traditional wood-fired oven. I was fascinated by that oven.”

Honey Wheat Bread

Inspired in part by the seminal bread-baking book Bread Alone by Daniel Leader of Bread Alone Bakery in Boiceville, New York, Anissa made the jump from critters to the culinary world, heading to New York City to complete the Art of International Bread Baking course of study at the French Culinary Institute.

Stuart and Anissa relocated together from Crested Butte to Aspen, Colorado, to work in another ski-town restaurant. One day Anissa brought home The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens, a book by wood-fired-brick-oven-building guru Alan Scott. “That started us thinking about having our own bakery,” Stuart says. “We later met Alan Scott and took his oven-building class at Scratch Bakery [Scratch Brick Oven Food Works] in Johnson City, Tennessee.”

Croissants

MORE DETOURS

But first, more detours. “To get some accreditation beyond a lot of on-the-job training, I was going to go to culinary school in New York,” Stuart explains. “Classes were to start on September 15, 2001—four days after 9/11, which changed everything. We’d barely settled in before chaos broke out, so we packed everything into our Chevy Blazer and headed to Charleston, South Carolina, one of the best foodie towns on the East Coast.”

There, Anissa worked at Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery on Society Street downtown (it has since moved to the West Ashley area). “That’s where I learned to make croissants by the hundreds for the Charleston Place Hotel, one of Normandy Farm’s biggest customers,” she says.

The bakery occupies a former bank

They began searching for a place to  launch their own bakery. After passing up nearly a dozen possibilities, they found tiny Tellico Plains and a squat little brick building available just off the town square.

A 1908 bank vault now stores baking ingredients

HOME AT LAST

“This building began as a bank in 1908,” Stuart says, ducking into a steel vault now used to store ingredients. “Over the years it also held a doctor’s office, vinyl and carpet store, post office, VCR repair shop and other businesses. We have the building next door too. It was a movie theater, pawnshop, grocery and who knows what else.” They gutted both to make Tellico Grains downstairs and the family’s living space upstairs.

Fruit Tarts

With friends helping, they constructed a wood-burning brick oven with a 6-foot by 4-foot hearth, an arched ceiling, and a cave-like arched door. “We burn about $60 worth of wood a week, mostly 3-foot lengths of old pallet boards made of poplar, maple and red oak that all burn great,” Stuart says. “It might cost about the same as if we used gas, but we prefer baking with wood.”

“We take turns baking,” Anissa says. “I bake in the daytime and Stuart bakes at night, so we don’t get in each other’s way and one of us is always available to be with the kids.”

Simone on her bike--part of growing up in a bakery

As if on cue, Simone makes an entrance, riding a pink bike with training wheels through the bakery, dodging hot pans of scones, avoiding whirling mixers, and asking what’s for lunch? She and her sister Anja, a first-grader due home from school any minute, are growing up in a bakery, just like I did, with work, play, home, jobs, customers, friends, parents and bosses all rolled together. What an adventure they’re having!

FRESH-BAKED AROMAS

Brownies: Cheesecake, Chocolate, and Walnut

Working their separate shifts, with overlaps that let them talk while staying busy, the two bakers produce a miraculous variety. Hefty scones teem with blueberries or cranberries. Brownies feature walnuts, cheesecake and other variations. Croissants come plain, filled with chocolate, or topped with strawberries and whipped cream cheese. Muffins, cookies, cupcakes, turnovers, fruit tarts, Danish pastries and more gradually fill showcases and then quickly disappear in the hands of satisfied customers.

Anissa prepares a quiche...

I watch as Anissa fills a quiche with eggs, bacon, tomatoes and spinach, bakes it, slices it, and serves it to people who wait around after catching a whiff. The whole aromatic pie is gone in minutes.

...and within minutes it gets eaten

Meanwhile Stuart plans out his night’s bread schedule. The oven holds at most 35 loaves at once. He must time each batch of dough to be ready in tight sequence, making efficient use of the space and accounting for the gradually falling temperature inside. The results—big, brown, crusty loaves of herbed black olive, honey wheat, cranberry pecan, multi-grain, pumpernickel rye, raisin walnut, sourdough, herb flatbread smeared with a salty brine on top, and other variations—take center stage on rustic wooden display shelves. Some loaves get sliced for piled-high deli sandwiches, which fly out the door with hungry hikers, bicyclists, whitewater paddlers, motorcycle clubs and other fans.

