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Rising to the occasion

Pilgrim’s Market serves wealth of old-world artisan breads

A world of hearth breads is now available at Pilgrim’s Market in Coeur d’Alene.

The natural market hired master baker Jim Hanson and recently added a European, stone hearth oven to the store. Now, French baguettes, ciabatta, German korni, kalamata olive rosemary bread, hazelnut pear bread and even a gluten-free boule are regular offerings.

Hanson has more than 23 years experience with hearth breads. He said in a telephone interview that he fell into baking, “I answered an ad for a baker’s assistant.”

He started with simple pastries, but found a love for naturally leavened, old world artisan breads. He trained in San Francisco and Paris and has received 17 awards for his baking. Hanson owned a bakery in Helena before moving with his wife and young daughter to the Coeur d’Alene area to be closer to family. “My wife grew up here, and we have a 5-year-old girl and we knew this was where we wanted her to be raised,” Hanson said.

He sent an unsolicited résumé to Pilgrim’s owner Joe Hamilton because he thought there was an unfulfilled niche for traditional breads in the area. “I knew that Pilgrim’s could be more of an artisan home for a bread oven, and I hoped that a market for organic breads and that creativity could grow here.”

Hanson started at the store more than a year ago. They added the French-made, Bongard stone deck, steam-injected oven in the past few months. It’s the combination of steam and the high temperatures of the stone tiles that give the commercial breads a thick, crunchy crust and tender crumb inside.

Dave Voekler, who was known as Pastry Dave, used to bake breads out of Pilgrim’s Market, but left about a year ago to open a bakery in Rathdrum, said Michal Bennett, Pilgrim’s marketing and events coordinator. Voekler sells breads at area farmers markets during the season and Pilgrim’s still stocks some of his breads, Bennett said.

Hanson said he uses some natural starters for the new breads, as well as instant yeast. He has a sourdough starter he really likes that he made from organic grapes from the produce section. The breads are baked Monday through Friday and range in price from 49 cents for rolls to $6.99 for ham and cheese boule. Plans to add baking days on Saturday and Sunday are in the works.

Hanson and baker Kathy Colton are working together to settle on the regular bakery goods that will be offered at Pilgrim’s.

“We’re expanding our breads and we’re doing a wider variety of things. We’re still trying to figure out the best production schedule and find out what people want. I’m eager to have people tell me what they are looking for,” Hanson said.

He said he enjoyed the challenge of coming up with an artisan loaf that was gluten-free. Many gluten-free breads are baked in a pan and not hand-formed loaves, he said. “We’ve started doing a gluten-free boule just about every day and I want to expand that line and do more gluten-free products. I know there is a real need for that.”

Pilgrim’s Market is a 25,000-square-foot store that offers organic produce, gourmet cheese, beer, wine, bulk foods and meet. The deli has an expanded menu of eat-in or take-out foods. The store also hosts a wellness center, education classes and tastings. Pilgrim’s celebrates 13 years with tastings from local vendors on Jan. 12. Find more information about the store, upcoming tastings and other events at Reach the store by calling (208) 676-9730.