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Le Monde Bakery
308 Armour Road
The biggest difference between the way Jef Dover's Le Monde bakes today and the loaves the bakery made when he started the place back in 2001? Dover has discovered that less is more.
"When we first opened," he says, "we offered French baguette, focaccia, challah, rye, marble rye, whole wheat and cranberry rye. But we got so busy just making baguettes — we do as many as 800 loaves a day — that we didn't have the ability to do a volume of other breads. So today we only bake the baguette, focaccia and challah."
That's plenty to keep him occupied. Le Monde's ovens are in operation seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Breads aren't a huge component of the bakery's retail operation, in downtown North Kansas City ("We might sell three or four dozen [loaves] a day," Dover says), where the glass display cases are loaded with beautifully glazed pastries and flaky croissants, but they're the bread and butter of the bottom line. Dover's biggest bread clients are Dean & DeLuca, several local country clubs and a dozen restaurants. He and his bakers start kneading loaves between 10 and 11 p.m. and usually work through the night until 3 p.m. the following day.
Dover didn't set out to become an artisan boulanger de pain. "I'm a hack," he says with a laugh. "I wish I could say I attended the Cordon Bleu school, but I started out as a crew leader at McDonald's."
A fascination with the art of bread making inspired Dover to practice until he developed the perfect baguette. "The secret is using good flour, a long, slow rise time and steam so that you have a crispy crust on the outside and a yeasty loaf inside."
The thing about bread is that the cost of ingredients doesn't have to be expensive. But the labor costs — for really exceptional bread, anyway — can be very high. "You can't underestimate the importance of a person who really knows how to bake bread," Dover says.
Bread for All Tandoori Naan Cafe
536 Westport Road
Although naan, the soft round leavened flatbread baked in a white-hot tandoori oven, is closely identified with the culinary traditions of India, the bread is also a staple of Muslim cooking. At Westport's new Bread for All Tandoori Naan Cafe, the master baker is Kurdistan native Foad Salih, who begins baking the circles of yeasty dough each day at 10 a.m.
"The oven gets up to about 400 degrees," says owner Stan Yoder. "Foad keeps a very close eye on each piece, because if it's in the oven slightly more than a minute, it will burn."
Salih removes each circle of freshly baked naan with a set of long tongs. When the bread has cooled, four of the 10-inch rounds are tucked into a plastic bag and sold at the restaurant for $4. The cafe uses the fresh bread for its sandwiches — gyro, shawarma, falafel, eggplant-and-cauliflower, beef kebabs — but does a brisk retail business for patrons who simply want to take home packages of bread.