Joachim "Aki" Berndt knows a thing or two about baking bread. The former cabinetmaker immigrated to the United States from Germany in 2000, and soon realized the land of lakes was sorely lacking in the dark, hearty bread department. In 2010, Berndt turned his bread-making hobby into a full-time gig, selling his products at farmers markets in Maple Grove, Osseo, and Hopkins.
On May 29, Berndt finally got a place of his own. Aki's Bread Haus, Berndt's brick-and-mortar shop in northeast Minneapolis, is the city's new stairway to hearty bread heaven.
Aki's is unassumingly sandwiched between Recovery Bike Shop and the upcoming Fair State Brewing Cooperative, which is expected to open in August. Once it does, Berndt will open the double doors connecting the two shops and sell his pretzels to Fair State's taproom patrons. Aki's offers a sunny seating area with a view of the kitchen, so customers can get a glimpse of the baking process while chowing down on cherry streusel.
Berndt's pastries -- such as the cinnamon-walnut roll and the tart cherry streusel -- come as a refreshing departure from the sickly sweet, Cinnabon-inspired creations that dominate the states.
Unsurprisingly, Aki's shines in the pretzel department. Numerous shapes are available for $1-$3, and we particularly liked the $1 pretzel sticks speckled with coarse salt.
At the end of the day, Berndt knows his bread loaves the best. We went with the recommendations of the warm folks behind the counter, opting for Aki's Craisy-Raisin bread, braided cardamom bread, and a honey wheat loaf. The Craisy-Raisin bread, one of Berndt's signature recipes, is only lightly sweetened, deriving most of its flavor from the raisins and spices in the dough. The honey wheat loaf is crusty and dense, and leaves a pleasant honey aftertaste on the tongue. But the braided cardamom loaf stole the show. Textured like brioche, the bread is infused with a healthy dose of cardamom that lingers on the palate and is amplified by a sprinkling of coarse sugar on top.
Aki's Bread Haus is sure to appeal to fans of darker, denser, and more savory breads, as well as anyone who's trying to cut down on excessively sugary treats. Rest assured, we'll be back for more of Berndt's impeccably braided cardamom loaves.
Aki's Bread Haus' hours are 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Aki's Bread Haus 2506 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis 612-578-7897
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