Sun Street Breads' Solveig Tofte: chef chat, part 2

Today baker Solveig Tofte, formerly of Turtle Bread Company, explains her dream for turning Minneapolis into "a baking mecca." She also shares her picks for the best baking cookbooks, in part two of this week's chef chat. (Read part 1 here.)

What has been your proudest moment as a baker? It was a pretty proud moment to get on a baking team. I tried out, but I had no expectations that I was actually going to win a spot on this team. Typically there aren't very many women who do this, not for any sexist reasons, but not a lot of women try out. The team competed against 11 other countries in Paris in 2008. That was pretty cool.

I got elected to the board of directors of the Bread Bakers Guild of America. I just got elected to be the chairman in January.

And I'm starting a business! We just closed our loans yesterday, so that was amazing.

What will your bakery offer that existing Twin Cities bakeries don't? It's hard to say. Baking--everybody's done everything. There's nothing earth-shatteringly new to occur in baking. I think I make some really good breads, but there's a bunch of places in town that makes really good breads. I think it's another good thing in a town of lots of good things.

My goal for Minneapolis is to become a baking mecca. This is a mill city, and we grow wheat, and all of our wheat is used all over the place. I'm so happy with all the different bakeries that are opening up--bakeries, sweet things, French bakeries. All of them are a great thing, and I want more of them.

What are some of your favorite bakeries in the Twin Cities? I really like Patisserie 46. That style is not my style of pastry to make. So often you try very pretty little cakes and they look beautiful and they don't taste like anything, so I think what he's doing up there is just amazing. I got a lot of little cakes from up there for my birthday last month.

I really like Rustica a lot. Those are kind of the only ones I know. Working in a bakery, I don't go to many bakeries because I'm surrounded by stuff.

For restaurants, we kind of go to places like taquerias, and I'm super stoked that Town Hall Tap opened up on Chicago [Avenue] because they have a good burger. This side of town has kind of been missing a burger-and-beer place.

What do you think is the best food city in America? Obviously I have a deep fondness for San Francisco, having lived out there for a long time. There's tons of good food that's not too expensive. Every time I go back, there's something new that totally blows my mind.

Last summer I worked with bakers from around the country to pick someone to be on a team that just competed in Las Vegas in September. The bakers from the East and the South were doing some really, really cool breads. There are a bunch of mills out there doing heirloom corn meals, really interesting flour mills back East as well. So I feel like the East and the Southeast might be picking up the pace by reimagining American baking, thinking about what it means to be an American baker. The West Coast--they're the bakery central. That's where you go for killer bakeries all up and down the West Coast--Seattle, San Francisco, Portland. But they're settled into a certain style, so maybe the East Coast--they're still explorng their style. So I don't know. Check back with me in a few years and we'll see.

What Twin Cities restaurant would you choose for your birthday dinner? I'm totally going to Heidi's when they open. I've had most of my birthdays over there.

What are your favorite cookbooks? For breads, I really like Jeffrey Hamelman's breads book, Bread. He's the head baker at King Arthur Flour up in Vermont. He's warm and wonderful and insanely skilled. He has great stories in there, and his formulas are fantastic. When I teach home bakers I always recommend that.

Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax--that's the book I learned to bake from. I tried to bake for years, and in college there were a few things I could bake, but I'd get a magazine and try to make some amazing chocolate dessert, and it wouldn't work. I had come across so many recipes that didn't work. Classic Home Desserts was something my mom had at her house, so I'd bake out of it on breaks. There's a lot of good American history sidebars. That's a great one.

What is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? I was vegetarian for a million years, from age 12 until I was pregnant six years ago. I've never really gone out of my way to eat weird stuff, but now I'll eat anything that comes across my plate.

I guess I have eaten some bad breads that people have made, like a bread with sardines in it.

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