Archive for Sunday, September 13, 1998

WOOD-BURNING STOVE CREATES MASTERPIECES

September 13, 1998

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Wheatfields means bread, good bread -- and pastries, great pastries.

Wheatfields Bakery and Cafe brings back the ancient flavor, quality and authenticity of superior breads.

When it opened in December 1996, Wheatfields didn't compromise: Thom Leonard, head baker who has been practicing his craft for 25 years, imported and built a Lopis oven and set up business at an ideal location.

Wheatfields, 904 Vt., is just one block west of Massachusetts Street.

First, the owners put together a dedicated team of professionals, who, though they are all Americans, have made Wheatfields an oasis of quiet tranquility with an international flair where bread is baked to perfection.

The partners are Leonard, Charlie Rascoll, general manager, and Chuck Magerl, proprietor of Free State Brewing Co.

Leonard said, ``The quality of bread is all in the details and knowing which details are important.''

One important detail begins with the oven, an investment with a cost of close to $100,000. The oven is a Lopis, imported from Barcelona, Spain. The oven was installed by Manuel de la Rosa, who has built ovens for more than 20 years, and in the last year built 20 ovens scattered around the world.

Leonard said, ``The closest oven of this kind is in Boulder, Colorado -- and is gas-fired.''

Wheatfields chose only the wood-burning oven option, because they believed in the importance of keeping up the tradition of wood-fired ovens.

For crusty European breads, Leonard said he believes this oven produces the best bread compared with modern ovens, which have a steam injection system. His wood-fired oven bakes the bread directly on the hearth and the steam comes from

See Oven, page 14

breads already in the oven. He claims it's not just the water; it's all the volatiles: sugar and acids, that condense on the loaves of bread, enhancing the flavor and color more than bread baked in a steam-type oven.

Leonard wanted the Lopis after using one in California.

``It's a pleasure to work with the oven; suddenly your bread is so much more beautiful,'' he said. ``There are less than two dozen of these ovens in the U.S., and there were less than a dozen when we built ours.

``On a normal day, several hundred loaves are made and twice as many on the weekends.''

Wheatfields breads are made from certified organic flours. The bakers use long-handled peels, a tool made of flat wood affixed to the end of a pole allowing each loaf to be placed directly on the masonry hearth of the 25-ton oven.

A varied menu offers breakfast, lunch and light supper items.

Wheatfields offers sandwiches, salads, fresh soups, quiche by the slice and focaccio, a savory Italian flatbread. Desserts include a stunning variety of tempting European inspired pastries, truffles and sweets. Take-out service is also available.

Wheatfields customers appreciate the attention to detail.

Marcia Swenson, a recent Lawrence resident, formerly of Atlanta, Ga., said, ``My husband and I come here at least twice a week. My favorite time to come is during the Sunday brunch hours.''

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