Hartford Baking Company started from a series of farmer’s market stands in Hartford – at Billings Forge in particular – and grew into a tiny café location on New Park Avenue, West Hartford in September of 2010. The first day of operations, the company baked 24 loaves of bread. Now, they bake thousands of loaves of bread nightly, distributing the same artisanal quality of the original production to two café locations, in addition to multiple local restaurants from Massachusetts to the shoreline. So how do you grow a company, over the course of eight years, without compromising quality or values? We sat down with President, Scott Kluger, to find out more.
NN: What inspired you to bring artisan bread to the Hartford community?
SK: I’m originally from Hartford County and West Hartford is my hometown. I have a great love of simple, quality foods, and I wanted to bring this here.
NN: What makes your bread special and unique?
SK: The danger of growth is that you can compromise quality. But in our case, it’s actually the opposite. When we started, it was trial by fire. In the beginning, we didn’t know how to properly manage fermentation. Flavor was inconsistent, and we weren’t able to manage, for example, sourdough starters. Sourdough starters ferment for a very long time, creating flavor and texture. Our starters have improved, and we can do a 20-hour fermentation, giving the bread much more flavor, consistency, and quality. Flour, water, salt, and yeast continue to be the only four ingredients in the majority of our breads. There are no artificial fillers here, no cost cutting procedures. Just great bread, that is easier to digest, as it’s not filled with preservatives, and the gluten breaks down naturally during the fermentation process.
NN: Tell us more about your café locations, and what you serve at them?
SK: The cafés are so much more than just bread. We have an incredible sandwich menu on our artisan breads and the bread really makes the sandwich. Trust me, anytime you’ve had an incredible sandwich, you’ve actually had incredible bread. We are expanding our menu to include beer and wine at our Farmington Avenue location, and a late night bar menu, which will include items such as a house burger, grilled vegetable street tacos, and cheese and charcuterie boards. Of course, you can’t go wrong with our signature brioche giant pretzel with house grain mustard and a local craft beer, especially at this time of year.
NN: What inspired you to create a brioche giant pretzel? Sounds very intriguing.
SK: A big foundation of Hartford Baking Company was my experience traveling in Europe and learning and observing traditional baking methods. The HBC signature giant brioche pretzel is actually a hybrid of classic French brioche technique and the traditional German giant pretzel served during Oktoberfest. Our version is buttery, light, decadent, and very addictive.
NN: What else can we find at your café locations?
SK: One thing that I love about our café locations is that we are as serious about coffee as we are about bread. We get coffee beans from some of the best roasters in the region, and we have a full line of expertly crafted espresso beverages, as well as specialty hand brewed preparations – such as French press, cold brew, and pour overs. These different methods extract the flavor of the coffee beans differently, leading to completely unique experiences with the same beans. The beans we use are also sourced from some top quality local producers. And then, there’s our pasty program, which we haven’t even talked about.
NN: Ok, great, tell us about the pastry!
SK: All of our pastry is made by hand. The quality is unparalleled. We make the best scones, muffins, croissants, and seasonal crostatas. Our company really grew out of pastry. My mom’s recipes were the foundation of Hartford Baking Company. She is still very involved in the business, working with the pastry chefs on a weekly basis, and we love to take the pastry she makes at home and figure out how to mass produce it, without compromising quality. Everything we make is made with love, but the pastry especially has that special family touch. So, if you are ever at Hartford Baking Company and you feel like you’re in your mother’s or your grandmother’s kitchen, now you know why.
Submitted by Hartford Baking Company. For more information, visit: www.hartfordbaking.com. Locations at 625 New Park Ave. and 965 Farmington Ave., West Hartford.