Hidden in an un-marked part of our Washington Square shopping center is a secret studio where our bread bakers create their art. Driving around the back of the store at 7 p.m., our bakers are busy getting to work. Perfectly proofing, scoring, and baking bread, rolls, and bagels all night long. This is a studio like none you have ever seen, with buckets of bubbling, gooey sourdough starters, giant mixers, and rotating stone-hearth deck ovens. The Bakehouse is alive and moving nearly 24 hours a day with the mission of providing our stores with the freshest bread possible, delivering product every morning. What we don’t sell from the previous day is donated to various organizations to feed the needy, so that every piece of bread that is placed in the case for sale is always just a few hours old.
Baking is a science that involves many aspects that can affect the final product with the slightest variation. Outside temperature, humidity, water temperature, and even the speed of the mixer can make or break an entire batch of bread. Mixing is where the process starts, and one of the most important steps to achieving great bread. Have you ever been distracted while trying to mix a batch of cookie dough, coming back to the bowl unable to remember what ingredient you put in last? Imagine being responsible for mixing thousands of pounds of dough in a day. It takes skill and concentration to get the dough just right. From the mixing bowl, the dough goes to our group of bench workers where the dough is allowed to gas up with air. It’s punched down and allowed to rise again. It’s then divided into individual sized loaf weights and “first round” begins. This consists of each loaf being given what we call a “rough shape” where the dough is gently rounded and allowed to rest. “Second round” begins with the final shaping of each loaf into the more polished look you see in our Bakery. Seeds or toppings are added to the loaf and it enters its final stage of relaxation prior to being baked. Thanks to our hands-on process, you’ll notice that no two loaves of artisan bread look alike.
If this all seems very time-consuming, it’s because it is! We are very serious about bread and care to do it right, without cutting corners. Sometimes bread doesn’t rise like it should, due to weather or other factors, but our bakers wait until the time is right to place it in the oven. Several of our skilled folks have been baking bread for more than 20 years, and it’s a passion for them. Stop by our Bakery counter and try a sample, take a look at the gorgeous, caramel-colored bread behind the glass, knowing that our associates worked day and night to provide you with the best. Lastly, grab some butter or cheese with an artisan loaf and enjoy!