LV Recommends: 3 Eastern Iowa bakeries that have mastered the art of the simple loaf

So many breads! What are you going to do about all these breads? You wanna eat these breads?

Artisan bakers lay claim to the simple loaf of bread.

Breads from Anna

3007 Sierra Ct SW, Iowa City

Anna Sobaski, founder of Iowa City-based Breads from Anna, realized an untapped market in the world of bread when diagnosed with celiac disease. Unable to find good gluten-free bread, she sought after making it herself.

After training with the National Gourmet Institute for Food and Health in New York City, and working as a teacher and personal chef, Anna returned to Iowa City and began to experiment with gluten-free bread recipes. In 2004, Breads from Anna was launched with just one signature flour blend. Today, Breads from Anna packages 12 original gluten-free flour blends, from pumpkin bread to pizza crust. The mixes avoid the top eight allergens reported by the USDA, which includes milk, eggs and peanuts, and are endorsed by a number of prominent celiac organizations. Anna’s Iowa City-made product is available on Amazon and at Whole Foods nationwide, but can be found locally at New Pioneer Co-op, Hy-Vee and Bread Garden Market.

Rustic Hearth Bakery

1100 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids

Rustic Hearth, Cedar Rapids

Nestled in the southeast corner stall of Cedar Rapids’ NewBo City Market, the shelves stacked with loaves at Rustic Hearth tower behind a glass counter boasting fresh, handmade cinnamon rolls, doughnuts and finely layered croissants. All products here are made the old-fashioned way (by hand) and can take 2-3 days to make due to the specific process used. Rustic Hearth uses a “starter” instead of yeast to produce their products, and behind the scenes, Tom Schmitt and his crew at the bakery mill their own flour for their breads.

Rustic Hearth, Cedar Rapids

While their sourdough loaves tell you everything you need to know about this place, you can sense the passion of this operation by catching a glimpse of their uniforms. The backs of employee t-shirts are screen-printed with a classic Julia Child quote: “How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”

The Local Crumb

221 1st St NE, Mt. Vernon

The Local Crumb, Mt. Vernon

Three years ago, while slinging pies for Lincoln Wine Bar, Aaron Hall began baking bread in the restaurant’s wood fired oven during after-hours. Hall, owner of The Local Crumb, ramped up his extra-curricular operation by converting his Mt.Vernon garage into a bakery. With a stainless steel deck oven, he churns out 300 loaves a week—baguettes, sourdough, whole wheat, brioche and rye.

Most of those loaves go to market, where they regularly sell out. Now set to open a storefront in the Old School Shops on Mt. Vernon’s Main Street, Local Crumb breads are readily available to the public. Sample any of the freshly-made loaves; the brioche is an airy delight, begging to be made into French toast, or slice up one of his dark, crusty sourdough loaves. Once toasted, this bread becomes a crispy vehicle for any sandwich or topping.

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