Today, I’m taking you with me to visit a new bakery in Cape Traverse, PEI, just a stone’s throw from the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton.
Artisan bakers Rémi Boucher and Stéphanie St-Aubin have been regular vendors at the Summerside Farmers’ Market for the past year. They’ve now taken the leap of constructing an extension on to their home on the Wharf Road. But, it’s not just an ordinary extension to house a bakery. Rather, it takes “bricks and mortar” to a whole new level as this bakery features a wood-fired brick oven. So, let’s meet Rémi and Stéphanie and find out about their bakery.
Rémi was born in Summerside when his father was stationed at the now closed military base. While the family moved away when Rémi was about two years old and he grew up in Southern Ontario, Rémi has visited the Island over the years. Recently, the call of his birthplace drew him, his wife, Stéphanie, and their three children ages 15, 12, and 7, to the Island to live. Rémi, who has a degree in aircraft mechanics and a Masters in English literature has worked in various jobs throughout his varied career but says his passion is baking, a passion he has held since childhood. As Rémi says, he’s good at several things but passionate about only a few, one of which is his love of artisan baking. This is a passion shared by Stéphanie who grew up in Quebec and who has a bachelor’s degree in French literature. She, too, has had a passion for baking since early childhood.
Six years ago, after losing close family members to cancer, the couple began questioning ingredient content in foods and started taking a closer look at the relationship between food and health. As they looked at lists of ingredients in commercially-produced breads, they decided it was time to start making their own bread. Their bread making began with a cookbook, La leçon de boulangerie, written by French chef and baker Richard Bertinet who runs a cookery school in Bath, England. The couple started making bread using Bertinet’s method. To see if there was interest in their bread, they started first by baking and giving the bread away. Then they started selling it via taking orders for home delivery as a way to test out baking on a high volume basis.
Three years ago, realizing they were on to something with their artisan bread, the family travelled across Canada from one coast to the other looking for a new place to call home and for the perfect place to start a bakery business. The lure of PEI was strong so one and half years later they embarked on a house-hunting trip to PEI which led them to the property in Cape Traverse. Rémi says the nearby beach was a selling point but so too was the convenient location between Charlottetown and Summerside and its close proximity to the weekly Farmers’ Market which would be their first place at which to sell their bread and other baked goods on PEI. In addition, Rémi says there is a year-round market of local clientele in proximity to Cape Traverse which is located in the middle of the Island along the South shore.
From the outset, the couple set up their bakery to be a family-run business. While Rémi is the bread maker, Stéphanie makes some amazing French pastries and other sweet treats! Working out of their own home property allows the couple to home school their three children who also get to see, first hand, how a bakery and business operates.
Rémi is an artisan bread baker which means three things. First, his products are all hand made – there is no electric mixer involved. All breads are made by hand. Second, the breads are traditional European hearth style which means no bread pans are used. Loaves are either round or oval-shaped.
Third, the oven used to bake the products is a wood-fired brick oven.
The oven was specially built for the bakery by Red Clay Construction from Mt Vernon, near Murray River, PEI. The oven heats to very high temperatures and holds its heat.
I visited the bakery on an afternoon when Rémi lit the wood fire (using 3’ to 4’ lengths of spruce) in the oven to use for his next day’s baking. As he says, “today’s four-hour fire is tomorrow’s full day of baking”.
When I arrived early the next morning, Rémi had cleaned out any remaining ash left from the wood fire.
He then filled two pans with water to place in the oven to create steam for the bread baking. The oven temperature was about 500°F by this time and was producing a strong mellow heat.
This five-foot deep oven has the capacity to bake about 20 loaves of bread at a time.
Rémi makes several kinds of artisan bread (sourdough based) that include Acadia Sourdough, Chili-Cheddar, Olive-Rosemary, Spelt Sourdough, Coffee Raisin Rye, Island Red (made with Gahan Island Red Beer), and Sourdough Baguettes.
According to Rémi, the sourdough bread he makes is a more airy bread than traditional loaf bread and, because it is a more wet dough that is hand-mixed, it has more open crumb with uneven bubbles (or what I would refer to as “air holes”) in the bread’s texture. This type of bread falls into the slow food movement category because it takes more time to produce it as it must have significant rest time for its enzymes to break down.
Rémi says that sourdough breads are very filling and, after consuming them, one is not left feeling hungry.