Stuart's pride-and-joy brick oven and some of the breads that come out of it

Saturday is Pizza Day at Tellico Grains. Instead of making his usual humped, round, crusty loaves, Stuart rolls out flatbread dough and tops it with fresh local ingredients, including prosciutto and bacon from Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams in nearby Madisonville, Tennessee, and portabellas from Monterey Mushrooms in Loudon, Tennessee, as well as feta, spinach, artichoke hearts, onions and more. “During the growing season around here, people bring us extra tomatoes and zucchini and other produce from their gardens just to see what we’ll do with it,” Anissa says.

EXPANDING THEIR AUDIENCE

Everyone can see the bakers work and chat with them

“To survive as a bakery in this small of a community, we cater to three different audiences,” Stuart says. “First there are the locals. Many had never tasted some of the more exotic things we bake, but they’ve been great about trying new things. Second are visitors who come to the area for the Smoky Mountains and hear about us or stumble upon us. Third are what I call the ‘foodies,’ people who really know and love great food, who seek out good food wherever they go, and who are willing to drive from Knoxville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or other cities just to try whatever we’re making at the time.”

Carrot Cake Muffins

The bakery also delivers baked goods regularly to several fresh markets: Three Rivers Market, a natural-foods cooperative at 937 North Broadway in Knoxville (moving to a bigger site at 1100 North Central Street in late August), 865-525-2069; The Market in Maryville at 606 High Street in Maryville, 865-541-5150; The Market at Union  and Gay at 504 South Gay Street in downtown Knoxville, 865-541-5150; The Public House organic restaurant at 212 West Magnolia Avenue in Knoxville’s Old City district, 865-247-4344; and the Just Ripe food co-op at 513 Union Avenue in downtown Knoxville, 865-851-9327.

To reach an even wider audience, including people who’ve been to Tellico Grains but don’t live close enough to stop by often, the bakery offers mail-order service. Gift boxes include cinnamon rolls slathered with gooey vanilla butter cream, scones loaded with cranberry and orange or raspberry and white chocolate, variety packs of brownies, or whole loaves of hearth-baked breads.

Old bakery tools form an artistic vignette

One Monday each month Stuart and Anissa drive to Knoxville for a live television spot on WBIR-10’s “Channel 10 News at Noon” show. “It’s a 4-minute segment, so we come up with recipes or techniques we can demonstrate in that short a time,” Anissa says. The TV gig helps attract more day-trippers to Tellico Plains to check out Tellico Grains.

LABOR OF LOVE

“Tellico Grains is our labor of love,” Anissa says. “Considering that I used to be a lab rat who hardly ever had people around to talk to, and now I talk to customers constantly, it’s been a complete turnaround for me. We’ve made so many friends here! I think some people come in as much to see each other and chat with us as they do for the baked goods. But they like the baked goods too, so it’s all working out fine.”

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The original store sign, now retired, sits faded and flaking on the back porch

Tellico Grains Bakery

105 Depot Street

Tellico Plains, TN 37385

423-253-6911

web: http://tellico-grains-bakery.com

email: tellicograins@hotmail.com

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Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Puff Dough from Tellico Grains Bakery


Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about Stuart Shull enjoying cookies and milk at Tellico Grains Bakery
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For more about traveling in Tennessee: www.tnvacation.com

For more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park: www.nps.gov/grsm

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Cookies and Milk at Tellico Grains Bakery

I’ve interviewed hundreds of bakers, but this was the first one who—during our visit and without prompting—tucked into some cookies and milk just for the simple pleasure of it. A Zen moment. Ahh…bakery life is good!

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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When the bakers I meet realize that I am truly interested in what they do and that I want to write about them—that I’m not asking for a job or stealing trade secrets or trying to sell them anything—they usually open up to me, show me around, let me take pictures while they work, and share a recipe or two.

After countless encounters with bakers, a recent incident came as a most pleasant surprise. It happened during my interview with Stuart and Anissa Shull at their Tellico Grains Bakery in Tellico Plains, Tennessee (click here to see the full story).

