There's a new bakery in Denver, rising from some familiar names in the restaurant world. Alex Seidel and Matt Vawter of Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provision have teamed up with Keegan Gerhard and Lisa Bailey of D Bar to form Füdmill, a wholesale pastry production company that launched this week with products at several Whole Foods locations around town.
Despite the unfamiliar brand name, if you've been buying pastries at either Mercantile or D Bar lately, you've already been enjoying Füdmill products. "We've been working hard over the past year to put the Fruition and Mercantile brands together," says Seidel.
The four founders have been plotting doing a bakery together for several years. Gerhard says he and Bailey met Seidel when they moved to Denver nine years ago to open D Bar, and had an immediate connection. Four years ago, they began working on ways to combine their skills and ideas about artisan baking. But even with the addition of Mercantile in 2014, they knew that their combined restaurants lacked the kitchen space to make the kinds of products they envisioned.
Finally the partners found a space at East 42nd Avenue and Milwaukee Street that they could build out as a commercial bakery. From there, they began perfecting recipes for croissants, danishes, muffins, scones and many other breakfast items now being sold under the Füdmill name.
As you would expect with a team of this caliber, Füdmill's baked goods are artisan products made with traditional techniques and high-quality ingredients. Considerable research went into creating the company's croissant recipe, Seidel explains. Viennoiserie is the art of making yeast-risen, laminated pastries like croissants, kouign amann and other labor-intensive products, and most modern bakeries use commercial yeast to save time when preparing the dough. "We use a starter we've been taking care of for the past seven or eight years at Fruition," Seidel says. "It goes against all the rules of viennoiserie."
Gerhard tackled the kouign amann, another tricky, butter-heavy pastry. He wasn't satisfied with the sugar-heavy versions he'd found, so he developed a recipe that includes 5 percent salt in the sugar mixture that gives kouign amann its crackly, caramelized coating. Füdmill will use seasonal fruits for fillings for this pastry and others in the lineup; Gerhard says the saltier recipe lends itself well to savory additions, too.
The use of natural fermentation to provide leavening also provides greater depth of flavor, just as it does in sourdough bread.
Switching gears from his typical chef routine has been eye-opening, Seidel admits: "Keegan and I are both chefs, and stepping into this arena has been challenging." But Snooze co-founder Adam Schlegel has signed on as an advisor to help with things like packaging, pricing, volume of production and other concerns.
As with his restaurant business, Seidel notes, starting out slow and focusing on a consistent product will ensure one that they can be proud of while building a foundation for growth.
The name Füdmill comes from several sources: Seidel and Gerhard's German ancestry, the hand-cranked food mill that appears in the company's logo, and the F and D from Fruition and D Bar. You can find Füdmill pastries — a dozen in all, including morning buns, chocolate croissants, pain aux raisins and others — at the Whole Foods stores in Cherry Creek and Washington Park, as well as on Colorado Boulevard and East Hampden Avenue. And, of course, you can continue to enjoy the offerings at Mercantile and D Bar.
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