Author Henry Miller once remarked that Americans didn't know squat about bread. They didn't know how to eat it, they didn't know how to bake it, they didn't appreciate it as the staff of life.
If Miller had made a swing through North County before embarking on one of his sojourns to Paris, he would have discovered that North County is filled with people who know about bread, its link to times gone by, and certainly how to bake it.
French, Italian, Jewish Rye, Danish Apple Nut. German Black. Whether it's baguettes or bagels, there is a bakery in almost every community.
Which is not to say that most people don't settle for the convenience of buying commercial bread off the shelf in the same store they buy their milk, Cheerios and dog food. Nationally, it's estimated that commercial bakeries produce 95% of all bread consumed.
But, for those who think bread merits a separate list, there are a lot of choices. Here is a sampling of North County bakeries:
On California 78 on the way to Julian, lies Dudley's, the granddaddy of all bread lines. There, on any given weekend, hundreds of people can be found forming a vine winding around the roadside bakery.
In years past, Dudley's customers could expect hours-long waits. Since the introduction of an automatic bread slicer/bagging machine four years ago, the average wait for a loaf of bread is now closer to half an hour.
Breads like mesa grande mission, cheddar cheese, jalapeno, potato, sweet French and the biggest seller--raisin date nut--are inducements enough to stand in line for as long as it takes. Except for some cookies, a soft molasses fruit bar and some danish, Dudley's is strictly a bread bakery.
Seven bread bakers start each day at 4 a.m. mixing and kneading, and they pull the last loaves from the ovens between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., depending on that day's baking schedule, said bakery manager Marilee Strech. On weekdays, about 1,500 loaves are baked, and about 4,000 loaves are sold each Saturday and Sunday, she said.
The norm for Dudley's is to run out of bread on Sundays, and the bakery often closes early those days, Strech said. Any leftover bread--a rare commodity--is donated to charity.
Credit for the backcountry bakery's success can be attributed to Dudley Pratt, an El Cajon baker who opened a "small-scale bakery" in 1963 to capitalize on tourists who drove by on their way to Julian, and Mel Ashley, who bought the bakery in 1975 after Dudley died.
Ashley has since tripled the work force to 35 employees. About six years ago, Ashley did away with an adjoining restaurant and market, allowing more room for his booming bakery.
"The thing that keeps us going is that we're not just a place to buy bread, we're somewhere to go. We're cheap entertainment in these times of recession," Strech said.
Dudley's is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Cost of a loaf of bread ranges from $1.10 to $1.50. A bag of six fruit bars costs $1.55.
THE BREAD FACTORY
2525 El Camino Real
From the far east end of the Plaza Camino Real Shopping Center, there's a whole lot of commotion going on. It's coming from one shop--and one mouth.
"Have a little cheesecake, you're wasting away to nothing," presses Arnie Saltzman, the baker/owner of The Bread Factory. With a swift motion, he whacks off a slab of the cream cheesy stuff and presents it to a dieter who never stood a chance.
In between sallies with customers, Saltzman sits at a table adorned with a single carnation in a vase and grumbles fondly of bread and the life of a baker.
Saltzman opened The Bread Factory 10 years ago with his wife, Marcia. He had originally moved to California to retire after 40 years of baking at such renowned New Jersey institutions as Silver's Bakery, The Tavern Pantry and the Clairemont Diner.
But his retirement was short-lived. At the urging of friends who had been customers 30 years earlier and 3,000 miles away, Saltzman dipped his hands into the flour sack once more.
From his 1,500-square-foot facility, Saltzman and his five bakers produce about 700 loaves of bread seven days a week from recipes that have followed Saltzman over the decades. His inventory includes challah, French, sourdough, Italian, hand-rolled bagels and eight-grain, all prepared without preservatives.
Rye is one of Saltzman's biggest sellers, but here it does not sell at the volume he was accustomed to in New Jersey.
"At Silver's, we used to make a 5-pound rye bread that was about 2 feet by 10 inches, and we would cut them in quarters and sell them that way," Saltzman reminisced. "We would pile the quarters up in the morning at 5 a.m., and, at the end of the day, 50 of those 5-pound ryes were gone. That just shows you what an integral part of life bread and rolls were."
Saltzman still makes the traditional challah that is eaten by many Jewish families every Friday night with their Sabbath meal. He makes the braided, sweetened egg bread in a small loaf, but has made them big enough to feed 300 people.
"Challah is the bread you use if you get married or give birth and have the baby named in a synagogue," Saltzman said. "The bread is almost like a piece of cake. . . . The sweetness indicates the sweetness of life."
For certain Jewish holidays, Saltzman makes the same bread in a round loaf. The roundness symbolizes no end to life and joy that lasts forever, he said.
Operating a Jewish/European/New York-style bakery in California has required a lot of adjusting, Saltzman said.
"It's a lifestyle that doesn't exist in California," Saltzman said of the way his New Jersey customers bought bread.