At the moment, Anissa was telling me about their family life, about raising two small daughters in a small bakery in a small town, while she rolled pastry dough and scooped fruit filling and folded turnovers. Jotting in my notebook, I glanced over toward Stuart, who was studiously monitoring the temperature of the bakery’s prized wood-burning brick oven.

Just then Stuart—quietly and without me prompting him for a photo opportunity or whatever—poured himself a glass of milk, grabbed a few chocolate chip cookies off a warm pan, and started having a little snack.

My jaw dropped. My pen froze in place. This was bakery life at its best. Here was a baker, unaware that anyone was watching, enjoying the fruits of his labor—enjoying a Zen moment on the job. Stuart dipped a cookie in the milk and took a bite before noticing that I’d grabbed my camera and zoomed in on him.

He broke into a crumb-flecked grin. Classic!

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Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about Tellico Grains Bakery

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post sharing a recipe for puff dough from Tellico Grains Bakery

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Tellico Grains Bakery

105 Depot Street

Tellico Plains, TN 37385

423-253-6911

email: tellicograins@hotmail.com

website: http://tellico-grains-bakery.com

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RECIPE Puff Dough from Tellico Grains Bakery

Minimal handling and cold chunks of butter are keys to making flaky pastries with this simple recipe.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

recipe by Stuart Shull

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I try to learn something new from every baker I meet, and to pass along tips to Bakery Boy Blog readers when I can. During my visit with Stuart and Anissa Shull at Tellico Grains Bakery, Stuart made a batch of puff dough, a simple combination of flour, butter, and water that the couple uses for pie crusts, turnovers and fruit tarts. Here’s his recipe, scaled down to make enough dough for three pies.

PUFF DOUGH FROM TELLICO GRAINS BAKERY

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Open House at Artisan Bakeries

Loaves at Artisan Baking Company, Fort Worth, Texas

Taste exceptional breads and show your support for artisan bakers during this widespread June 25 event.

by Bakery Boy

If you enjoy fresh-from-the-oven breads—crusty, aromatic, well-fermented, and hearth-baked by bakers who care dearly about making perfect loaves—then mark June 25 as a high holiday on your calendar.

The International Bakery Open House is one of many Breadville USA events planned this year by the Bread Bakers Guild of America

That’s the day the Bread Bakers Guild of America—an organization that fervently supports the artisan baking community everywhere—presents a massive International Bakery Open House involving 55 bakeries in 26 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and Ireland.

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Shashy’s Bakery, Montgomery, AL

Fruit pies, cinnamon rolls, cheese biscuits and even Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict please bakery fans in Alabama’s capital city.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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A retro-cool sign marks the spot

People line up at the showcases, waiting to point out which sweets they want boxed to go. They fill a couple of dozen tables steadily from breakfast time through lunch. They sometimes spot owner Jimmy Shashy darting around in back, keeping the baked goods coming at Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods.

A few know Jimmy pretty well from his 21 years at the same venerable location in the Mulberry Business District of Montgomery, Alabama. Many others are most likely unaware of just how diversified a character he really is.

Jimmy Shashy comes from a family of medical professionals, a clan of doctors and surgeons based in Montgomery and Birmingham, so he can talk medicine with ease. He studied English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, so he can get the grammar right (when he wants to) in his Alabama country-boy accent.

Jimmy Shashy with a cream pie

He also holds a degree in wildlife science from Auburn University, knowledge he puts to use managing deer and turkey populations on about 1,200 rural acres his father maintains in part for hunting in nearby Lowndes County. Jimmy is a devoted vegetable farmer too, tending produce that as often as not end up on plates at his popular bakery and café.

Shashy's Cream Cheese Melt-aways

Shashy’s Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Despite such renaissance-man leanings, Jimmy is first and foremost a baker. “When I didn’t show an interest in following most of my family into the medical field,” the Montgomery native says, “my mother suggested I go up to Birmingham and learn about baking from my cousin, Van Scott, who later bought Savage’s Bakery in Homewood and still runs it to this day.” (Click here for a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about Savage’s). “We both worked at Waite’s, a bakery that’s long gone now. I spent a few year waiting tables, cooking, and baking. Then I moved back home to run a Montgomery bakery that’s also gone, and in 1990 I opened Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods.”  

