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Society & Culture - Business & Entrepreneurship

How to Make Serious Dough on Co-op

October 9, 2014

Ally Zietz

What’s it like doing a co-op at what Bon Appetit magazine recently dubbed the second best new restaurant in the country?

“It’s a little weird because no one really gets what I did. I helped make bread,” said senior culinary arts major Ally Zeitz, downplaying the co-op she recently finished at High Street on Market (located at 3rd and Market, to be more specific).

But if you read Bon Appetit, then you know that making bread at High Street on Market — the ones with locally milled flour and ancient grains that can feature everything from cherries to vegetable ash to potatoes — is a really, really big deal.

“I dare anyone who has jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon (without a doctor’s note) to eat at High Street on Market and still call himself gluten-intolerant. You don’t stand a chance,” Andrew Knowlton, the magazine’s restaurant and drinks editor, declared in his raving review.

That wasn’t all. The writer and former judge on the Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef’ also wrote, “If, at this point, you are wondering if the No. 2 restaurant on this year’s list got here on its dough alone, the answer is — unequivocally and emphatically — a very carby yes.”

Bread is the main reason why Zeitz picked the restaurant not just for her sole six-month co-op, but also for her ‘stage,’ or unpaid culinary internship, the winter before she started. Bread is also why she’ll continue to work part-time at the restaurant now that she’s completed her co-op.

“I took a bread class during my sophomore year and I really liked learning about bread: the yeast, the way it rises, how you can mess it up pretty easily, but if you don’t it turns out really well,” she said. “And I mean, I’ve always liked bread. I’m Italian — my family eats a lot of bread!”

Zeitz started at High Street Market by helping with preparation, while learning to make bread and mix dough. During her co-op she became the “shaper” of the five-person bread team, which means she molds different types of bread dough into different shapes by hand. It’s even more impressive since there are 15 to 22 different types and almost as many shapes.

“It’s a lot of dough. All the breads all need to be proofed so they ferment, and then the dough is pre-shaped; then they relax and then get final-shaped; then they go in the fridge; and then they are baked,” she said. “It’s a long process.”

It’s also a delicate one. Misshapen bread can’t be sold or used by the restaurant, and a lot of misshapen bread means even more trouble (even though it means Zeitz can eat the screw ups). That’s why bread making requires such skill.

“They have videos of me from when I made my first loaf of bread — and it’s just bad,” she said. “But I’ve really learned a lot from working there.”

Zeitz, who started just a few months after the restaurant opened in the fall of 2013, has seen the restaurant grow just as much during her time there.

“It’s cool to be a part of it during this time because production has gone up so much,” she said. “When I first started here, we made four loaves of rye bread, and then it went up to triple or double that. We used to make about six loaves of potato bread, and now we make about 16.”

With reviews and attention from national and local press, a lot of focus has been placed on High Street on Market and it’s bread.

“I was there the day Bon Appetit came to shoot the whole restaurant,” she said. “They got there at 7 a.m. and stayed past when I left, through dinner. They took so many pictures but we didn’t know why,” she said.

Bon Appetit also posted an online video on the bread-making process, which was about her boss, head baker Alex Bois, and the bread. Zeitz had a small supporting role, though.

“You can see my hand holding egg wash in the very beginning of it! It’s like, two seconds. But at least I made it, or my hand made it in,” she joked.

She’s also getting her foot in the door in the pastry department by making and garnishing the croissants, cream puffs and Danishes when the main pastry chef isn’t working. Of course, it means going to work at 5 a.m. to bake the pastries, but she said she’s a morning person and enjoys the peace and quiet of the early hours.

Now that she’s there as a part-time employee, Zeitz expects to mostly continue honing her skill with the breads. But as one of the people responsible for making the restaurant’s most notable offerings, what does she recommend?

“I like the Forager breakfast sandwich [featured in the Bon Appetit review]. It’s egg, kale and mushrooms on our Kaiser roll. I love the sticky bun with pecans, and it’s made of Panettone dough. And I really like the vegetable ash bread, especially toasted with butter. I used to eat that a lot,” she said.