There are two sorts of bakers in the world: those who go in for sugar and spice and everything cute—and the purists. The latter are minimalists, preferring the simple alchemy of wholesome elements to any gimmicks. They need only flour, water, yeast, time, and heat to prove their skill and genius. And Solveig Tofte, the head baker for a decade at one of Minneapolis’s finest bakeries, Turtle Bread, has always had a reputation as one of the best of the minimalist persuasion. ¶ You can taste the greatness of her thoughtful, simple approach in the breads she makes at her new bakery, Sun Street Breads, which recently opened on the corner of 46th and Nicollet in southwest Minneapolis. Sun Street’s baguette is so crisp it shatters—loudly, like wrapping paper noisily torn—when you rip it. Beneath that crisp crust is tender crumb—milky, almost sweet, plain and lush and soft and real, the pinnacle of baguette-ness. ¶ Tofte is happy to chat with anyone who asks her how she does it. It’s just time, temperature, fresh flour, and the right moisture levels. “Temperature is just the coolest thing for me,” Tofte says. “What kind of flavor you get and what texture it has is controlled by the temperature you ferment at—the scientific rigor of how fermentation changes through temperature.” ¶ But now, with the opening of her new place, it’s hard to focus on Tofte’s traditional bread-baking strengths alone. I think for the rest of her life, the only thing this brilliant baker, who competed for Team USA 2008 in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (the international baking Olympics) and was recently flown to Lyons to judge French bakers, will be known for evermore is Sun Street’s fan-freaking-tastic French fries and biscuit breakfast sandwiches.
First, the French fries. Available every day after 11 a.m. (the bakery closes at 2:30 p.m.), they’re par-boiled, fried, then fried again, and just about perfect: earthy and potatoey, crisp, slightly sweet and caramelized, just right in every way. And the biscuits! They’re buttery, crumbly, biscuity magic, available with scrambled eggs and cheese, plus a sausage patty, crispy bacon, or— the new gold standard!—morsels of fried chicken and a little cup of decadent, spicy sausage gravy. So good! Like, old-lady-in-the-South good. Plus, you can wash everything down with excellent Dogwood coffee.
The fries and the biscuits turn out to have been the inspiration of Tofte’s husband, Martin Ouimet, who quit his job in the software business to open the new bakery with his wife. He loves biscuits, and Tofte knew she could make great ones using her traditional strengths and good locally produced butter. Ouimet also loves fries, and Tofte knew the secret was, again, in temperature, as well as technique. Guess it goes to show what happens when a gifted minimalist is encouraged to take a populist, maximal-ist turn: something utterly magnificent.
Here’s another amazing bakery in south Minneapolis. The kicker? This one has killer French fries.
Ideal Meal: A biscuit sandwich with your choice of vegetarian or pork gravy, fries, and a loaf of bread to go. Tip: Watch the website and the windows: Sun Street has a full liquor license and plans to serve dinner, but no one knows when this will take place. Hours: Daily, 6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Prices: Under $10. Address: 4600 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3414, sunstreetbreads.com