Besides being blood-related, sisters Jen and Kate Lloyd have one major thing in common: their love for artisan bagels. But a little digging on their part revealed some major holes in Minneapolis's bagel scene. Where were the locally grown and organic ingredients? The traditional techniques? Where were the dense, handcrafted wonders that dominate the streets of New York and Montreal?
Lacking an answer, they came up with their own. They would start their own artisan bagel company using organic and locally sourced ingredients. After a year and a half of tinkering with countless recipes and taking bagel-centric trips to New York, Montreal, and Oakland, they landed on a method that stuck and reached out to farmers markets that might be interested in having them on board.
See also: First Look: Bogart's Doughnut Co.
Rise Bagel Co. debuted at the Fulton Farmers Market on May 31. So far, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive -- and rightfully so, we might add. After interviewing the sisters last week, we sank our teeth into what may have been the best plain bagel we've ever tasted, and that was sans cream cheese.
Hot Dish: When did you come up with the idea for Rise?
Jen Lloyd: We started kind of brainstorming business opportunities about 16 months ago. We both consider ourselves "breadheads" and always enjoy a good carb. We just thought there might be opportunities for bagels in the Twin Cities, especially since we were having a hard time finding a good one.
Were you just looking for any sort of business opportunity, or at baking specifically? Kate Lloyd: I think we always sort of thought it would be fun to do something together, but there's always been a need in our lives for bagels. It was a "why didn't we think of this years ago" sort of thing. We had to ask ourselves is there a market for this? Does Minneapolis need this? We both have full-time jobs, so we weren't necessarily looking to walk away from our jobs. We're just doing the farmers markets. That's our focus.
It's been a really fun hobby for us. It's been about a year. We went on a few trips. We went to New York and taste-tested our way through the city and just ate bagels all weekend, but also growing up, we ate a lot of bagels. Any time we traveled, we would seek out a bagel in the city, knowing that you couldn't really find one here. Bruegger's and Einstein's make fine bagels, but when you go to other cities, you can find something that's artisan handcrafted, like what a true bagel should be. Had you baked before starting Rise?
Kate: Not bagels, that was our first kind of foray into bagels. But just generally, yeah. If I had to choose baking or cooking, it [was always] baking for sure.
You do a lot of baking [pointing at Jen]. Jen works at Nordic Ware. How many varieties are you offering right now?
Kate: We do about six right now, although the last time we were at the market, which was our second time there, we added three more, just to see how people would respond to them. So we did nine at the last market. It's typically pretty basic -- sesame, poppy seed, everything, wheat, rosemary and olive oil... Jen: We did cinnamon sugar that we'll be expanding to a cinnamon raisin at the next market. We're more savory bagel eaters, so we've kind of slacked on our sweet bagel making. Kate: But people have been requesting them, so we were like, "all right, let's try."
Can you tell me more about how you came up with the recipes? What was that process like?
Kate: We basically would get together every weekend. Our first day that we started baking, wasn't it national bagel day? It was really just starting to search online for recipes. That first weekend, I think we made four different recipes -- two from bread bakers books, an Epicurious recipe, and Chowhound.
Jen: It was looking through a lot of recipe books, a lot of online reading, a lot of YouTubing, especially the handcrafted aspect of making a bagel, like how do you roll a bagel?
We follow pretty traditional bagel-making techniques. We make them on wooden boards first and flip them out onto baking sheets in the commercial kitchen we're using. It was a lot of testing, a lot of Home Depot runs, trying different ingredients. The bagel recipe in general is pretty simple, but I think for me the biggest challenge or biggest surprise, which I think most bakers would attest to, is that baking is so much more of a science than I ever realized. There's so many variables outside of our control -- air temperature, humidity, the temperature of the water versus the temperature in the flour.
Kate: We use a high-gluten flour and that's what gives it that elasticity and that chewiness that you want in a bagel. Finding a high-gluten flour locally was a challenge. We wanted to have organic high-gluten flour and you can't find that locally, so we finally found a source and it's coming from Colorado. That's a little unfortunate, but if we can have a mix of local and organic, that's a nice mix for us. [page]
How long would you say you spent in the kitchen messing around with different recipes? Jen: I feel like we still are. We've spent probably a good six months on recipes and that's baking every weekend and baking mid-week. Bagels really are a labor of love. You have to start them in the evening if you're going to bake them the next morning to be fresh.
Can you walk me through your process? Kate: We'd go into the kitchen at 4 p.m. and we'd start by just making the dough. We'd make our plain dough and then we'd be making our rosemary olive oil dough. So, we'd just have these huge clumps. Jen: They're 40- or 50-pound mounds. They're like sea turtles. Kate: It has time to rise at this point, while we're making all of it. We're cutting it up, we're weighing it, we're rolling it into ropes, and then we tie them into circular bagel forms and then we seal them, put them on baking trays, and overnight they're in refrigeration all night. We go back at three in the morning. Jen: We're also mixing all of our cream cheese at that time, too. We're using Organic Valley as our base cream cheese. We're excited to do different varieties depending on the season. Kate: We partnered with Buddy's peanut butter. Actually, Andrew produces his peanut butter right out of our commercial kitchen, so it just made a lot of sense. We were looking for local peanut butter to use and his spreads are just awesome.
Back to the kitchen, we form all the bagels, put them in refrigeration, whip up the cream cheese. We leave around 10 p.m., come back to the kitchen at 3 a.m. and at that point, we're basically removing everything from the fridge. We're going tray by tray. We're boiling the bagels in a malt barley wash. We take them out and top them then put them on these wooden boards and put them in the oven. They're in there for a few minutes on the boards, and they help them absorb the moisture from the boiling process. Then we flip them onto the baking stones and they continue to bake. It's a process. It's very time-consuming, but it's fun. How often are you at the Fulton market? Kate: We started just doing once a month, but now moving forward, July through October, we'll be there three weekends a month. It'll be nice to have a regular cadence. Have you thought at all about what you would do if business continues to grow? Kate: People are wondering if we will open a shop, but I think right now we're just focused on doing the market. I think it's a bigger question -- do we completely want to switch careers? What's the reception been like so far?
Kate: Prior to the market, we had only done a few taste testings. I brought them into work twice and people who know you are going to say good things, so we didn't really get any negative feedback. Overall, I'd say we want to hear more but we haven't gotten a lot. It's been a positive response. Rick Nelson of the Star Tribune stopped by. It was very nice -- it totally blew us away.
Jen: We need to be more regular at the market to get more feedback... our policy is we want honest feedback.
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