Pie ladies (from left) Lacy, Bro, and Brandi with Cherry, Chocolate Cream, and Pecan Pies

Baked goods run a wide gamut at Shashy’s. Beautiful, rich pies fill a large section of the showcases, including cherry, pecan, chocolate cream, coconut cream, key lime and other selections ($10.95 to $18.95 whole, $3.95 by the slice). Layer cakes stacked three or four layers high—usually by Jimmy himself, since that’s one of his specialties—include red velvet, carrot, lemon-orange, chocolate (starting at $24.99) and a terrific strawberry cake made with locally grown berries ($32.99).

Shashy's Thumbprint Cookies

Shashy's Cinnamon Raisin Buns

There are also frosting-topped thumbprint cookies on pecan shortbread (70¢), oatmeal-raisin cookies (75¢), cinnamon raisin buns (95¢), cream cheese and cherry Danish ($1.75), petit fours ($1.25), mini bonbons comprised of little chocolate cakes covered with butter cream and chocolate icing ($1.75), and a variety of thick brownies. Breads range from rectangular white, whole wheat, and rye loaves ($3.95) sliced for sandwich-making, to Parker House rolls ($6 a dozen), to awesome cheese biscuits (65¢ for a mini, $1.40 for one the size of a hamburger bun) that are earning Shashy’s a wider circle of fans.

Shashy's Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict

The “fine foods” part of the name Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods packs quite a few surprises. None is more interesting and tasty than the locally famous Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict ($9.95) served on Saturdays. It involves slices of green tomato dipped in a tempura batter and fried, topped with sliced bacon, poached eggs, and a very lemony hollandaise sauce, and served with orange slices and a toasted English muffin. I recently paired this phenomenon with a buttery bowl of grits on the side and an endless cup of coffee for the best brunch I’ve eaten in years. Intriguing variations worth considering: Corned Beef Hash Benedict and Filet of Beef Tenderloin Benedict.

Shashy's Cream Cheese and Cherry Danish

The café serves omelets, pancakes, French toast, and home-fried potatoes for breakfast, then deli-meat sandwiches, shrimp po’ boys, turkey club croissants, burgers, catfish, grilled Reuben sandwiches, curried chicken salad and more for lunch.

Lebanese dishes such as hummus tahini, baked kibbeh, and rolled grape leaves pop up frequently (the family name Shashy comes from his grandparents, natives of neighboring Syria). On Thursdays he makes chicken shacree, a combination of yogurt, onions, mint and braised garbanzo beans that goes well with his taboulleh and hummus.

Shashy's pie case

“I also make Louisiana Cajun-style gumbo, etouffee, and barbecued shrimp, Lowcountry Charleston sauté, and other dishes just because that’s what I like to eat,” Jimmy says.

He’s obsessed with freshness. “I go three times a week to the local farmers market, the Montgomery Curb Market, to pick up silver corn, onions, cantaloupe and blueberries in summer, or collards, turnip greens and rutabaga in winter—whatever looks good at the time—and work it into the menu.”

That devotion to freshness led Jimmy into vegetable farming as a sideline. “I work here at the bakery all morning, leave at about 3 in the afternoon, go down to the farm and put in another 4 or 5 hours tending my vegetables,” he says. “I’m growing the squash, okra, eggplant and a lot of the other produce we serve in the café.”

The one aspect of his story that seems most out of place is the wildlife science part, which he explains it in midlife crisis terms. “There I was, turning 40 and I’d already been in the food business for half my life,” he says. “Early on I’d thought about a career in wildlife biology or something like that, and I knew I wouldn’t be content until I got the degree I’d always wanted. So I kept running the bakery as always and took courses at Auburn whenever I could squeeze them in until I finally got it. I don’t suppose I’ll ever use that degree for anything other that managing my family’s land, but I get a great sense of satisfaction out of just having followed through.”

