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This article was published 20/10/2015 (1462 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Suzanne Gessler’s day begins at 2 a.m.
She arrives at The Pennyloaf Bakery on Corydon Avenue early in the morning hours to finish a process that began two days earlier. After creating a pre-ferment in-house, regularly folding and shaping the day’s dough, and letting it sit overnight, the dough is ready for Gessler and her co-bakers to put into the wood fired brick oven in the back of the shop.
“Who doesn’t like the fire idea, and baking in an old fashioned way?”
This is a new routine for Gessler, a former city planner, social worker and social policy writer. After 13 years working for government, the Crescentwood resident decided it was time for a change of pace.
"It kind of came to me," Gessler explained. "I really like to bake and I really wanted to own my own business, and I was really interested in being my own boss."
So after some career planning, Gessler went to Red River College to study professional baking and patisserie with the intent to become a baker. During an internship, she worked with a master baker in California while living on an organic farm where she learned the values of wholesome, homemade food. Now, she’s brought back what she’s learned to Winnipeg with The Pennyloaf Bakery. The bakery, which carries a wealth of breads, baguettes, pastries, cakes and pies at 858 Corydon Ave. (formerly Olga’s Fashions), officially opened on Oct. 17.
"There isn’t really anyone doing what I want to do. There are some bakeries in the neighbourhood but they’re all kind of different," Gessler said.
In particular, Pennyloaf’s 20,000-pound brick wood fired oven sets this bakery apart from others. The oven is fired in the evening, the ash cleared from the hearth before baking, and retains heat for the rest of the day. According to Gessler, this old fashioned way of baking brings about some of the best yields.
"It’s the thing, I think, that gives this place its charm," she said. "Who doesn’t like the fire idea, and baking in an old fashioned way?"
"I like the process of doing it," she added. "I like the charm of it and I certainly like the product that comes out of it."
Gessler’s bread also benefits from a fermentation process that is characteristic of Pennyloaf. Gessler has had her starter, a type of microbiological culture, made with wild yeast for over two years.
"It’s the thing that makes it rise, and it makes it taste really complex, and you can play with your starter and make it nuttier or sweeter, or make it sour to make it taste like sourdough," Gessler explained.
The bakery has already become a hit in the neighbourhood with items regularly selling out. Part of the attraction of The Pennyloaf is its old-world, homestyle offerings — something Gessler made a point of aspiring to.
"There was a bakery near my neighbourhood where I grew up in St. Boniface — the bakery was in St. Vital and we would pass it all the time on our way back home, and I think it was a little German bakery and they had a poppyseed Bundt cake that to this day I remember it," Gessler recalled. "And I just wanted to have a bakery with simple classic things, that you could take home and keep going back to the fridge for."
For hours of operation, go to www.thepennyloaf.com or find The Pennyloaf Bakery on Facebook.
Danielle Da Silva
Community journalist — The Sou'wester
Danielle Da Silva is the community journalist for The Sou'wester. Email her at email@example.com