Stephen Fries: New Haven Whole G Bakery owner Andrea Corazzini shares recipe for muesli rolls
Andrea Corazzini is the owner and general manager of Whole G Bakery on Hamilton Street in New Haven.
Now in its sixth year of operation, the breads and pastries of Whole G are sold retail at two G Cafe Bakery locations in New Haven (141 Orange St.) and Branford (1008 Main St.).
Corazzini, 50, dropped out of aeronautical engineering school at St. Louis University after four semesters. He attended the San Francisco Baking Institute and continued his baking education in Germany.
1. Explain the name of the bakery and what inspired you to become a bakery owner. What did you do before becoming a bread and pastry chef?
I am originally from Italy, moved to Venezuela and worked for 25 years in the textile business. I had my own spinning mill, knitting and finishing operation from which I learned about a very demanding industry, where productivity, originality and efficiency are a must. Ten years ago I was introduced to the baking world, the German baking world specifically, and I was very impressed by its authenticity and understanding of the bread-baking tradition. I became a true fan and advocate of these qualities and decided to start a bakery in New Haven, in which the creative qualities of the textile world would marry the tradition and authenticity of the German baking experience. I traveled to Germany several times to learn from passionate master bakers who transmitted this passion to me; passion that I put every day into our products. Honoring what I most admired about the bread world, I called it Whole German Breads. It can also be understood as Whole Grain Breads, since it is traditional for German breads to combine grains and seeds.
2. What is the most memorable bread, pastry or dessert you have ever eaten and where was it?
Creme caramel. No intro needed! Made by my mother, of course!
3. What’s the most memorable bread or pastry you have ever made?
Every smile I receive when sharing the bread I made makes that moment, that bread memorable. The first time I made a tiramisu was memorably horrible; eventually it became one of my favorites to make and to eat.
4. How did your interest in bread baking begin?
It was initially an interest of mine to explore the business side of it, then the baking totally captured me. Very dangerous, because I get carried away with the baking and tend to forget the business side.
5. In a nutshell, what is your baking philosophy?
Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts!
6. Where do you go to relax?
Home. I’m a home person. Working on home projects is very relaxing for me.
7. What do you feel is the next big trend in baking?
I don’t know what is next, but I really look forward to when people will get tired of superficial trends and will look back, like lost sailors at sea, anxiously desiring for the familiar, unique taste of the basic authentic experience. When that will be a trend, I will be here waiting.
8. What is your favorite flavor combination?
Passion fruit and chocolate.
9. What is the strangest flavor combination a customer has requested?
Every Christmas there is a dear customer that orders a “custom” stollen following his family tradition. It’s very unusual...but works. He wants cherries, chocolate and marzipan.
10. My cabinet has room for only three spices used for baking. What should they be?
Coriander, pimento, cardamom.
11. Surely you are inundated with compliments on your baking. What’s the most memorable and from whom? How about the worst comment?
From Eric Carle, The children’s book author: “I cannot quite remember how I finally found Andrea’s bread, but the so-called lucky coincidence was in the game, a fortunate coincidence for a first-rate German bread lover! I cannot imagine my breakfast without Andrea’s bread with German Tannenhonig and a cup of coffee.” About the worst, I once forgot to add the salt in a recipe. I saw a customer spitting my bread out; no need to say more.
12. My bookshelf has room for only three baking cookbooks. What should they be?
“Cresci: The Art of Leavened Dough” by Iginio Massari and Achille Zoia; “Scienza e Artigianalità della Pasta Lievitata” by Giambattista Montanari; “Tartine Book No. 3” by Chad Robertson.
13. Imagine you had to prepare a cake for an old-school culinary master, like Escoffier. What would you prepare?
I’m more of a bread baker than pastry baker. This side of Whole G is headed up by my teammate, pastry chef Kevin MacPherson. Nevertheless I would give it a shot by baking one of my favorites that I feel comfortable with, Sacher Torte.
14. When you are not baking and running Whole G, you have fun by...
Mountain biking and surfing. I miss time for those things though.
15. Your favorite bread or pastry as a child?
Baguette with a chunk of a dark chocolate bar inside. It would make my week when I had that chocolate con churros in Madrid.
16. Your perfect dessert?
A good mille-feuille.
17. Which celebrity pastry chef do you resemble most?
I don’t think I resemble anyone, but if I would have the opportunity to pick who would I like to resemble that would be Lionel Poilane.
18. What is your favorite ingredient to use in baking?
19. What’s always in your refrigerator at home?
20. What do you like for a quick meal out?
21. What inspires you to get up and go to work every day?
Imagining our breads at any family’s table at dinner.
22. What would you do if you weren’t a bakery owner?
What I would wish to be regardless of whether I have the talent? I wish I could be an opera singer.
23. Is there one compliment about your baking that stands out as memorable?
On page 215 of “In Search of the Perfect Loaf” by Samuel Fromartz it says, “I’ve come across a handful of bakers in various parts of the country making eastern European-style loaves. ... In New Haven Whole G Bakery sells terrific German-style ryes at the farmers market, but truthfully these whole-grain bakers are few and far between. Hopefully, like heirloom tomatoes in the 80s, they will soon have their days.”
24. What’s something about you that someone might not know by looking at you?
I’m extremely serious at my work, often a maniac and with a bad temper.
25. At what point did you know you wanted to pursue a career in food?
Pretty late actually. I was 39 years old and I had invested in buying a small bakery and had to learn. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but once I was forced into it, it became intravenous!
26. Who was your baking mentor?
Thorsten Phillipi, in Germany.
27. What international bread or pastry do you enjoy baking the most and why?
Roman-style pizza/pizza bianca (Roman panini bread). It is like playing and baking at the same time; this is when you can bake and sing opera at the same time and still get wonderful results...at both!
