When graphic artist Asa Diebolt decided to switch careers and lean into his love of baking, he chose his favorite Saturday morning excursion – the Midtown Farmers Market in south Minneapolis – as his business’ launch pad.
After two successful seasons of selling his naturally leavened breads, bagels and bialys to farmers market shoppers, Diebolt is making the leap to a brick-and-mortar location.
Asa’s Bakery is moving into a small defunct deli (3507 23rd Av. S., Mpls.) in the Corcoran neighborhood, not far from the Midtown Farmers Market. Along with sharing the kitchen with his fellow market tenant, the Kabomelette food truck, Diebolt will be activating the shop’s tiny retail footprint, with plans to operate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a good partnership, and a good next step for me,” said Diebolt.
Originally from upstate New York, Diebolt said he started baking the favorites he grew up eating and couldn’t find here. Bialys, for instance.
“Old women with Brooklyn accents come to the farmers market and their eyes light up,” he said. “They say, ‘I haven’t seen a bialy in 20 years,’ and then they come every week to get them. That has been gratifying.”
Along with those distinctive flat bread rolls, which Diebolt tops with roasted onions, he also boils and bakes bagels.
“What I’m going for is a New York-style bagel from fifty years ago, at least as I understand it,” he said. “That’s because, over the years, New York bagels have gotten bigger, and sweeter, and softer. Mine are naturally leavened and long-fermented, so they have a nice, crisp crust on them, and they’re chewy, but they’re not too chewy.”
At the bakery, he’ll continue to offer the bagel-and-schmear setup that’s he’s created at the market. It features five varieties of bagels (plain, salt, poppy seed, sesame seed and a salt/poppy/sesame “everything” mix) paired with a smoked whitefish salad and a range of cream cheese blends. Plain and dill-scallion are the standards, and he’ll continue to offer seasonal varieties -- based on ingredients he buys from his farmers market neighbors -- which have included nettle/black pepper/Parmesan, sweet corn/lovage, radish/chive blossom and smoked beet/lemon.
His breads – like the bagels and bialys, they’re made using locally milled flours -- include a classic sourdough boule that’s 90 percent white flour and 10 percent rye flour; a loaf fortified with toasted sesame seeds, toasted sunflower seeds and flax seeds; a whole wheat flour pan loaf; a deli-style pumpernickel; and porridge-style breads, mixing oatmeal or cornmeal and molasses into cracked wheat loaves.
Sweets will eventually come into the mix. So far, Diebolt has dabbled in laminated palmiers, crusted with poppy, sesame and fennel seeds.
“But the focus will definitely be on breads and bagels,” he said.
The plan is to open in mid-November.
Diebolt has nothing but praise for the 16-year-old Midtown Farmers Market – which is currently occupying temporary quarters until its permanent home materializes, probably in 2021.
“There’s really nowhere else where you can get that much exposure, to hundreds if not thousands of people each week, for such a low cost,” he said. “You get so much helpful feedback, and there’s such a supportive community. It’s a wonderful place to get started, and I’d like to keep doing it.”