For starters, I’m a dedicated consumer of bread and flour-based foods, the polar opposite of a gluten-free person. The smell of fresh baked bread makes my stomach grumble and mouth water. My travel photos contain an inordinate amount of pastry close-ups. Cookies make my toes curl. I will drive miles out of my way to seek out a bakery I’ve read about, and rarely have I been known to pass up an opportunity to purchase a sampling of baked goods. However, don’t be fooled into thinking I have lax standards—quite the contrary. It has to be delicious. And worthy of the calories.
Bozeman, fortunately has bread! Ranging from classic sliced wheat bread lining grocery shelves to artisanal loaves naturally leavened with starters, there is a variety of quality breads just waiting to be enjoyed. One of Bozeman’s advantages is that Montana produces wheat, and not just any wheat, but grains that have no GMOs. A number of people who are otherwise gluten intolerant can eat Montana wheat because it is not only genetically unaltered, but it is heritage wheat, the variety the homesteaders grew.
Wheat Montana is undoubtedly the largest producer of local bread in Gallatin Valley. The third generation, family-owned business is located in Three Forks, by the headwaters of the Missouri River. The Folkvord family is into their 3rd generation of building a farming business into an international food empire, with recent introductions of pancake mixes that be shipped world-wide. What started out as a farm with wheat fields now encompasses 14,000 acres of wheat cultivation at 5,000 feet altitude, making it the highest elevation of wheat production in America. The hot summer days and cool nights of Montana help produce a wheat with a higher protein content.
Wheat Montana not only grows the wheat, but with over 100 employees, they mill their Prairie Gold and Bronze Chief varieties of wheat (that have high levels of vitamin B and deliver natural antioxidants), and then bake it fresh. This is a farm-to-table operation in the truest sense, with breads being delivered to Bozeman’s local grocery stores and utilized for sandwiches and toast in numerous restaurants.
On the Rise Bakery was founded by Kate Maxwell in 1997 here in Bozeman. Kate began literally baking bread in her backyard, using a Flemish starter called “Desm” as her leavening. She first sold her delicious fresh breads at the Farmers Market. She expanded to owning a bread and pizza store front and bakery by the high school on Main Street and eventually sold the company to Pete Strom, a local food legend and innovator in the local restaurant business. On the Rise now has around 16 employees and their bakery in 4 Corners. They have been steadily growing their wholesale operation, selling refrigerated pizza dough to stores such as my favorite grocery, Heebs, and a variety of baked breads through the Co-Op, Town and Country and about 25 other stores. They bake and deliver 6 days a week to insure freshness. Their philosophy is to keep things pure and simple, using the best ingredients starting with filtered water and grinding their own grains.
My favorite bakery is Wild Crumb, located in a hip, refurbished industrial building on the corner of Peach and Wallace. I always buy cookies for my business partner, Mike, who is the original Cookie Monster. The shop evokes memories of quaint European bakeries with glass-fronted display cases piled high with sandwiches, breakfast pastries, cakes, cookies, specialty baked items. There is a hominess to the place in no small part due to the heady aroma of baking. The brain child of twin sisters Lauren and Caroline, the artisan breads are baked 6 days a week using a sour dough starter or a levain—in the time honored French baking method.
I oftentimes grab a take out lunch for clients at Wild Crumb. Their sandwiches, made with either a baguette or focaccia, are both delicious and interesting with combinations such as ham, fig jam, cambazola cheese, and arugula. It is almost impossible to resist their sticky buns or gorgonzola walnut sourdough bread.
Sweet Pea Bakery is another small bakery, specializing in cakes and cookies rather than bread. And, more bakeries are making their appearance in the near future. Fran Zelenitz is planning on opening her bakery this spring on South Willson, with an emphasis on cakes, baked goods, and breakfast pastries. I know I will be one of her first customers. Hope she does cinnamon rolls. One bite of a good one and I am transported back to childhood.