Rémi explains that, apart from the texture, sourdough bread has different characteristics from other types of bread and should be treated differently. First, is the absence of fat, milk, and sugar. He claims fat content in bread shortens its shelf life, causing it to dry out faster. Second, with artisan breads, Rémi advises against storing them in plastic bags because that can cause breads to become moldy. Instead, he recommends they be stored in paper bags or simply wrapped in a cloth. Third, the bread is suitable for different uses as it ages. For example, on the day it is baked, the bread can be eaten fresh. On day two, it is best toasted, and on the third day (assuming there is any left over), it is suitable for French toast.
But, this bakery is not just about bread.
The couple also make croissants, pies, sticky buns, various French pastries, éclairs, and old-world style artisan pizzas.
The sourdough and olive oil-based pizzas are baked in an 800°F to 900°F oven fueled by a hardwood fire. This is what is called live fire cooking because the oven can bake a pizza in less than 2 minutes! These are not your typical meat, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese type pizzas. Look for new and unique flavour combinations that include, for example, pesto and walnut; crimini; roasted pepper and feta; pear and camembert; and fig and black garlic. Rémi says his Italian-style pizzas follow the “Rule of Three” – three ingredients only – i.e., each pizza should have sauce, cheese, and one other ingredient.
When possible, the bakery uses local and organic products. For example, the majority of the raw product for the stone ground organic flour used in their products is grown by Barnyard Organics in Freetown, PEI, and milled at Speerville Four Mill in New Brunswick. The pork products for the pizzas come from Ranald MacFarlane’s farm in nearby Fernwood. The black garlic comes from Eureka Garlic near Kensington. The tomatoes for the homemade tomato sauce for pizzas come from Atlantic Organics in Kensington.
The bakery is currently using between 80-100 kilos of flour a week to meet demand which continues to grow. This summer, in addition to the Saturday morning Summerside Farmers’ Market, the couple also sold their products at the Farmers’ Market in Stanley Bridge and in a couple of nearby local stores. As well, Rémi also fills special orders like, for example, an order for 100 croissants on the day I visited the bakery. In addition, the bakery also has arrangements to supply some Island restaurants and food vendors with breads.
When asked what the greatest challenge is to running the bakery, Rémi says his challenge is in achieving an acceptable work/life balance between filling orders and raising a family. He says he gets great satisfaction each time a perfect croissant or loaf of bread comes out of the oven or when he hears positive feedback on his pizzas. The couple say that their greatest satisfaction is knowing they are preparing good organic food to nourish the body and soul and they enjoy bringing good food to people.
Wondering what the “fifth ingredient” stands for in the bakery’s name? Rémi says there are four basic ingredients in his bread – flour, water, yeast, and salt. The fifth ingredient is love. That’s the ingredient that can only come from someone who has found his true passion and calling. Spend time with Rémi and Stéphanie and it is evident they have a true passion for their artisan baking.
Visit their Saturday morning booth at the Summerside Farmers’ Market and watch as their regular customers flock to the booth to pick up their favourite breads. It’s best to get to the market early because the couple say their products sell out quickly.
The bakery is located at 114 Wharf Road, off Route 10, in Cape Traverse, PEI. For more information and to inquire about times the bakery is open and when pizzas will be in the oven, call 902-729-2059 or join The Fifth Ingredient’s Facebook page.
I took a loaf of the round Island Red bread from The Fifth Ingredient Bakery, and turned it into a sandwich loaf. There is no specific recipe for this sandwich loaf but you will need olive oil, tomato pesto, about 60g each of two different kinds of your favorite cold cuts (I used turkey and Black Forest ham), lettuce, a couple of kinds of cheese slices (I used Havarti and Provolone), mustard, and a couple of your favorite sandwich vegetables (I used tomato and cucumber).
Begin by cutting a thin slice off the top of the loaf. Then remove most of the bread leaving about 3/4″ to 1″ around the sides and on the bottom. Reserve the removed bread for other uses such as bread crumbs for poultry stuffing.
With a soft, pliable brush, apply a thin coating of olive oil (I used Liquid Gold’s Herbes de Provence) over entire inside shell of the loaf. Follow with a brushed-on light layer of tomato pesto.
Add the layer of shaved turkey followed by a layer of lettuce and a slice of cheese.
Next, add the layer of ham, mustard to taste, and a layer of sliced tomatoes.
Finally, add the second cheese slice, sliced cucumber, and another layer of lettuce.
Brush olive oil over the little bread cover that had earlier been removed from the loaf and re-position it on the loaf.
Wrap loaf as tightly as possible in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours before cutting into four wedges and serving.
Plate and serve with your favorite salad and/or potato chips.
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