A fire burns behind an unassuming store front on West Parrish Street in downtown Durham. Actually, it’s more like two fires – one in a custom 30,000 pound wood fired oven and one in Loaf owner Ron Graff’s heart. That’s Ron pictured below to the right. It takes dedication to show up with a load of wood, build a fire, mix up bread dough and set it to proof – every day.
Graff has set up Loaf in the European tradition; a neighborhood shop where you pick up your fresh-baked goods, rather than a bakery/cafe. Accordingly, Loaf’s interior might be considered minimalist with a bread rack, pastry case and coffee hot pots.
Minimalist or not, those pastries are amazing! Graff was quoted in The Independent Weekly’s Guide to Dining’s in-depth Pg 16 article, “I like a good, dark, crusty loaf. almost charred.” However he likes it is good enough for me. That Twice-Baked Almond Croissant was probably the best I’ve ever had. Impossibly crunchy on the outside and “bouncy”- fresh inside filled with a generous amount of almond.
Ron graciously allowed me into the back of the shop, where the action is. Watching Brian Avery work his magic was a treat. First he precisely laid out baguette dough.
Then scored each to ensure proper baking without crust breakage.
Slid the batch onto the brick hearth using a traditional wooden peel.
Ron lit up the oven’s massive interior with a small flashlight (pictured above and below) so I could get a good look.
And voila! The finished loaves racked and cooling with a “come hither” look that was hard to resist.
Yes, that’s a cast iron pan full of baked apple goodness below the baguettes.
On another rack, Bialis.
Loaf Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Loaf/102663859807344)
111 W. Parrish Street
Durham, NC 27701