Hewn Bakery is slated to open this June at 810 Dempster St., serving artisan breads, pastries and vegetable salads, as well as gourmet coffee and espresso.
Returning to Illinois after several years in Seattle, one of the things Ellen King missed most was the fresh, crusty, artisan bread she bought at bakeries on the West Coast.
“It looks like it’s hewn. There’s this dark, amber caramelization,” she says. “That flavor, that crust that cracks and when you open up the inside, there’s those inconsistent holes and it still looks a little wet.”
“I just missed those rustic loaves of bread,” says King, who attended culinary school in Seattle, then worked as a chef at several well known restaurants there.
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Now she and partner Julie Matthei are planning to bring that rustic sort of bread to Evanston with a bakery slated to open this summer at 810 Dempster St., appropriately called “Hewn.”
“The reason that the name is Hewn is because Hewn means to cut or shape by chopping or by hand,” says Matthei. “And that’s really how Ellen makes her bread.”
King and Matthei met through their kids, who both attend Chiaravalle Montessori School just a few blocks away from the bakery. While attending a Cubs game with other parents last year, the two got to talking. Matthei had tried King’s homemade bread, and thought it was “the best bread I’d ever had.” She also thought it deserved a wider audience than simply King’s friends and family.
“That was the start of a conversation that then took several months,” says Matthei, who was a school counselor at Loyola Academy for many years.
King will do the baking, while Matthei will handle the business aspect. They’ve already begun renovating the space on Dempster Street not far from the CTA stop, and hope to open in early June.
Beyond her experience in Seattle restaurants (including the Zagat-rated Rover’s), King has also worked at cheese farms in Washington State. It was at a cheese farm, in fact, that she got into baking bread. The farm had a wood-fired oven, and King began developing her techniques.
“I kind of just fell in love with the whole process,” she says.
King makes her bread without using commercial yeast, which means loaves take a little longer to rise. Instead, she uses something called “levain,” a mixture of flour and water that is used over and over again to begin the rising process and must be carefully monitored so it stays fresh and functional.
To bake the bread, she and Matthei have ordered a giant hearth stone oven that will take up much of the back room at the nearly 1,200-square-foot space on Dempster. The stone floor and steam injection vents both contribute to making the perfect crust, according to King.
Varieties will include a country style bread with mostly white flour, a whole wheat bread and a rye bread made without carroway seeds. King sometimes adds seeds, ancient grains, faro or quinoa to her whole wheat breads, and also makes a cheese bread using a two-year aged white cheddar from Wisconsin.
“It’s fermenting inside the bread, so it infuses it,” she says. “It’s like a grilled cheese sandwich, except it’s inside the bread.”
Other specialties may include heirloom potato bread, challah on Fridays, flatbreads and brioche. Pastries will round out the baked goods in the morning, including croissants, chocolate croissants, morning buns and savory croissants with seasonal vegetables.
The bakery will be carry-out only, but King and Matthei will also offer coffee, espresso and a lineup of vegetable salads.
“I really want people to feel like they can come in and have something healthy,” King says.
In keeping with the name, Hewn, and the handmade nature of King’s breads, the store’s design will feature natural materials, including white oak counters and shelves from a tree that fell down in Wilmette as well as corrugated tin from the roofs of old barns covering the walls. Wood in the display case will be made from repurposed cypress pickle barrels, while Matthei tracked down pendant lights from old barns, restored by a woman in Appleton, WI.
“We want the environment to be authentic without being pompous,” says King.
The co-owners have already hired a second baker, and will also be hiring two or three people to work the counter, according to Matthei. Eventually, they hope to bring in an intern from Evanston Township High School.
King recalls growing up in her mother’s knitting shop, where she got to know the regulars, and says she wants to bring that same sense of community to Hewn.
“The thing about a bakery is, it’s a community builder,” King says. “We really want people to feel that warmth.”
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