If all goes as planned, Jud and Genevieve Smith will open the doors to Northeast Ohio’s first commercial wood-fired bakery before Thanksgiving. Located just outside of Kent, Brimfield Bread Oven will be a European-style bakery and café specializing in naturally leavened breads featuring locally sourced grains baked using heat generated exclusively from wood.
The heart of the operation is a 20-ton, wood-fired masonry oven that was hand built onsite. The backbone of the retail and wholesale operation, the oven features 54 square feet of deck space on which to bake breads, pastries, and, a few nights per week, pizzas.
Both Jud and Genevieve have been baking for years, but Jud most often is the one covered in flour. He began his baking career at Great Lakes Baking Company in Hudson before heading off to the well-regarded King Arthur Flour Bakery in Vermont, where he worked as a bread baker for two and a half years. Genevieve soon joined him, working for more than a year as a pastry chef. After returning back to Northeast Ohio, Jud worked at Blackbird Baking Company in Lakewood.
After relocating to sleepy Brimfield, which is close to Kent, 10 minutes from downtown Akron, and right off I-76, the couple launched a cottage bakery business from their home. Using a small mobile wood-fired oven, they produced breads for sale at farm markets and through the Kent Natural Foods Coop.
This past spring they got the keys to their new space, a 2,600-square-foot bakery and café (3956 Rt. 43, 330-790-1887, brimfieldbreadoven.com), the focal point of which is that massive wood-fired oven. In addition to breads, pastries and coffee, the shop eventually will offer sandwiches and host wood-fired pizza nights. There will be seating for about 16.
Talk about a labor of love, the super-efficient oven is nine feet deep by six feet wide. It will be fueled exclusively by local hardwoods. Unlike a wood-fired pizza oven that is continually fed to maintain high temperatures, bread ovens take advantage of the temperature swings that come from infrequent fuelings.
“We’ll be baking on the curves, which means baking everything that loves hot first and then, as the oven gradually cools, getting into the bigger, slower breads,” Genevieve explains. “For example, baguettes, pretzels, focaccia and flatbreads love the heat and they bake real fast.”
Of course, cooking with a wood-fired oven is an entirely different process than simply adjusting a dial. But a well-designed and constructed model offers benefits over a conventional oven.
“You can’t just adjust the temperature up or down like with a commercial deck oven,” says Genevieve. “But the difference is you get a better crust in the wood-fired oven because it’s completely sealed – the moisture coming out of the dough stays in the oven and the bread steams itself.”
As the Smiths work to put the finishing touches on their ambitious project, they launched a Kickstarter
to help see them through to the end.
“We’re doing a Kickstarter just to help us get to the finish line,” she says. “We’ve already invested a lot of our own money along with getting an SBA loan to help us. We’re mixing it all together to help make this happen.”
Hopefully the work will be done in time to open the doors before Thanksgiving – and for them to stay open long after that.
“We’re putting a lot of improvements into the space, so we hope to be there forever.”