Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery
Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery
When you stand in front of the bread display at Oryana you see high-quality bread from five local bakeries. But this wasn’t always the case. When Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery began operation in 1993, there were few bread choices for customers who wanted a chewy, flavorful crumb and sturdy crust. But thanks to the foresight of husband and wife team, Gerard Grabwoski and Jan Shireman, a culture demanding artisanal quality baked goods was born.
The couple made two key decisions about the kind of bread they wanted to bake. It was going to be naturally fermented “sourdough” using locally-sourced wheat, without the addition of commercial yeast and sugar, and it was going to be baked in a wood-fired oven, two factors that make their bread the signature loaves of our region.
Why not bake bread the easy, fast way like most bakeries? Everything about the kind of bread they wanted to make was a wide departure from conventional baking methods. Naturally leavened doughs take from 8 to 24 hours from mixing to bagging. The locally-sourced flour would cost more than three times as much as “regular” flour. The sourdough “mother” must be maintained on a daily basis and you can’t just flip a switch to turn on a wood oven.
In addition to taste, nutrition was also important to Grabowski and Shireman. Grains contain a substance called phytic acid, which reduces the absorption of minerals in the body. A long, slow fermentation of the Michigan-grown, organic hard red wheat flour they use greatly reduces the phytic acid content, making the bread much more nutritious and digestible, not to mention delicious. The hard red wheat variety is also lower in gluten content, making their bread compatible with lower gluten diets.
Obtaining quality, organic ingredients from local sources is potentially more time-consuming and expensive, but the Pleasanton team is committed to supporting other local businesses.
Finally, baking bread in a wood-fired oven is a time-honored tradition. Our European ancestors baked this way for generations and although it is more labor-intensive, the result is a quick bake time and perfect crust. The oven chamber is fired up hours before the actual baking. The loaves are hand-shaped and loaded into the oven and before the oven is sealed, water is sprayed into it, which yields a magnificent crust.
The first oven was built in Pleasanton Township near Manistee where the couple live, and the business was strictly wholesale, selling only to Oryana and at the Traverse City downtown Farmer’s Market. Then in 2007 they opened their first retail location in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. They also expanded their offerings and now make other goodies including muffins, pizza, scones, and cookies.
With deliveries to Oryana six days a week, your chances of getting a fresh loaf of Parmesan Olive Herb, Sesame Whole Wheat, Cranberry Pecan, and many other flavors, are good.
Check out more photos and info on their website at pleasantonbakery.com