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Carb crush


Forget Wonder Bread. Break open fresh, warm artisan bread at these metro bakeries.

Jenny Coon Peterson February 23rd, 2011

Seven days a week, Prairie Thunder Baking Company is working on bread. Never mind that the bakery and cafe is only open six; it takes time to create and bake the artisan breads for which Prairie Thunder, 1114 Classen Drive, is known.

“We believe in just the basic formulas that have been around for a long time,” said owner John McBryde. “We bake in a hearth oven and make hand-formed loaves. We take our time with the breads.”

McBryde said yeasted breads take an average of 24 hours, start to finish, while sourdough takes 48. And on an average day, Prairie Thunder is offering between eight and 10 different loaves.

Throughout the metro, a few select bakeries like Prairie Thunder are turning to tradition, crafting artisan breads that wouldn’t look out of place in a small, French cafe: hand-formed, crusty and hearty.

“I just wanted to do something that I enjoyed,” said Pat Kelley, owner of Harvestyme Bread, 10404 Harvestyme Lane in Edmond. Kelley had been making bread for years before he started his business six years ago.

Like Prairie Thunder, Kelley said it takes days, not hours, to finish his breads.

“The breads that we make take three days,” he said. “We use different European starters — that’s why it takes so long. Most of them are hardcrusted, whole-grain breads.”

The most popular of Kelley’s breads is the eight-grain with flax, but he also turns out interesting combinations, like an apple-date-almond bread or an Asiago cheese with roasted onion. You can also find his work right now at Kona Ranch Steak House, where he does a specialty Hawaiian bread paired with a coconut-infused butter that is exclusive to the restaurant.

Kelley sells his bread at the weekly OSU-OKC Farmers’ Market, through the Oklahoma Food Co-op, as well as at his small store, which is only open Fridays.

A longtime metro bakery, Big Sky Bread Company, 6606 N. Western, is still making breads from scratch daily. Owner Kelly Ridgway said many of his breads are whole grain, and he makes between eight and 10 varieties every day.

Honey whole wheat is the most popular offering at Big Sky, but Ridgway also said he makes a wide variety of French loaves — “All those French breads have that real crunchy crust,” he said — like a fruit and nut loaf made with almonds, raisins and more, or a sun-dried tomato and herb.

Ridgway said he and his small staff only make as much as they anticipate selling — a common practice at these small, artisan bakeries — and the day’s breads come out of the oven around noon, which he said is the best time to come by and pick out a loaf. But the bakery opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast goodies like muffins and scones.

A few bakeries are crafting artisan breads that wouldn’t look out of place in a small, French cafe.

You can find Big Sky bread at local health food stores like Akin’s Natural Foods and restaurants like Saturn Grill.

Back at Prairie Thunder, McBryde said that, like Big Sky, bakers only make what they intend to sell and that noon is the best time to buy. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.

Prairie Thunder has a normal rotation of specialty breads, and puts out a monthly calendar of what to expect. The day I called they were baking a roasted potato and caramelized onion loaf.

“We try to have a variety,” McBryde said, “from the plain white breads … that are very, very tasty breads down through the denser, more whole-grain offerings.”

That leaves us hungry bread-lovers with just one option: Head to these metro bakeries daily to sample each delicious offering.

 
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