28. If you had to pick a favorite food, what would it be?
Pabellon criollo, a very flavorful and rich Venezuelan dish.
29. Name one food that reminds you of your childhood.
Pasta al forno (baked pasta).
30. What is one of your signature breads?
Rye Vollkornbrot. The quintessential German bread. Healthy, grainy, hearty.
31. What is the biggest challenge in the bakery business?
It’s very saturated; standing out with a clear concept/style.
32. What changes do you foresee to keep your bakery fresh and exciting?
I will keep pushing for the quality experience.
33. What baking tricks did your mother or other food mentor teach you?
There are hundreds of little tricks that you learn with time; some are just to enjoy the experience more, some are to render a certain look or appearance, others to achieve success at difficult baking stages. I recently was explaining to my team a simple trick to make a focaccia look like an Italian focaccia. After working with your hands and before putting the dough into the oven you must first spray water, followed by olive oil so the oil stays in the little cavities made by your finger and the water stays on top. The result after baking is the contrast of a dark/pale surface lunar- like top.
34. What is your secret on your most productive days?
Try not to focus on being productive.
35. What is your favorite kitchen tool?
36. What is your guilty pleasure food?
37. What is your favorite food city to visit?
38. What is your favorite late-night snack?
39. What’s one must-have at your last supper?
Last supper can be anything, as long as it is accompanied with great bread.
40. When you just want to prepare something simple, quick and delicious, what would you make?
A cold pasta salad with olives, tuna, radicchio, artichokes and abundant olive oil.
41. Rapid fire: Whipped cream or butter cream? Whipped cream. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate (in that order). Milk or coffee with pastry? Cappuccino.
42. Aside from your bakery, what are some of your favorite bakeries?
Clear Flour Bread in Boston is a great bakery and Joseph Brot in Vienna is very good.
43. How would you describe the bakery scene in Greater New Haven?
In general, not only baking but also in culinary, I feel that new actors are appearing and that will contribute to enrich the scene.
44. What differentiates your bakery from others?
I don’t really think about what others do, I just focus (very hard) on doing what I like and feel is right. If that wouldn’t work I would stop baking.
45. I cope with stress by...
Playing with Gregorio and Amelie (my younger kids).
46. If you were giving a young person interested in a career like yours some advice, what would it be?
Think about it twice. It is a lot of work, and if you still decide to do it, dive in with courage and don’t look back after some years have passed. Also, finding a good business partner could make the road more enjoyable.
47. In addition to your cafes, where else can your baked goods be purchased?
We deliver to many restaurants on the shoreline where you can enjoy but not buy the products. In addition to our cafes, you can buy many of our products at Romeo and Cesare’s Gourmet Shoppe (771 Orange St., New Haven); P&M Fine Foods (721 Orange St.); and Nica’s Market (603 Orange St.). Willoughby’s and Blue State Coffee sell our pastries. If you are a Yalie, our bread is served in the dining halls and campus cafes.
48. What pastry/bread or menu item from your cafe will you be making today to share with the readers?
Muesli, the “granola in a bread,” is a unique bread made with hazelnuts, raisins and seeds.
Andrea’s bread is addicting. Bring a loaf home and it will be gone before you know it.
He says: “Decades of diet fads have degraded the reputation of bread. Whole G bread stands for a total renewal of ingredients mixing and baking techniques matching today’s healthier lifestyles with wholeness, taste and texture of classic European bakers. Bread can be healthy by using traditional European recipes and only the best ingredients. We bake healthier whole-grain breads that taste better. We use a high percentage of rye flour and/or whole-wheat flour in our breads and none are bleached or bromated. Many of our ingredients are organic and, of course, there are no trans-fats, additives or preservatives.”
And speaking of the main ingredient in bread, I watched as he excitedly showed me how flour is milled. It is impressive that he mills many of the flours. His passion for baking showed as he cut open several breads and explained the formation and crusts of each loaf, including my favorites — fig and walnut and Vollkornbrot, a 100 percent organic whole rye-seeded kernel bread with sunflower seeds, topped with oats.
Also check out the breakfast, lunch and catering menu. You won’t be disappointed. And look out for the baking classes, coming soon to the Branford Cafe.
(Recipe adapted for home bakers)
½ cup bread flour
¼ cup water
1/16 teaspoon (pinch) instant yeast
Mix in a stand mixer for approximately 5 minutes and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for a couple of hours. You could also knead by hand if your stand mixer doesn’t work well with small amounts. Make sure you have a homogeneous, well-developed dough.
Meanwhile, prepare the “soaker” with raisins, hazelnut and toasted seeds.
1 cup raisins
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1/3 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted
½ cup water
Soak for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Note: The best method for toasting is to place in a pan, well spread out, and bake at 300 degrees for 8 minutes. Let it cool down.
4 cups bread flour
Preferment dough prepared earlier
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1½ cups cold water
Fruit and seed soaker (it seems like a lot, but it is OK)
Mix all ingredients except the fruit and seed soaker intensively for 3 minutes on a low-medium speed and 6 minutes on a medium-high speed until a fully developed dough is formed. Add the fruit and seed soaker and mix on low speed until incorporated (approximately 3 minutes).
Form into a boule, cover with a cloth and let rest for 25 minutes. It should almost double in size.
Divide boule into 12 pieces of a quarter of a pound each.
On 2 medium sheet pans lined with parchment paper, place 6 rolls on each pan with some distance in between to give room to grow. Cover with a cloth and let rest for 1¼-1½ hours. They should almost double in size.
Right before placing in oven, score (cut ¼-inch deep line) top of each roll.
In a 430-degree preheated oven, bake for 18 minutes on middle rack, until the rolls are a nice golden color. Great for breakfast or an afternoon treat!
Andrea welcomes your questions. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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