Saturday, January 26, 2013

Andie's Big Adventure: Tilt House Bakery

Tilt House Bakery
1194 Portugal Cove Road
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM Tuesday - Sunday

Closed Mondays
Tilt House Bakery is about three miles down the road from our rental in Portugal Cove. I've been going there since we arrived in September, and I asked the owner if I could come in and do a blog entry on it. It is a food blog after all. Most of the time.

Meet Ann Davis, owner. She graciously took me around the bakery and let me poke around in the nooks and crannies and ask lots of questions. Ann is very nice, very feisty, and has some of the prettiest eyes I've ever seen.

Ann had been the manager at Auntie Crae's Bakery for fifteen years. When the owner decided she was ready to close up shop, Ann thought about what she wanted to do. She said at age 50, what else could she do but just open up her own bakery? So she made plans to open Tilt House. She had her eye on the building for a while. It was a meat shop in its previous incarnation. Some of the old equipment for salt beef and curing and smoking is still there in the basement.

For the first year of setting up, she worked seven days a week, fourteen to sixteen hours a day. I'm tired just thinking about it.

She took me to the back where the action was going on. I met Donna Tucker and Barbara Bradbury White, who were having a good time mixing and washing. I met several other employees and they were all busy as bees. Someone is on the premises 24 hours a day, six days a week doing the baking and cleaning. Ann has four deaf employees and made sure she learned sign language for them. When she tried it out on them, they didn't understand what she was saying. Evidently, American sign language (which she'd learned) is as different from Canadian sign language as English is to French.

Of course no bakery is complete without heavy equipment. These machines help section and weigh the bread and roll dough. Ann said the bread sectioner saves them 40 hours of labor a week.

She uses these gorgeous 60 year old loaf pans - she calls them pots. She salvaged them from a place downtown. She'd also ordered some new ones that she cut her hands on when she opened the box. When she saw how thin and flimsy they were, she sent them back. These are perfect. They're nice and thick and heavy.

Starting up a new business isn't without its growing pains. When she first got her big Hobart mixer, the bowl was rusty and as far as she was concerned, unusable. She was horrified that it had apparently been still in use at a pizza place before she got it. She received it the day before the opening health inspection. With no time to replace it, she filled it with soapy water and set it aside. Fortunately, the inspector looked at it and moved on. She got a replacement, but discovered it wasn't the right size. The attachments kept hitting the sides and bottom. She got someone to modify the bowl and some of the utensils, so it works fine now.

The equipment is taken apart and scrubbed regularly. Ann says if you don't, flour bits and such fall to the bottom and bugs get in there. The place was spotless. She's fastidious.

I asked her if she still likes to cook at home. She said of course she does! She works on new recipes and tweaks old ones all the time. She spent two weeks recently working on a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that is every bit as good as her original ones.

The behind-the-scenes look was so much fun! But of course, the best part about a bakery is what comes out of the kitchen.

Everything is made from scratch with no preservatives. Bread, rolls, breakfast pastries, scones, cupcakes, cakes - you name it and she has it. And everything I've sampled (which is quite a lot, actually) is delicious.

Her business has grown since she opened in April of 2011. She sells rolls and bread to restaurants, scones to bed and breakfasts, and an assortment of items to a few shops downtown. She'll also bake custom batches of bread by request. Her sister Sue helps out, and her 8 year old granddaughter comes out to help as much as she can. Ann is teaching her to bake bread and rolls.

Ann and Sue.

Ann plans to start baking game pies with rabbit and moose. I hope she does those before I leave. She already has pizza bread and baked baguette sandwiches along with other savories. She says a few of the pilots Calgary come over from the airport down the road and clean her out of the baguette sandwiches and take them home.

That's Beth on the register. Hopefully she won't object to the photo.
One of my favorite things from Tilt House are the gingerbread cookies. I always have one ready for Sadie when the Keoughs come to dinner. They are decorated by Nancy Keating and Laurel Keating, who are also childrens book authors.  They put together cookie baskets for special occasions as well.

Nancy and Laurel are insanely talented. Their cookies are little works of art, and they change all the time. Ann has saved a few of her favorites.

I'd have saved them, too. Beautiful.

There's nothing at Tilt House that isn't wonderful. The stock changes frequently, and her customers (myself included) are fine with that. They don't complain that the same old something isn't there. The offerings change based on the season, and the whim of the baker.

Which is as it should be.


Ronda said...

Oh, I can almost smell it. How I wish I could find a bakery like this.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful bakery! I work in St. John's but live 1 hr away and now that my husband has tried the bread (and loves it!), I have to pick up a few loaves every second week. Whenever our kids ask what do you want for birthdays, etc.,
he says 'Tilt House Bread'! As for myself, I like the whole wheat bread and keep hoping to find something sweet and sugarfree.