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Bread and raised

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Artisans bake, and make, the Rogue Valley a better place
Fresh-baked artisan breads tempt shoppers at The Village Baker in Ashland. [Courtesy photo]
Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery owner Dawn Naymik bakes pumpkin pies during a holiday rush. [Courtesy photo]
Peach turnovers are ready to bake at Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery in Ashland. [Courtesy photo]
A baker assembles pear-almond tarts at Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe in Medford. [Courtesy photo]
A baker trims the crimped edges of strawberry-rhubarb mini-pies at Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe in Medford. [Courtesy photo]
Cakebar + Bakery in Medford tempts its customers daily with treats like this moist slice of cake. [Courtesy photo]
Carla Guimaraes, owner of Vida Baking Company in Ashland, drizzles icing on a batch of cinnamon rolls. [Courtesy photo]
A baker at Mix Bakeshop in Ashland caramelizes lemon meringue toppings with a torch. [Courtesy photo]
A baker at Mix Bakeshop dips Swiss meringue-topped cupcakes into chocolate for the finishing touch. [Courtesy photo]

If you like to bake at home, you know the warm feeling you get when you peek inside the oven and see your loaf of bread rising, or your chocolate chip cookies turning golden brown. There’s always a moment of joy tucked into the experience of baking — and tasting the results.

Like any creative pursuit, baking is also a form of self-expression that can help relieve stress. Is it the same in a commercial bakery? Yes and no.

A bakery is no place for pansies. There are the night shifts, getting up in the wee hours and lots of hard work. But Rogue Valley bakery owners will tell you it’s also a labor of love, a job that has its share of gratifying moments. After all, bakery customers have happy faces.

There is no shortage of bakeries in the Rogue Valley. You’ll find them in supermarkets, in restaurants, and as stand-alone establishments.

An online search reveals bakers catering to a variety of tastes and cultures. Here is a sampling:

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery, 130 A St., is the oldest bakery in Ashland. The newest owner, Dawn Naymik, took over the operation in the middle of the pandemic.

“It was founded in 1988 by Mary Martha Dust,” Naymik said, “who visited me shortly after I purchased the business and we baked cookies together.”

The business has changed over the years from a predominately wholesale bakery selling cookies and pies to one that shifted toward retail and direct sales, with a heavy presence at the local growers markets.

Naymik grew up in a family that did a lot of baking, preserving and cooking from scratch. One of her first jobs was in a commercial bakery.

She says all her items are made by hand from scratch and remind customers of home-baked goods.

“My cherry turnovers and marionberry scones are the most popular items,” she said, “followed by the marionberry pies. Oregon loves their marionberries.”

She’s also very proud of her cheesecake.

“It’s my favorite dessert of all time, and this recipe is of my own creation,” she said. “I make a nice thick yummy graham crust and the cheesecake itself is light and fluffy, packed with flavor.”

“Probably the most challenging aspect of the job is being both the owner and baker,” Naymik said. “I bring 110% to everything I make, but it can be tough trying to balance the not-so-fun administrative tasks when I’d rather be eating cookies for breakfast.”

Buttercloud Bakery & Café

Buttercloud’s café menu is just as popular as its bakery items.

Customers love their farmhouse biscuit sandwiches with egg, bacon, tomato and basil aioli inside a housemade buttermilk biscuit.

Other favorites include eggs benedict, bacon cheddar scones, orange pecan sticky buns, chocolate dream cake, and mini banana cream pies.

Located at 315 S. Front St., in Medford, Buttercloud is owned by Ellen and Gibson Holob, who started the business in 2011.

Ellen has been baking for 29 years and welcomed the chance to share her skills and passion for baking. It’s in her DNA.

“My father was an excellent cook, so he got me interested in creating delicious meals from scratch. I baked a lot of brownies when I was a kid,” she laughed, “and I remember baking a seven-layer Dobos torte that was quite intensive.”