"There was the pattern to go to the bakery every day, particularly in the morning, and buy your bread and rolls for the day.
"On Friday, you bought a challah. On Monday, you bought rye. On Tuesday, it was kaiser rolls and flat onion rolls," Saltzman said. "This was the Jewish tradition, the way the European Jewery was brought up. Our bakery was so busy that people would line up around the block."
In California, most people today simply grab what's available at the supermarket, he said.
Besides breads, Saltzman sells an array of cookies and rolls, but one of the bakery's most unusual features is its computer that can superimpose the image of a photograph onto the top of a buttercream frosted cake, using an airbrush loaded with food color.
With this frosting wizardry and a photograph, Saltzman can airbrush onto a cake a variety of images--the faces of toddlers, newlyweds and octogenarians among the most popular choices. He has recently begun using the same frosting technique with photos of pets whose owners want them to have an unusual birthday cake.
Still, Saltzman says he is most famous for his Lindy's-style cheesecake, for which he uses a 40-year-old recipe. He scoffs at the flat cheesecakes he sees on the market and boasts of the 8-pound, restaurant-sized cake he sells.
Saltzman's Carlsbad bakery has a steady retail clientele, and the bakery supplies La Costa Resort with its bread and dinner rolls. His retail customers lean more toward the older crowd and people with "lots of East Coast mentality," he said.
Cost of a loaf of bread is $2.25. A dozen dinner rolls sell for $3.75, and Arnie's big bagels are $5 a dozen. The 8-pound cheesecake sells for $31, but Saltzman sells a 10-inch cake for $13.95. The computer cakes range from $22.95 to $1,000.
The Bread Factory is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours on Saturday are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
THE CHAMPAGNE BAKERY
162 S. Rancho Santa Fe Road
Master chef Jacques Pautrat is the embodiment of the saying, "The French live to work." Consider the man who starts his day baking at 3:30 a.m. and doesn't wipe the flour from his hands before 9 p.m.
Pautrat knows no other life. At 30, he has been baking for 18 years, since his days as a baker's apprentice in France.
"When my older brother started to be an apprentice baker, I would go on my day off from school to sweep the floor," Pautrat said. "I started as an apprentice in Champagne and worked four years there as a baker and pastryman."
After Champagne, Pautrat went to Paris and stayed seven years, learning to make chocolates, ice cream and decoration. From there, he moved to New York and baked for four years before pursuing his dream of living and baking in California.
With the Champagne Bakery, he tries to incorporate his French and American experiences. He still uses all French equipment, from his Guyon mixers to his electric brick oven for the croissants.
"When I came to America, everything was different, the flour, water, butter, milk, everything," Pautrat said. "I had to change all my recipes."
"If we made the same recipe, it would be good, but it wouldn't look nice as it should," he said. "It's very important that everything look nice."
Pautrat talks too of the fact that Americans don't have the daily bread-buying tradition of the French. He shudders slightly when mentioning the American penchant for putting bread in the "cooler," or refrigerator.
Pautrat's vigilence over his bread and pastries shows. Although he has 10 bakers working under him, he taste tests every product and takes full responsibility.
While the clattering of racks and lightning-quick French among the bakers make up a buzzing atmosphere in the back production area, a quiet elegance pervades the front shop. Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" plays in the background as customers peruse dark wood display cases filled with napoleons, meringues, tortes and glossy croissants.
The bread--all made with no preservatives or shortening and just a little yeast--is propped on shelves behind the cases. Long, skinny baguettes are the biggest sellers followed by epis, a wheat bread shaped like a long vine of ivy leaves. The Champagne Bakery also sells batard, rye, egg, whole wheat, sourdough, pecan, raisin, eight-grain and country bread, and a variety of dinner rolls.
Other specialties include thinly layered pastries and cakes--including a French wedding cake made of miniature cream puffs stacked high and affixed with a caramel glaze.
Pautrat bakes every day, and what isn't sold goes to a local church to feed the homeless. His pastries also are served at the Inn L'Auberge in Del Mar, and he supplies bread to a neighboring country club.
Baguettes sell for $1.25 a loaf. The epis and batard sell for $1.40, and all other breads cost $2.35. Bakery hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
LINO'S ITALIAN BAKERY AND DELI
1943 E. Valley Parkway
Ted and Phyllis Thivierge barely knew the difference between a proofer and a sheeter when they bought Lino's four years ago. Today, they practically fall over themselves filling the many orders they get from restaurants and country clubs.
"There is no room for wars," said Ted of the 1,500-square-foot baking area and the four bakers who work in it. "When you're producing, it gets kind of hairy, especially with the Italian bread."
The Italian bread is made from a recipe handed down by Phyllis' father. The loaves are first placed on boards and covered with damp cloth, then allowed to rise at room temperature rather than in a proof box.
