Food and Restaurants 3277 Views By Jessica Sims

Ottawa Bakery Feature: Bread & Sons

A day in the life is a series cooked up by Jessica to feature some of her favourite food related businesses in and around Ottawa. 

It’s almost 6 am and Brian Cahill and Laura van der Grient have their ovens full. Outside the windows of Bread & Sons Bakery, where they both work as bakers, Bank Street looms dark and desolate at this time on a Friday morning. But inside the shop glows warmly and delicious smells abound. The cooling racks are full of muffins, cinnamon buns, and mini quiches. At the back of the kitchen numerous loaves of bread are stacked and waiting.

Brian, 21, and Laura, 24, have been here since 3 am. They don’t usually work together but Friday is the bakery’s busiest day. By the end of their shift they will have made over 100 muffins, 80 to 100 loaves of bread, over 100 croissants, and a countless number of other pastries and desserts – palmiers (a butterfly shaped puff pastry), colossal cookies, carrot cake, scones, turnovers and brownies.

By 7 am the shop is bustling with commuters on their way to work. It doesn’t seem to disturb Laura and Brian’s focus. Brian explains that to be a baker, you have to be able to handle a lot going on at once. You could have every oven full, a batch of dough mixing and be cutting more dough when all your timers go off. And at 3 or 4 in the morning, most people can’t think that fast, Brian says. You also have to be easy going. If the bread burns (which will happen more often than you like), you need to be able to get over it quickly and move on. Brian says he’s seen a lot of bakers leave the profession because they can’t handle the stress.

Watching Brian and Laura work, you easily forget what decade you’re in. Acting as some kind of mystical bread whisperer, Brian brings each loaf of bread up to his ear and taps on it when he thinks it’s done baking. He says when the bread is finished it sounds hollow inside. You get the idea techniques haven’t changed much throughout the years. The most recent innovation at the bakery is meant to take you further back in time. Eight months ago Bread & Sons started using special clay dishes to bake its sourdough bread, to simulate how it would cook in an old stone oven.

Brian explains that people don’t want their bread to look beautiful – they want it to look rustic. He says this while slashing the tops of loaves so they puff out evenly while baking. These loaves will get warmed before baking. You can’t put bread dough in the oven right away at full heat; it is too dense and will “explode.” You need to first relax it.

Thirty years ago, bakery owner Yoav D’Vaja reminds me that most bread was simply either “white” or “brown.” Now ingredients like kamut, flax, and organic flour are popular. There are no preservatives in the bread at Bread & Sons and everything is made fresh daily from scratch. Without the aid of chemicals, it can be a challenge controlling how the bread will turn out each time, Yoav explains. To ensure a consistent product it requires a lot of experimenting with measurement sizes. Fortunately Yoav was a physicist before he opened the bakery, so this is nothing new to him. He says it’s common for the worlds of science and baking to coincide.

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