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Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods

1700 Mulberry Street

Montgomery, AL 36106

334-263-7341

no website, but click here for  Shashy’s Facebook Page

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For more about visiting Montgomery: visitingmontgomery.com

For more about visiting Alabama: www.alabama.travel

Paul’s Pot Pies, Marietta, GA

Steaming hot pot pies from Paul Lubertazzi’s Traveling Fare Cafe really hit the spot any time of year.

story and photos by Bakery Boy

Paul’s Pot Pies from Chef Paul Lubertazzi help keep his Traveling Fare Cafe on the minds of many in Marietta, Georgia, especially when they get hungry.

Around lunchtime people in downtown Marietta, Georgia, follow their noses to Chef Paul Lubertazzi’s place just off Marietta Square. For 27 years the amicable owner of Traveling Fare Café & Caterers has been cooking and baking aromatic meals for dine-in or take-out. His most alluring creations, called Paul’s Pot Pies, have achieved cult status among a hungry following, and they just might be the best pot pies in Georgia. No matter what the weather, hot or cold, a good pot pie is never out of season.

Here’s a primer on a heartwarming comfort food source you should keep on speed dial if you live anywhere close to this city just to the northwest of Atlanta—or if you are willing to pay the extra price to have pies cold-packed for overnight shipping anywhere.

WHAT MAKES THESE POT PIES SPECIAL Fresh ingredients, daily preparation in small batches, reasonable prices ($7.50 for a 6-inch pie to serve one, $21.95 for a 10-inch pie that feeds five or six), and most importantly taste.

PAUL’S STORY A New Jersey native and Culinary Institute of America graduate, he cooked in hotel kitchens before launching Traveling Fare Café in 1984. His mother Patricia, wife Roberta, brother Tommy, son Brayden, and daughter Renae help out.

INGREDIENTS “I get everything fresh from a butcher and a farmers market—big chunks of chicken or beef and lots of corn, carrots, broccoli, pearl onions, green beans, and peas,” Paul says.

A flower shape cut from pastry dough, Paul’s signature, tops each Paul’s Pot Pie.

CRUMBLY CRUSTS Paul rolls pie dough bottoms just before filling and baking, so they don’t get soggy waiting. He uses puff pastry for the tops for a crisp look and buttery taste.

TRADEMARK TOUCH “I top each pie with a flower shape cut from dough,” Paul says. “It’s my symbol, a tulip with stem and leaves. I’ll put people’s initials or other shapes there by request.”

VARIETY COUNTS Paul makes at least eight different kinds of pot pies. A few examples and what’s in them: Chicken Pot Pie (white meat, peas, potatoes, carrots, corn); Pot Roast Pot Pie (eye round, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas); Vegetarian Pot Pie (feta cheese, cannelloni beans, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini); Italian Sausage Pot Pie (sausage, mozzarella, provolone, onions, zucchini, bell peppers, marinara); Creole Shrimp Pot Pie (shrimp, rice, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers); Pizza Pot Pie (ground beef, mozzarella, provolone, onions, bell peppers).

CATERER’S RX Paul is no doctor, but when people are feeling a little under the weather, he cheerfully prescribes that they “eat a chicken pot pie and call me in the morning.”

RAVE REVIEW Local orthodontist Dr. Gerald “Gerry” Samson frequents Paul’s for pot pies nearly every week. “I like that they’re made fresh, the portions are generous, and they’re consistently delicious—the best comfort food ever,” Gerry says. “For Christmas, as a thank-you gesture, I give pies to my dentist friends who refer patients to me.”

Look for Paul's Pot Pies at Traveling Fare just off Marietta Square downtown.

GIFTING PIES Show up with pot pies at any sort of party—housewarming, birthday, football—or when visiting new babies or sick friends. They’re sure to be hits. Treat yourself sometime when you just don’t feel like cooking.

MAIL ORDER OPTION “For people who live far away and still want a Paul’s Pot Pie, we ship overnight packed in Styrofoam and dry ice,” Paul says. “It costs $12.50 to send a $21.95 pie, but to some devoted pot pie eaters, it’s apparently worth the price.”

TIPS Order ahead to avoid hearing the dreaded words, “They’re all gone!” Eat there at one of four small tables, or get a hot pie for take-out, or carry one home to freeze for later (cooking instructions provided).

