Lord of The Sourdoughs

Saint Agnes, a St. Paul bakery with a charismatic head baker, rises

Klecko says that mine is a popular misconception about sourdough, that the point of increasing the level of sourdough starter is to give the final loaf heft and weight, not bite. It's all about density, says Klecko. And as he is the Lord of the Sourdoughs, and has been making breads in the same location for some 15 years, who am I to quibble?

In fact, Klecko has been working at Saint Agnes longer than there has been a Saint Agnes, because the business now known as Saint Agnes has been around for decades, the whole bakery (buildings, ovens, recipes, mixers, and even some human bakers) chugging along despite various shutdowns or changes in ownership . These days the bakery is owned by Gary Sande and Larry Burns, who have turned the company into one of the larger custom bakeries in town--though I think it would be even more popular if that fantastic Saint Paul Hotel black raisin bread were available in stores, or if another bread of theirs I got to try--a sourdough-based jalapeño/pepper Jack cheese bread--was made into hot dog or hamburger buns. How happy would you be if you could get your Cheddarwurst on a pepper-jack bun? Aside from the fact that we'd have to reinforce the border to Wisconsin with razor-wire fences to stave off the invading hordes hell-bent on capturing our cheese-rich buns, I think it's a clear win-win. I bet these Christmas "beast breads," for the beasts, would go over big, too. I bet if you put ribbons on them, there could be one hanging from every tree in Crocus Hill.

If any of my brilliant ideas ever did get sold, you'd probably see them first at one of the places retail customers can most easily find Saint Agnes products--namely, the Mississippi Markets, the Wedge Co-op, or, in the summer, at either of the main Minneapolis or St. Paul farmers' markets. (When I shopped recently at the Selby Mississippi Market, prices ranged from $1.39 for a package of six hot-dog buns to $3.19 for a 24-ounce chewy, intense wild-rice nasty bread.)

The faces of Klecko, Saint Agnes's head baker
Diana Watters
The faces of Klecko, Saint Agnes's head baker

Location Info

Map

Mississippi Market

622 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Category: Restaurant > Market

Region: Macalester/Groveland

In addition to the black raisin and jalapeño-pepper Jack, Saint Agnes has a whole menu of other breads they could easily unleash: If only we all plead enough, Klecko might even introduce some bialys at the farmers' markets. He's been practicing, and he says a Saint Agnes bialy rivals a New York one. Does it? Who knows? Let's find out. So everyone, please, begin wheedling now. Start this Sunday, February 9 at the Selby/Dale Mississippi Market, where, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Klecko will be talking about sourdough, St. Paul baking traditions, the growing cult of Klecko, and how to engineer a bread to please any palate.

Just don't tell the squirrels!

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