The couple have enjoyed seeing the business grow and become an important part of the Rogue Valley food scene. Buttercloud added online ordering for pickup and offers shipping of baked goods across the country. Their wholesale business includes biscuits, banana bread and hazelnut espresso shortbread cookies at Market of Choice, and the shortbread cookies also are sold at Dunbar Farms, where they buy the flour for their cookies.

Vida Baking Company

Another café with a bakery, Vida Baking Company is fairly new on the scene in Ashland, at 149 N. Pioneer St. Their breads and bakery goods are all 100% gluten-free.

Owner Carla Guimaraes, who moved to the U.S. in her early 20s from Brazil, had a wholesale bread business in Santa Barbara before she moved to Ashland. She’s a graduate of the bread program at the International Culinary Center in New York City.

“When I moved to Ashland in May of 2020 and saw this location vacant, I knew that was my opportunity to pursue my vision of having a place to make and serve fresh breads, like our warm Pão de Queijo,” she said.

Pão de Queijo is a traditional Brazilian cheese bread, usually served as a small roll or bun.

It has a crunchy crust, a light, fluffy center, and a slightly tart flavor. Vida also serves a bagel version.

Other popular items are her Brazilian carrot muffins, pear-almond tarts, and a quiche of the day.

Having an outdoor dining space helped Vida survive the pandemic. Expansion plans are in the works.

“We’re going to be adding new items to the line,” she said, “including sandwich bread loaves, crackers and more graband- go items. We also plan to expand the deck and put a roof over it.”

Guimaraes hopes to build her wholesale business along the way. Currently, she sells frozen packaged bread through the Ashland Food Co-op.

Cakebar + Bakery

Another dine-in, takeaway shop is Cakebar + Bakery at 915 W. McAndrews Road, in Medford.

The shop is known for its cakes for all occasions, tarts, scones, kolaches and other pastries. Its croissants come in a variety of renditions, from chocolate-drizzled to cardamom to ham and cheese.

Dine-in customers rave about their biscuits and gravy, and a relatively new addition, flatbread pizza.

With a menu that changes almost daily, you can get updates from Cakebar’s Facebook page.

The Village Baker

You can find cookies and pastries at The Village Baker, 372 E. Main St., in Ashland, but they’re famous for their artisan breads. Whole wheat, sourdough, baguettes and other traditional breads are baked fresh daily.

Also popular are their fruit and nut breads, French breads and a large selection of specialty breads, such as sundried tomato, basil and garlic; blue cheese and olive; pumpernickel- cranberry; and jalapeno, artichoke and garlic, to name just a few.

Everything is made from scratch from all-natural ingredients.

Central Point Perk & Bakeshop

Fans of this out-of-the-way shop say it’s worth the trip. Located at 117 E. Pine St., in Central Point, this small coffeehouse and bakeshop inhabits an old, uniquely decorated building with lots of character. Central Point Perk & Bakeshop’s housemade baked goods include croissants, cinnamon rolls, kolaches, bagels, scones, fruit pies, tarts, cupcakes, lemon bars, baked doughnuts and quick breads.

The café side has a limited breakfast menu as well as a lunch menu featuring sandwiches, seasonal soups and desserts.

Mix Bakeshop

An Ashland fixture popular with tourists and locals alike, Mix Bakeshop is located at 57 N. Main St., on the Ashland Plaza. It’s open seven days a week from morning to evening.

Customers enjoy the ambience of Mix, likening it to a French café with a pinch of smalltown hospitality.

With online ordering, customers found it easy to continue to pamper themselves during the pandemic with goodies from Mix. For many of its fans, Mix is their go-to place for a special treat for a dinner party.

The artisan bakery produces a variety of breads, cakes, cookies, desserts and pastries. Also available are sandwiches, granola bars, housemade ice creams and direct-trade coffee.

With a lineup of bakeries like these, even pandemic times can be sweet times. And as the French say, there is nothing a good loaf of bread can’t fix.

To learn more about bake shops near you, do an online search for your town.

Click here to read the 2022 edition of Our Valley.