THE BAKERY WITH NO NAME
Behind the scene at Tarry Market
BY VICTORIA SPENCER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MEREDITH HEUER
f you’re ever lucky enough to dine at Mario Batali and Joe Bastanich’s refined restaurant Del Posto on the west side of Manhattan, consider the bread basket carefully. As you break open a crusty olive roll or a thyme-dusted mini focaccia, give a thought to the bakers who craft these rolls and over a dozen other breads in the far eastern corner ofWestchester County. All the breads for the 10 restaurants in the Batali-Bastanich empire (with the obvious exceptions of those in Las Vegas and further afield) are made at the bakery behind Batali and Bastanich’s top-notch emporium Tarry Market in Port Chester.
Each morning at 5 a.m., a single baker, the mixer, arrives to start the sourdough. At 6 a.m. the rest of the first shift of bakers, two shapers and one baker, and their boss, head baker Ernesto Gonzalez, arrive and the bakery quickly moves into full production. They bake scones and other breakfast pastries for the café at Tarry Market, which is effectively the retail front for this much larger and ambitious operation, along with sheets of focaccia with first-rate toppings. But since the bakery opened in November 2010, its main focus has been artisanal bread for the tables of Babbo, Bar Jamón, Becco, Casa Mono, Del Posto, Felidia, Lupa and Otto in Manhattan, as well as Tarry Lodge, Batali and Bastanich’s enoteca pizzeria, with locations in Port Chester, New York and Westport, Connecticut.
Gonzalez, a veteran of top NYC bakeries, including Balthazar and Ecce Panis, was running the small in-house bakery at Del Posto when Joe Bastanich asked him to head the commissary bakery he and Batali were planning. As Morgan Pruitt, manager of Tarry Market, explains, Batali and Bastanich saw the space adjacent to their Port Chester restaurant, Tarry Lodge, and immediately thought of its proximity to New York City and their desire to provide bread for their restaurants. Buying bread is a big cost for restaurants and often an uncertainty; your supplier might not turn up, might not be willing to increase your order at the last moment or, worse yet, could go out of business. When you have your own bakery, things are much more secure and, as Pruitt laughs, you can change your order every day. Pruitt notes that Daniel Boulud recently opened a commissary kitchen that includes a bakery in downtown Manhattan. Balthazar Bakery, which supplies bread to restaurants and stores in addition to its namesake bistro, long ago ran out of space at its SoHo location and moved its baking to Englewood, New Jersey. For Bastanich and Batali, Port Chester, though “a little rough and tumble,” as Pruitt acknowledges, was a perfect location because of its proximity to their restaurant Tarry Lodge. It’s also an easy trip into the city, a trip that their drivers make twice a day with their precious, fragrant cargo.
A Hive of Artisan Baking
Few of the shoppers at Tarry Market are aware of the existence of the bustling bakery behind the market’s retail bread counter though most are more than happy to stock up on ciabatta, sourdough, whole wheat loaves and items made specially for the market like lobster rolls (lobster in shape only) and brioche. These are artisan breads. Though the term “artisan” is on the verge of becoming one of those meaningless food words like “gourmet,” Gonzalez uses it in its traditional fashion, to mean, he says simply, “more handmade than machine.” It’s not easy to keep the handmade quality of bread when you’re baking several hundred loaves a day. Each baker has to be trained so that he or she is able to understand the entire process, start to finish, of making bread, as opposed to a factory where bakers only work on one specific task. It’s the baker as craftsperson not production line worker.
Whether for retail sale in Tarry Market or for the tables at Del Posto, all the breads are made without preservatives, with just flour, water, yeast and salt. (The sourdough is made without yeast and is reliant on a starter.) The process begins with a brief mixing. In a corner of the bakery work area is the main mixer, which has a 250-kilo capacity, and its little sister, which can handle up to 50 kilos of dough. The smaller machine is used for breads like the chocolate bread that are made in lesser quantities. Fifty-pound sacks of Sir Galahad flour from King Arthur in Vermont are stacked nearby.
That’s the flour used for most of the breads; another grade of flour is used for the baguettes and whole wheat breads, while an Italian flour with “more gluten so it will stretch better” is used for the pizza dough the bakery makes for Tarry Lodge in both Port Chester and Westport. After a brief mixing, the dough is transferred to 15 kilocapacity plastic tubs, covered and left to rest. How long it rests depends on the type of dough. “Doughs with more yeast rest for a shorter time,” Gonzalez explains.
