Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bread is Great

As an athlete, you might guess that my diet is on the carb-heavy side.  In reality, I feel like I have a really well balanced diet focused on whole foods, simple ingredients, and a ton of locally grown fruits and vegetables. When it comes to carbs, I enjoy a mix of fresh breads, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole grain pastas.  Really great breads with whole grains and no preservatives are tough to come by though, and those boring grocery store loaves that were made hundreds of miles away a week prior to arrival in the grocery store, just do not cut it.  About a year ago, however, I discovered Great Harvest Bread Company, and I have since developed a love affair with their breads.  It's the only sandwich bread I ever buy!

I recently received an invite for a unique opportunity to tour the Great Harvest in North Charlotte and learn all about the extensive process that results in their delicious breads.  Come on in and check them out!

Melissa and Hank Conway own the Great Harvest Bread Co  off Mallard Creek Road in North Charlotte.
The bakery was opened just over 1 year ago, and joined 2 other Great Harvest bakeries in the Charlotte area.

Customers are greeted with a decadent aroma of freshly baked breads and sweets as they walk in the door.  Every customer is offered a "free slice" from the bread board featuring the day's bread selections.

Lots of great choices - all freshly baked just hours earlier.  They sell between 60-80 loaves daily.

The wheat they use arrives come directly from specific crops in Montana.  It arrives in giant bags and is actually milled within each individual store location.

The milling equipment.  The bread made and sold today is from flour milled just the night before.
Wheat flour is unique in that the nutrients and oils begin to degrade soon after milling.  

9 Grain mix that is incorporated into several of the breads as well as in their hot cereal mix.

Fresh honey!  They buy the honey in 650 pound barrels that cost $1200 each!  That's lots of honey.
Did you know honey is a natural preservative?  Hence the reason they don't add artificial preservatives to their loaves.

Taking the counter-top Kitchen Aid to a whole new level.

The kneading table - the action happens here!  From about 7:30am - 11am each day there's a intricately organized
(and often chaotic) process of mixing, kneading, and baking each and every loaf of bread.

A massive oven with 6 racks that rotate.  The breads cook at approximately 325 degrees for 40 minutes .

Pepperoni Swirl bread.  This one would definitely be a favorite among guys!

9 Grain loaves.  Perfect for a hearty sandwich.

Cinnamon Chip.  This is there #1 selling bread.

Cinnamon rolls.  Mmm, I'll take one of these and a cup of coffee!

Every month they publish a bread schedule, with  6-8 different breads baked each day.  Honey whole wheat and farmhouse white are daily staples.  A different mix of breads rotate and seasonal favorites make appearances too.
Each day you'll find a different selection of sweet treats as well.

The breads range in price from $5 - $7.  While they are more than your typical grocery store loaf, I assure you they are worth every penny!  Once you try them, I guarantee you'll never go back!

The store also features some of their baking mixes: brownies, oatmeal, pancakes, trail mix, and even dog biscuits.  They also showcase products from small companies, including peanut butter, honeys, oils, and soup mixes. 

After learning all about the bread making process, I was more than ready to try some of the delicious bread!  I was treated to lunch - House made tuna salad on rye bread with pepper strips.  It was great!  

Be sure to stop by and visit the Conway's at the North Charlotte Great Harvest!  I promise that you'll quickly become a frequent shopper.  Visit their website to learn about all the details, including the January bread schedule.
The Conway's were very generous and packaged up several loaves of bread for me to bring home to enjoy and share with others.  My kitchen is filled with the delicious scents of Pepperoni Swirl, Cinnamon Babka, 9 Grain, and Cinnamon Chip.  While I love bread, I might just turn into a loaf if I attempted to enjoy it all myself.  Fortunately, I have a few co-residents that are going to be really excited when I make their Sunday at the hospital much better when I deliver freshly baked bread.  Thanks Great Harvest!

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