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"It freezes very well," Yoder says, "so many of our customers buy several bags at once. We have one customer who uses it to make homemade pizza."
Before the cafe opened in April, Yoder was operating the storefront at 536 Westport Road as a bakery, with Salih each day preparing dozens of packages of the bread, which Yoder and his son Joel delivered to local Middle Eastern grocers. Since April, however, the Yoders are no longer able to supply the small grocery stores. "We can barely keep up with the demand of the restaurant and our own retail customers," Yoder says. "At some point, we'll need to hire an additional baker to keep up with our demand."
904 Vermont, Lawrence
If it's Thursday in Lawrence, the bread specials at WheatFields Bakery are likely to be seedless rye, flaky French brioche, smooth semolina and crusty dinner rolls and baguettes. The 17-year-old downtown bakery and cafe, at Ninth Street and Vermont, offers different specialty breads each day of the week (bagels are Sunday's featured choice), in addition to the standard best-selling loaves. Among the latter are a country French loaf made with organic, unbleached flour; a rectangular ciabatta baked with extra virgin olive oil; and a whole-wheat bread made with heirloom "Turkey" wheat (a hard red winter variety grown in Decatur County, Kansas, and milled at the Heartland Mill in Marienthal).
Mike Humphrey has been one of the four staff bakers at WheatFields for more than a decade. "I've been in food service all my life, but when I started at WheatFields, I knew I wanted to be a baker," he says. "It's one of the most rewarding professions that I can think of."
Humphrey trained under founding baker Thom Leonard. It's that hands-on experience, he says, that separates a great loaf of bread from one that's merely good. "The secret to a perfect loaf of bread," Humphrey says, "is time, temperature and a baker with real experience."
It also helps to have a first-class wood-burning oven. WheatFields owns a 25-ton, Spanish-made J. Llopis, one of eight in the United States. "It's really quite amazing," Humphrey says. "It has a rotating hearthstone, which creates a beautiful crust and crumb."
Brody's Bakery Fills the Gluten-Free Need
Two things happened five years ago that inspired Katie Olson to become a baker: She was diagnosed with celiac disease, and her infant son, Brody, was diagnosed with autism. Olson decided that a major dietary change was necessary for everyone in the family, and she began baking — breads, cakes, cookies, muffins — when she didn't like the gluten-free options available in local stores.
Suddenly the former dog groomer was a vegan-baking goddess. "I never had any intention of making baking into a business," she says. "I became a baker out of necessity. I was never really into baking, not even as a child. I never even had an Easy-Bake oven."
But while baking things for her own use, Olson discovered there was a need for products that could be eaten by those with allergies to wheat, soy, eggs, corn, potatoes, dairy and rice. "I have clients who have allergies to some or all of those ingredients."
The business (named for her son) soon got bigger than she expected. "A few years ago, I had Hy-Vee as a client and had products in 21 of their stores. But it was bigger than I could handle," Olson says. "I'm the only baker. So I decided to focus on special orders and my Internet business. I ship all over the country and will deliver local orders for a fee. I'd like to set up a retail operation someday, but it's cost-prohibitive right now." (For now, there's brodysbakery.com.)