The loaves are then baked right on the hearth, not in a pan, giving the bread a crispy outside and a fluffy texture inside, Phyllis said. Every day, Lino's produces at least 250 pounds of this bread alone.
The key to good bread is high-gluten flour, which can withstand a lot of handling, a big part of the baking process at Lino's, said Phyllis. The Thivierges buy their flour in 100-pound sacks from a company in Los Angeles that date stamps for freshness.
"When you screw up your dough, you've got to start all over," said Phyllis. "Temperature, humidity, the way the flour is harvested, the roast cycle, we have to make adjustments as we go through the year," she said.
French, whole wheat, squaw and Italian make up the main bread repertoire at Lino's. Other big sellers: a French bread that is dipped in olive oil before baking and an herbed cheese olive oil roll.
Italian cakes and pastries such as cannoli are sold, but customers can find non-Italian items as well. Also popular are cream puffs, eclairs, danish and an all-butter croissant that is definitely "not for your low-cholesterol diet," Ted said.
At Christmas, the Thivierges make panatone. At Easter, they make hot cross buns and sweetened egg bread.
Lino's clientele also includes Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook and Villa D'Este in Del Mar. Ted and Phyllis spent two months developing a flat French bread for Dominick's Sandwiches in Fallbrook.
The Thivierges' bread is also sold at the certified farmers' market at the North County Fair shopping mall every Wednesday.
When the Thivierges bake too much, they freeze the leftovers and donate it to the Mission San Luis Rey and the Salvation Army. They never sell day-old bread.
Cost of a loaf of bread is $1. The olive oil rolls are sold for $3 a dozen, and a 2-pound Italian roll costs $2. Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
815 E. Valley Parkway
At one time or another, all four sons of Robert Wedeking have rolled up their sleeves and rolled out dough on the huge work tables in this family bakery. In this Escondido location for more than 17 years, Wedeking's has been based in North County for more than 30 years
A buttercrust white bread that looks like a pound cake is the biggest seller on the Wedeking's racks and is sold in small and large loaves. Other breads among the 26 baked daily include English muffin bread, Swedish limpa , pumpernickel, golden Indian, sheepherders, party French and poppy Vienna.
The rye and cinnamon are the only breads not baked every day. They are baked Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
A big feature of this bakery is the four large refrigerated display cases stocked with pre-decorated cakes. About 300 cakes are sold each weekend, and if ever there was such a thing as a cake emergency, Wedeking's stands at the ready.
Cost of a loaf of bread ranges from $1.08 to $1.65. A 1 1/2-pound loaf of the buttercrust white is $1.30. Hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
SAN LUIS REY BAKERY
490 N. El Camino Real
Not far from Oceanside's historic mission, the scent of baking bread and cake is in the air. Every day at 3 a.m., Fidel Olivos fires up his ovens and bakes the recipes handed down by his father and grandfather.
A baker for the past 20 years, Olivos bought this bakery last October with his wife, Pauline. She decorates cakes while he and two other bakers create the cookies, cakes and breads.
Olivos has added several Mexican specialties from his homeland to the bakery's already existing inventory of French, rye, pumpernickel and sheepherders. Popular newcomers include conchas, a sweet egg bread the size of a danish, and pan fino (fine bread), a pastry-like bread made with shortening.
Empanadas, fruit-filled turnovers, are also making a name for themselves at the bakery. Bolillos, crusty rolls like a mini French loaf, are favorites among the non-sweet tooth crowd.
Everything is sold the same day it's baked to ensure freshness, said Olivos. Any leftovers are donated to a local church.
Cost is 69 cents apiece for empanadas, pan fino and conchas. Bolillos are 35 cents apiece and loaves of French, buttercrust and rye range from $1.39 to $1.89.
The bakery is open 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
The bakeries in several North County supermarkets offer consumers a cross between commercially produced and traditionally prepared bread.
Although the items are freshly baked, the ingredients usually haven't been assembled on site. Pre-mixed bread dough and other frozen products are shipped to North County outlets from company warehouses in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The bread and baked goods selection is often as varied as at many full-scale bakeries.
The hot bakery at Advantage in Escondido bakes 26 kinds of bread every day, including Saturdays and Sundays. With Hawaiian, challah, pumpernickel, sourdough, raisin and low sodium to choose from, customers most often flock to the French bread that sells for 99 cents a loaf, said Louise Edwards, bakery manager.
"They definitely want the quality of fresh-baked bread, and they can ask for the bread baked that day," Edwards said.
Joy Bogstad, the bakery manager at the Vons on El Norte Parkway in Escondido, bakes wheat, rye and oat bran that comes in from the Vons warehouse in Los Angeles. However, her French and English muffin bread is made on the premises, using Von's recipes.
The 99 cent French loaf is the biggest seller, and Bogstad goes through about 100 loaves a day. Also popular are the 1-pound loaves of wheat and oat bran that sell for $1.79.