The Bread Barn: Carrying on an Artisanal Tradition
In the early 1990s European-trained bakers brought their baking savvy, recipes and bread starter to Escondido and opened San Diego Artisan Bakery south of town. And while the business has changed hands a few times since then, their fundamentals of artisanal baking still hold true: limited production, using generations-old family recipes and a decades-old bread starter that originated in Europe.
Today the bakery has been relocated to a tiny 700-square-foot facility in Valley Center, which is run by owner and Valley Center horsewoman Laura Zeller and her family.
“In 2015 we purchased what was by then known as Belen Artisan Bakery, established it here closer to home in Valley Center and renamed it the Bread Barn,” Zeller recalls. But the operation remains small, churning out about 300 loaves per day.
Son Noah Orloff, who will soon be interning at a bakery in Northern California, explains: “Since the bread is baked up fresh daily, using GMO-free wheat flour and no preservatives, the baking operation is done in two shifts and continues through the wee hours of the morning, so that fresh baked goods can be served up at 7am sharp.”
In addition to handcrafted artisanal breads like date and walnut or Gruyere with scallions, the Bread Barn offers sweeter varieties, such as traditional Jewish challah and French brioche, which customers will often drive a considerable distance to obtain.
“We bake banana bread, cookies and scones, as well,” Laura adds, “using locally sourced fruit and nuts and organic ingredients whenever we can.” She also sells other locally sourced products, such as shortbread, handstirred granola, jellies, honey and wheat alternative items at the Bread Barn store, adjacent to the baking facility.
Baked goods from the Bread Barn can be purchased at farmers’ markets throughout San Diego County, as well as at their Valley Center store.
The Bread Barn
29277 Valley Center Rd.
Hours: M–F 7am–5pm
About Artisanal Bread Starters
A bread starter, also called a “sponge” or “mother dough,” begins with just a mixture of flour and water. The gradual fermentation time that comes from using a starter gives artisanal bread a more complex flavor. Bakers either add active dry yeast or allow the mixture to collect naturally occurring wild yeast and bacteria from the environment. By saving a bit of dough from each batch to be used in creating future baked goods, bakers can ensure the continuing quality and taste of their breads. In the case of the Bread Barn, the starter currently in use originated in Europe and is decades old.