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Traveling Fare Café & Caterers

10 Mill Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-428-6092

www.travelingfare.com

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FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE AREA

Marietta Welcome Center, www.mariettasquare.com, 770-429-1115

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.atlanta.net, 404-521-6600

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Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival, Asheville, NC

Challah from Creme Patisserie in Asheville, NC

Sample great bread and learn a few baking techniques during an extraordinary convergence of bread bakers on April 2.

by Bakery Boy

A variety of loaves from City Bakery in Asheville, NC, will be among those available to sample during the Artisan Bread Bakers Festival's "Showcase" event April 2.

If you’re a big fan of good bread, you need to be at this gathering.

For baking enthusiasts, the Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival—April 2, 2011, in Asheville, NC—might as well be Shangri-La, Paradise, Nirvana, El Dorado, and Heaven all rolled into one. It’s an all-day tribute to crusty, chewy, aromatic, wholesome, air-hole-laced breads. It’s a participatory ode to time-honored, Old World, slow-rise techniques, and top-quality natural ingredients. It’s a showcase for dedicated bakers who consider their vocation to fit somewhere between an art form and a religion.

Expect to hear plenty of talk about wild yeast, whole grains, sourdough starters, wood-fired brick ovens, fermentation, organic ingredients, and other bread-centric topics. Also join in conversations about sustainable agriculture, organic farming, the slow food movement, and related subjects.

The two-part festival starts with bread tasting during a Bakers’ Showcase to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Whole Foods Markets’ Greenlife Grocery, 70 Merrimon Avenue. You’ll find loaves for sale too, ranging from baguettes to brioche, challah, ciabatta, focaccia, rye, walnut, raisin, spinach-feta, and whatever else bakers representing as many as 16 area bakeries bring to their tables. Local millers, cheese makers, and brick-oven builders will be on hand doing demonstrations. Admission to the showcase is free.

An afternoon series of workshops and lectures ($10 admission per session) takes place from noon to 6 p.m. at nearby Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), 340 Victoria Road. This year’s featured presenters include:

Didier Rosada of Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, MD

• baker Didier Rosada of Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, MD (near Washington, D.C.), who will show home bakers how to make his signature pear buckwheat bread and share techniques for making sweet breads such as one he calls German almond butter bread

• baker, author, and Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte, NC) teacher Peter Reinhart, who will demonstrate making bread with sprouted whole wheat flour

• baker, author, and chemist Emily Buehler, who will lead a workshop about the chemistry of bread dough—explaining what actually happens during the mixing, kneading, rising, and baking stages—and demonstrate hand-kneading techniques

• baker Jennifer Lapidus—director of the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project linking local wheat farmers, millers, and bakers—who will talk about bread’s journey from planted wheat seed to steaming loaf, with emphasis on all that happens before the baker takes over for the final stages

Walnut-Sage bread from La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC

• baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC (topic to be determined, but one look at the gorgeous breads he makes, such as those shown at right, and you know it’ll be worthwhile)

Now in its seventh year, the festival was initiated by Steve Bardwell, an artisan baker who runs Wake Robin Farm Breads in the western North Carolina community of Sandy Mush. Area bakeries planning to participate in the Showcase tasting include Annie’s Naturally Bakery, Sylva, NC; Bracken Mountain Bakery, Brevard, NC; Carolina Mountain Bakery, Hendersonville, NC; City Bakery, Asheville, NC; Crème Patisserie & Confectionery, Asheville, NC (click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog profile of Crème Patisserie); Hillside Bakery, Knoxville, TN; Farm and Sparrow, Candler, NC; Flat Rock Village Bakery, Flat Rock, NC; Loaf Child Bakery, Marshall, NC; Rising Creek Bakery, Morris, PA; Simple Bread, Asheville, NC; Stick Boy Bread Company, Boone, NC (click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog profile of Stick Boy); Underground Baking Company, Hendersonville, NC; Wake Robin Farm Breads, Marshall, NC; West End Bakery, Asheville, NC; and Wildflour Bakery, Saluda, NC.

Festival sponsors include the Bread Bakers Guild of America; Lindley Mills in Graham, NC; Whole Foods Markets’ Greenlife Grocery; the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project; Slow Food Asheville; and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

For more information visit www.ashevillebreadfestival.com or contact key organizer Steve Bardwell at wakerobinfarmbreads@main.nc.us or 828-683-2902.

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