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John Lamb, Published April 29 2013

Rising above: Bakery prides itself by using only handful of ingredients

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – When Jennifer Davis decided to open a café here, she didn’t have to think too long or look too hard to figure out where she would turn for fresh-baked bread.

As a former employee of Falls Baking Company, Davis knew their product was a cut above the rest.

“There bread is the highest quality bread I could get,” Davis said last week. “It might cost a little more, and it doesn’t cost that much more, but it’s absolutely worth it. My sandwiches and my menu would not be nearly as good without their bread.”

Just as Davis’ Café 116 continues to grow, so does Falls Baking Company, which recently opened a store in Battle Lake, Minn., selling out of bread each day.

The 2005-founded business sells between 200 and 300 loaves of artisan bread five days a week out of their Fergus Falls bakery at 1217 Union Ave., N.

Each day they produce baguettes, French boules, and French, ciabatta, sourdough and Dakota breads. Each day also has some specialty loaves, like raisin cinnamon on Monday, spinach feta on Tuesday and Kalamata olive and Asiago pepper on Fridays.

Prices range from $2.25 for the daily baguettes to $5.25 for the Craisin almond on Tuesday, with most loaves ringing in at $4.

The biggest seller by far is the daily Dakota bread made with white and whole wheat flower, honey, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds.

“Scot would make that at home before we had the bakery and I loved it. I couldn’t wait for him to make it,” co-owner Traci Kromenaker says, referring to her husband/co-owner/baker, Scot Erickson. “I couldn’t wait for him to make it.”

“That’s for people who like whole grain and stuff in their bread,” Kromenaker says of their signature bread. “There are plenty of people who like nothing in their bread. So the French boule is probably as popular as the Dakota bread.”

Boule is French for ball, so it’s the same dough as a baguette, just baked in a round loaf.

With more than 20 loaves baked each week, there’s something for nearly everybody. Kromenaker says that despite requests for gluten-free bread, they aren’t set up for that kind of an operation, which would require a full sterilization of the kitchen, she says.

Instead, they do make bread that’s made not using any wheat.

While the fresh-baked bread is the dominant aroma, the storefront offers plenty of other baked goods like scones, bars, cookies, crackers, croutons and dog treats.

“The granola is huge,” Kromenaker says. “We can barely keep it on the shelves.”

Nor can Davis at 116 Café, which also carries the dry goods and uses it in parfaits.

Falls Baking Company’s bread is also sold at Premier Meats & Seafood, Meadow Farm Foods and Service Food Market, all in Fergus Falls, The Grain Bin in Alexandria, Minn., Pomme de Terre in Morris, Minn., Tesoro in Elbow Lake, Minn., and Cenex in Battle Lake.

Still, Kromenaker says, customers still enjoy coming directly to the bakery.

“I think people don’t realize sometimes how important it is to support these businesses, not just because they’re a local business, but because they are so quality-oriented,” Davis says. “They’re very serious about keeping a high quality product. I do as well and we work together for that.”

Café 116 goes through about 90 loaves a week of the Dakota, peasant and garlic parmesan breads. And they have one morsel even the bakery doesn’t carry.

“The only place to get light rye is on Café 116’s Rueben,” Kromenaker says.

No matter where you get it, Falls Baking Company‘s breads need a little more attention than most store-bought loaves. With no preservatives or additives, Kromenaker recommends freezing the bread after a couple of days.

“People appreciate that they can read the ingredient list and there are only five ingredients. They know then that there are no preservatives and no crazy chemicals,” she says. Ingredients for each of the breads are listed on the company’s website, www.fallsbaking.com

“People think automatically that it’s too expensive or organic is not important or local is not important, but really it does make a quality product,” Davis says. “It’s worth keeping them around because there’s nothing like it in a lot of towns, let alone Fergus Falls.”

And while the Falls Baking may be setting up shop 20 miles west in Battle Lake (close to Kromenaker and Erickson’s home), she says they are just focusing on succeeding in their two locations instead of planning a wider expansion.

“Right now we want to figure out if we can make enough bread,” Kromenaker says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533