For the long dark loaf called filone, a classic Italian loaf that, along with the baguette, is a mainstay of the restaurants in the Batali- Bastanich group, dough is mixed at 9 a.m. and then permitted to rest for two hours. After that, the dough is cut, and then handed off to another baker to be shaped into long thin loaves.
Each baker has to be trained so that he or she
is able to understand the entire process,
start to finish, of making bread,
as opposed to a factory where bakers
only work on one specific task. It’s the baker
as craftsperson not production line worker.
With the careful scheduling necessary to produce the volume of consistently top-quality bread, once shaped and ready for baking, dough is sometimes held in the chiller until there is oven space. Filones are often held like this. Handily the chiller is right beside the oven. Gonzalez appropriately calls holding dough “retiring” the bread. Over at the massive deck oven that’s the heart of the bakery, another of the bakers is using the hydraulic oven loader to lift three giant trays of mini focaccia rolls into the oven. Tonight, diners at Del Posto will be snacking on these rolls biding their time between courses.
The oven has four decks made of stone and 12 doors, so the baker opens a different door on the same deck for each tray he loads in, helping to keep the oven at 480°F and not lose any heat as the bread goes in. After the rolls are in the oven, the baker presses a button for steam; a blast of steam hisses inside, and steam vapor is visibly escaping from the oven. The steam, Gonzalez explains, helps develop the crust and give the bread a crunchy, shiny exterior. As a home baker might do, Gonzalez and his team raise the temperature when they bake rolls; “We want to bake them faster so they don’t dry out,” he says. Loaves are baked at 450°F. And like home bakers, they check their breads halfway through cooking but they use a long wooden paddle to check on the rolls. The baker checks the rolls again after 14 minutes. They’re done. After removing them from the oven, he brushes them with olive oil and sprinkles them with thyme. Then he transfers the trays to a waiting rolling rack. Their next move will be to the delivery truck.
The bakery makes four kinds of rolls—olive, ficelle (a thin baguette), whole-wheat and the mini focaccia—for Del Posto. The other restaurants serve bread, most often baguettes and filones. Only Del Posto has rolls. And the roll order varies from day to day, so the bakers often bake more than the unwieldy number the restaurant has ordered. If Del Posto ordered 262 olive rolls for dinner, the bakers bake whatever their formulas scale up to, say 288 not 262, and those extra 26 rolls will get snapped up by lucky shoppers at Tarry Market. In addition to the main deck oven, there’s a rotating oven used for what Gonzalez calls “soft breads,” most of which are made for retail sale at Tarry Market; the trays of focaccia, loaves of brioche and chocolate bread, and the pastries for the café at Tarry Market.
Buying bread is a big cost for restaurants
and often an uncertainty; your supplier might
not turn up, might not be willing to increase
your order at the last moment or, worse yet,
could go out of business.
Done and Distributed
Scheduling is its own art at Tarry. The morning shift bakers work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. After starting the sourdough and breakfast pastries, they turn their attention to ciabatta, which is mixed around 8 a.m. but not shaped till as late as 5 p.m. because it has a small amount of yeast and requires a long rise. The morning driver arrives at 5 a.m. and starts to load bread made by the night shift a few hours earlier. He makes the main delivery, leaving for the city at 6 a.m., before traffic becomes too congested. Some restaurants, Otto for one, get a single daily delivery. Others, such as Del Posto, get both morning and afternoon deliveries; a different driver heads east to Tarry Lodge in Connecticut.
The afternoon driver leaves around 2 p.m., his delivery is smaller, mostly baguettes for several restaurants and more rolls for Del Posto. A short while later, at 3 p.m., the night shift bakers begin. They shape and bake the ciabatta and make another, larger, batch of baguettes. The bakery makes about 500 baguettes a day, 150 of the much larger filones, plus smaller amounts of ciabatta, focaccia, whole wheat, sourdough, brioche, Pullman, and an oft-changing number of rolls. Production varies on a daily basis with less demand and less bread being made on Mondays and Tuesdays. Demand is always highest on the weekends, they bake 200 kilos of filones on Fridays; Gonzalez adds another baker to each shift’s team of four then and on Saturdays.
Even on a busy Friday, the bakery quietly hums with activity. Team members know their roles (as well as their rolls), working independently and as part of the team. You can see the quality of their bread and, of course, you want to taste it. Breads like these are open-crumbed, wonderfully chewy, with a crackly crust. And if dinner at Babbo isn’t in the cards anytime soon, you can always stop by Tarry Market for a darkly crusted filone and you just might be able to make out the steady hum and industry of a bakery that is all but invisible to most.
179 North Main Street, Port Chester