Tastemaker: Daniel Riesenberger, owner and baker, Dan the Baker
Why he's a Tastemaker: It's been a big year for Dan the Baker. The organic bread shop saw expansion of its restaurant wholesale business-including a deal with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants for rolls and sandwich bread-and its retail outlet, with the opening of Toast Bar, a tiny shop proving there is a craft to toast. It's a dramatic rise for the 7-year-old bakery that shows no signs of stopping, because if you want beautiful, organic loaves of local sourdough, rye porridge and walnut or sunflower flax, this Grandview bread baker is your guy.
Accidental baker: "Baking, in a way, chose me," says Riesenberger, who thought his career would involve building custom computers. But then two things happened: the head baker at Northstar Cafe quit and sold Riesenberger his baking equipment, and then another Northstar coworker gifted him a sourdough culture. It's the same one he uses today. "I love that complexity, that tang, that flavor that's developed in it. It's just amazing," he says.
Turn up the heat: Typically, breads are baked at low heat for a long time, but Riesenberger wanted to replicate the actions of a wood oven. So he cranks up the heat to 560 degrees until his signature crackly crust sets, then lowers it down. It's why his doughs are made of equal parts flour and water. "I'm pushing the boundaries of hydration with my dough," he explains. "A super loose, wet texture makes for a very bubbly crumb, which is the most sought-after aspect of bread."
Organic or bust: Yes, organic flour is five times as expensive as conventional ingredients. But the cost is worth it for the subtle, incomparable sweetness he says it gives the 50-odd loaves in his repertoire.
Yes, toast: "I've always wanted to have this sort of farm-to-table concept, being as from-scratch as possible," he says. Serving toast was a natural fit. What started as slices of his bread topped with house jams and almond butter has morphed into a savory cafe menu. This summer, he'll add tartines, more smorrebrods and fresh pastries and house-made sodas.
Previous gigs: Trader Joe's, Northstar Cafe
Food heroes: Chad Robertson (Tartine), Courtney Burns and Nick Balla (Bar Tartine), David Chang and Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar)
Guilty pleasure: The cornflake cookie crunch used to make Milk Bar's signature cornflake marshmallow cookie. "I will eat quarts of it. It's like crack."
Go-to drink? "Right now, a house-made soda with turmeric tisane, ginger and lime."